Tuesday, August 13, 2013

This Post is in Memory of Eliyahu Goode, A'H' who was a Baltimore victim of child sexual abuse. Eliyahu passed away last month at the young age of 24. August 15th is the shloshim..

  Eliyahu was a student of mine in Torah Institute when he was five-years-old.  I was twenty.  This post is my personal reaction to Eliyahu's untimely death.

 Eliyahu is a casualty of our community.
We failed him.
We let him die inside, before his neshama ever left his body.
I believe that Eliyahu Goode A'H' was our latest victim of so called "da'as

We are so busy protecting ourselves and our confused understanding of "da'as Torah," that we let Eliyahu's perpetrator free to continue to abuse and destroy more innocent neshamos.
We allowed Eliyahu to torture himself to death, in a world devoid of any justice.

Hashem please forgive us, for we have blood on our hands.
We seem to have forgotten that Avraham Avenu was not really supposed to sacrifice his son Yitschak.
It was only a test!

We must stop protecting soul murderers, and offering our children up as korbonos.
We are failing this test every time a child is molested and we fail to protect them, and help them find justice and healing in this world.   We are violating a basic moral truth of the Torah by abandoning these children and adult survivors.  This is NOT what Hashem wants from us.

I heard from a reputable source in Baltimore that Eliyahu's perpetrator is the son of a rabbi at Ner Yisrael.  One of the same rabbonim who is protecting my father and telling the parents of T.I. that it is a safe school for their children.

Why wasn't Eliyahu's perpetrator ever brought to justice?   Why wasn't he exposed?  The perpetrator is very likely a second, third, or even fourth generation victim of child sexual abuse, himself.  He is likely still passing his pain along to the next generation.  He must be stopped!
How could Eliyahu continue to live in a world that betrayed his trust and his innocence, while his perpetrator walks free to continue to abuse?

We like to deny this reality, but the yeshivish velt (world) is so riddled with perpetrators and survivors of child sexual abuse, their is at least one in every extended family.
This is the result of years of covering up for the perpetrators, which has a domino affect and allowed the problem to fester and escalate to it's current uncontainable state.
 I could have been Eliyahu.  Some part of me is jealous of him because he is in the world of truth. 
 About eighteen years ago I tried to kill myself and was not successful.
Eliyahu is at peace.

 I am not.
Hashem wants me alive for a reason.  I am still here in this world of lies, where we throw our children into the fire, sacrificing them for what we convince ourselves are high spiritual values, like this, new age, so called, "da'as Torah."

Let us not let Eliyahu's death go by unnoticed.  Let us stop this madness, and confront  the loss of this young life.   Maybe then, we can begin to do teshuva.  Maybe then, we can show Eliyahu's family some meaning in their suffering and help his family find healing and peace.

Over the years I have heard of so many perpetrators and victims of sexual abuse coming out of Ner Yisrael.  A rabbi told me that years ago his son was a student at Ner, and left suddenly one night after slashing all of the tires of the teachers.  He turned his back on Torah, and for years refused to tell his father why he left.

Years later he finally told his father that his friend (another student) was raped by the son of one of the rabbis.  The victim was expelled and the crime covered up.

How can we live with ourselves??

 How do you think the survivors of my cousin, Moshe Eisemann feel, knowing that he is till living on Ner Yisrael campus??
Can you imagine how they continue to suffer because of our inability to take a moral stand?!  Why aren't we demonstrating outside his home and forcing him to leave?
 Perhaps because Rabbi Hopfer told Moshe Eisemann's victims that the chillul Hashem would be too great if people found out about it?

I ask you, what greater chillul Hashem is there, then the soul murder of our children?!

A few years ago, a former talmid (student) of Matis Weinberg contacted me.  Having heard of my story he approached me to ask me if we could discuss an important issue.

Matis Weinberg (son of the late R' Yaakov Wienberg, and sister of Aviva Wiesbord)  left California years ago and moved to Isreal to escape allegations of sexual abuse.  He was later taken to Bais Din in Israel by a group of former students who alleged that he molested them.

 This talmid wanted to know how I came to grips with the fact that my grandfather, a rosh yeshiva, a talmid chacham, molested me.  He could not wrap his mind around the fact that his rebbe, the man who taught him Torah, the man who in his words, "made me what I am today," could also be a child molester.

This talmid knows that children don't make up stories of abuse, and he heard first hand from Matis's victims, although he personally wasn't one of them.  He knows that in our community victims of sexual abuse are even less likely to come forward, knowing that if they dare to tell the truth they will not be believed, and will likely be killed off, in favor of protecting the perpetrator and the image of the community.

 This man was struggling with something that he knew I had struggled with for years.   How could such good, and such evil, exist together in the same person?  How can we, who are witnessing the apparent failure of our leaders in this area, hold two such apparently conflicting realities in our mind at the same time, without going crazy?

For those of us with a personal relationship with these leaders, the challenge becomes magnified.  How can we trust anyone?

The Torah is full of examples of our great leaders who made terrible, costly, mistakes.  The Torah does not hide their mistakes, to teach us this very lesson.

Yet, we seem to believe that our generation is above the Torah.

 Our leaders are infallible.

The fact is, that most of us our not mature enough to hold conflicting realities in our mind at the same time.
Most survivors who have been through what I have, (and sadly it is very common)  leave the community and never look back.

Most students of respected talmidai chachamim who are child molesters, or who defend and protect child molesters, would rather (although perhaps subconsciously) abandon their own children than grapple with the reality that our greatest leaders are human and can, and are, making terrible mistakes.

As a community we must move back in time, before our current perverted understanding of unquestioning "da'as Torah" and "emunas chachamim" (which is a relatively new idea, the way we it is used today to escape responsibility,) and find our moral center.

We must stop defending evil and stop killing our children.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

My Encounter with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Weinberg

These days, I no longer wear pants.

I started wearing pants when I lived in Springfield State Psychiatric Hospital in Maryland.

It wasn't because I wasn't frum.
It was simply a matter of personal safety.

I spent a year at the hospital between the ages of 22-23 after a suicide attempt.

 Springfield used to be a farming hospital, and is a large campus full of old abandoned  buildings.  Patients are housed in newer more modern buildings.  One of the older buildings houses a museum, and a clothing boutique for the patients.   Another houses a library and eye clinic.  Most of the old buildings are empty, and more commonly used by patients to meet secretly with the opposite sex and break the rules.  I found out pretty quickly that in Springfield women would commonly sell themselves for a box of 'smokes' or cigarettes.  I turned down proposals almost daily.

A number of the patients at Springfield also served time in prison for various, sometimes violent, offenses.  The hospital had a level system for behavior management.  When I made it to level three, I was allowed off the locked ward to walk freely around the large hospital grounds for a few hours a day.

One day I was outside with some fellow patients wearing my Bais Yaakov style skirt and a male patient, who I was aware had a history of violence, approached me.

"If I catch you walking alone outside I'm gonna rape you,"  he warned  in a low voice as he walked past.

I went straight back to the ward and reported him, and was relieved when he lost his level immediately and was confined to the ward.  But the encounter left me with the realization that wearing a skirt in Springfield was not tznius (modest).

In fact, my fellow patients confirmed that my skirts were attracting dangerous attention to myself.  I never saw another female patient wearing a skirt, and the men would look me up and down as I walked by.  That same day, I visited the Boutique and picked out some jeans and shorts.  I felt safer in them.  I blended in.  I felt a lot more modest.

This incident triggered a memory of similar feelings I had when I was three years old and my mother told me that I was"a big girl," and that pants were no longer appropriate for me.  I was very upset.  I felt safer in pants than skirts.  I remember trying to hide a pair of pants in my dresser, but my mother found them and confiscated them.  I felt exposed and vulnerable in a skirt.  I felt like an easy target for abuse in a skirt; Just like at Springfield.

Not long after my wardrobe adjustment, my oldest sister invited me to Yeshiva Lane in Baltimore for a Shabbos. My brother in law picked me up at the hospital.   I left in shorts, but carried a skirt in a  bag, explaining to him that I planned to change as soon as I arrived at my sisters house.

Why did I go to Yeshiva Lane in shorts?

Part of the answer is that I wasn't convinced that anyone would care.  I was invisible.  It didn't seem to register with my sisters, my uncle and aunt, (my father's brother is a teacher at the Yeshiva) or anyone else in my family, that I was in a crisis,  living in a mental hospital, and needing help and support.  No one discussed it with me openly, or asked me how I was coping in this dangerous environment.  I was told by my family, that I could leave the hospital and live a normal life, anytime I wanted to.  After all, all of my suffering was my own fault.  My trauma and pain was not real to them.

I had borrowed a slip from my cousin for Shabbos.  Sunday morning I stopped by my uncles house on the way back to the hospital to return it . When my uncle saw me in his house in shorts he became incensed.   This must have seemed to my uncle the ultimate in disrespect.

A slap in the face.

At my end, it was a desperate cry for help.

As usual, the wind grabbed my cries of pain and whipped them back into my face.  No one noticed or felt my suffering, but me.
My uncle took one look at me and began to scream, "Get out of my house!"
He literally picked me up ( I was very thin at the time and must have weighed not more than 100 pounds) and threw me out the front door.

I was used to emotional and psychological rejection from my family.  But this physical rejection was proof of the overall rejection I was experiencing daily.  My uncle did not see me, a person, his own niece, in pain.  All he saw was a pair of offending shorts and an embarrassment to the family.  He violated the laws of negiah, the laws of the Torah, to throw me out of his house.

Bruised, humiliated, and shocked I wandered away and made my way to the Rosh Yeshiva's house.

Along the way I began to feel a rage toward Torah that that threatened to overwhelm me.  My family and Ner Yisrael, represented Torah to me back then.  If the Torah was as shallow as a pair of shorts, It was all a crock, all about appearances, and I wanted nothing more to do with it.

If I looked "off the derech" in my shorts before the incident with my uncle, I really was off the derech, afterward.  I knew that God was not shallow and would not reject me for wearing shorts to protect myself.  I knew that real modesty was a reflection of the inside...Inside I was troubled, terrified, and hurt.   I was very much alone, living in an environment opposite to the one I grew up in, where shorts were modest and skirts were not.

My uncle ignored my pain for years, until it hit him in the face.  His response was to blame me, and literally throw me out the front door.  I was bitterly angry and hurt. I realized that I was dangerously close to the edge.  I wanted one last shot before rejecting the Torah right then and there.  So I went to Rabbi Wienberg's house.

Rabbi Yaakov and Chana Weinberg lived in the only single family house on the campus of Ner Yisrael.  I cried in their living room as I told them what had happened at my uncle's house.  Rabbi Weinberg told me that what my uncle had done was unacceptable, and promised that he would speak with my uncle.  It was comforting to hear this from a rabbi.  I told Rabbi Weinberg what my father had done to me and that I was living in a hospital as a result.  I asked him to speak to my father as well.

 "Please ask my father  to take some responsibility for what he did."  I begged.
 "I want to have a relationship with him.  Someday I want to get married and my father will want to walk me down to the chuppah.  I can't stand the thought of him touching me, now.  I can't pretend with him that nothing happened."

Rabbi Weinberg promised me that he would speak with my father as well.

I asked the rebbetzin (rabbi's wife) about her son Matis who left California years ago and moved to Isreal to escape allegations of sexual abuse.   He was later taken to Bais Din in Israel by a group of former students who alleged that he molested them.  I was still trying to understand my mother's denial.

"How do you respond to the allegations against your son?  Do you deny them?"
The rebbetzin replied,  "I have to honestly say, that although I hope the allegations against my son are not true, I don't really know."  I wasn't there, and didn't see what happened."
"I wish my mother and siblings would admit the same thing!"  I cried, as a pang of jealousy hit me.   "How can they insist that they know my father did nothing to me, if they didn't see it?"
Rebbetzin Weinberg did not have an answer for me.

I passed through their house like a ghost and never heard from them again.

Matis's sister, Aviva Weisbord, was my first encounter with the 'helping' profession.  She was my first psychologist, and saw me as a favor to my father who had helped her with one of her children.  Aviva told me that she doesn't usually see her parents friends, but in my case she made an acception because she had so much respect for my father.
To this day, Aviva Weisbord tells people that I am crazy.

Years later, when I consider the context,  it makes sense that the Weinberg/Weisbord  family could not help me.  They are grappling with similar trauma and shame in their own family.

A couple of years after the incident, when I became engaged to be married, my uncle approached me to ask forgiveness for throwing me out his front door.  The memory of the pain of that day welled up inside me.  I told him that his actions were what pushed me off the derech...I stopped keeping Shabbos and Kosher after the incident.  But I forgave him.

What my uncle didn't understand, is that what he didn't do hurt a lot worse than what he did do to me.  He never tried to help me. For that, he has never asked forgiveness, and I have yet to forgive him.   He ignored my pain, and failed to reach out to me during the most vulnerable period of my life.  He blamed me for my suffering, and added to my trauma just like the rest of my family.  Ignoring my pain, and abandoning me to the streets of the psyche hospital, was worse than any physical rejection.

I was determined not to let my family steal my heritage, or my life, from me.  I had lost enough.  Hashem helped me find good help, albeit not in the Jewish community.  Hashem continues to help me every moment of my life.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Me and My Grandfather, the Rosh Yeshiva

I made this picture in art therapy around twenty years ago.  This memory of my grandfather molesting me was hounding me, intruding on my mind when I least wanted to think about it.  It helped to get it out on paper.  The intrusive memory quieted down.  It helps to share it. My grandfather's sexual problems are a shameful family secret, but it's not my shame and I will not keep it a secret.   It can not be a secret when someone molests a child.