Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Where Did We Go Wrong?? The Cult of "Daas Torah"

The Agudah mindset, (this idea is only about 100 years old,) of "Only one Daas Torah"  is exactly the way I was raised to think.

In the minds of my family, if you disagree with the point of view of your rabbi, then you are an apikores, a non believer, who has no regard for Torah or Hashem.
As the rav in this video says so clearly, Sheker, falsehood, eventually crumbles.  A community who has relied on this new, false (and strangely Catholic) understanding of daas torah is watching its children reject its lifestyle and leave in droves.  There are non-religious children from charaidi families filling the streets of our communities here in Israel. (I hear that it is just as bad, if not worse, in the States.)

I know what it is like to be trapped in a system that does not allow you to think for yourself, to disagree, or to take responsibility for your own choices.  Trying to control our children's thoughts and emotions, is in my opinion, what causes "mental problems" in the charaidi community.

 I am saddened, but not surprised, that one angry young man resorted to violence against Rav Shteinman.  I expect that his community will claim that this young man had "mental problems" and he is not a reflection of a problem in the community at all.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Didn't They Help Me??

In healthy families a strong parental alliance is a plus and leads to secure, happy, children.  In my family the very same quality led to neglect and abandonment. My parents are much more important to each other than I am, or ever was.  My mother could not, and would not, protect me from my father's ongoing sexual abuse.  I learned that I had to somehow manage on my own.  It left me out in the cold.  I had no where to turn but away from my parents if I wanted to survive.

And I so badly wanted to survive.

 I first wrote the following in the year 2000.  

I pull your faces toward me out of the past
My mother. 
My father.
 I touch your faces
 I look into your eyes 
 I pinch your faces hard
Trying to make you see me
Feel me
 I want you to feel my pain and anger.
 I yell in your blank faces,

 Why didn't you help me?!
 Don't you even see me?
Have you ever once seen me?
 I needed help!

 Your puzzled eyes gaze calmly at each other 
Are you amused by my intense feelings, Mommy? 
Is the half smile on your lips your way of blocking my feelings? 
 Is that how you keep me away?
My feelings are not real and so you are safe from them?
Your lips move,

Do you know what she's talking about Tatty?
No Mommy, we'd better go discuss it.

You turn together, the two of you, and walk in step to your bedroom to discuss what to do about me. 
You are on an important mission. 
A mission that excludes me. 
You will close the door and decide together what you will do
 By the time you come out
I'll be gone
Then you will go back to your room to discuss my leaving
 In step.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's a Mitzva to Talk About Trauma

Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, is our model of trauma survival as individuals and as a nation.

Bechol dor v'dor..."In every generation one must see himself as having left Egypt."  

Trauma, if we are to leave it in the past and if we are to learn from it, must be out in the open.  It must be exposed, talked about, processed, and understood...
We are commanded to remember the Exodus, Yetziat Mitzrayim, and talk about it every single day.

Not a day can go by where we can afford to forget what happened to us.

Forty years of wandering in a desert of recovery, must not be kept a secret.
God wants us to talk about it.  Even if talking exposes our family's mistakes and embarrasses us.  For example, Moshe hit the rock and didn't talk to it...We can learn from this to talk to even the most stubborn and hard among us.

Don't hit the rock.
Talk to it. 
Engage in a dialogue. 
Violence is not the way to go.

 If we don't remember, acknowledge, and talk about our traumas we are doomed to repeat them.

  Traumatized people who keep their past a secret are likely to repeat history.  We tend to deny, minimize, rationalize, forget...and then repeat.

We are commanded by the Torah, to own our trauma, to own our recovery, to own our past.  We are commanded to acknowledge just Who it is who walks us out of an abusive situation, into the desert of therapy, where we begin to recover.

Therapy is messy.
Lonely as a desert.
Therapy after trauma takes a long time.
As a nation it took us forty years.

Recovery is full of mistakes, and acting out, and consequences.  We complained, we whined, we wanted to go back to Mitzrayim, because at least it was familiar.
At least there, we knew what to expect.
In Mitzrayim, among our abusers, we had an identity.  We were slaves. Victims.  In the aftermath we rejected truth and worshiped a golden calf.  A fantasy God.  We denied and ignored reality.

 As trauma victims leaving Mitzrayim we struggled to make sense of what happened to us.  We forgot, and we still forget, that we are being held by God.  We deny that our every need was, and still is, being cared for.

God understood, and understands that trauma survivors are needy, immature, and confused.  We are struggling for a sense of identity.  Who are we, if not victims?  What happened to us?  Was it really so bad?  Maybe abuse was better than this lonely and confusing desert of recovery.

Surviving, and getting to Israel took a lot longer than we thought it would.

We are commanded by God to never forget that we were slaves.  We were victims of trauma.
And to know that now we are survivors.

We survived the years in the dessert, as difficult as they were.
We did eventually get to Eretz Yisrael.
It was not without struggle and tremendous loss.
 Many didn't make it.

We are commanded to acknowledge our survival, and to know with our entire being, that it was indeed miraculous.
 And that it had nothing to do with us.
Alone we never could have left.

Without God we could never have survived.  It was God who took us out, who saved us, and loved us unconditionally as we healed as a nation, wandering in the lonely desert for forty years.

It is God, in every generation who takes us out of abusive situations, who loves us unconditionally, in spite of our mistakes, and who holds us, and provides for our every need as we wander for years on end in the confusing, hot, and lonely desert of recovery.

Trauma and Survival must never be kept a secret.

 Talking about Trauma is the secret of our survival as individuals and as a nation.

Then, now, and always.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I sent each one of my eleven siblings a copy of the talk that I gave at my Seudat Hoda'ah. (contact me if you would like a copy:
 It was met with deafening silence.
 I have been cut off.
 I remember being sexually abused by my father and grandfather and I am still dealing with the consequences.

Excommunication is one of the consequences.

I miss the good memories of Sukkos with my family. The excitement of building the sukkah, the togetherness and family time.

 Any abuse survivor who is honest, will admit that there were also good times.

 The good memories I have of my family will always be there, and always be mine.  Unfortunately, the bad memories will always be there too; memories of ongoing sexual abuse that I and my family desperately wish I didn't have.

I can never go back and reclaim the lost years with my family.  I lost so much. It's hard to imagine the tears will ever end.  I missed watching my younger brothers and sisters grow up. I missed going to family celebrations.  I missed spending time with them on holidays.  I missed knowing about, and celebrating, the births of my many nieces and nephews, etc.

  I found out recently that my youngest brother, Meir, is engaged.  Maybe he's already married.  I am not privy to this kind of information in my family.
  I struggle to picture Meir as an adult.  When I saw him last, fifteen years ago,  he was eight years old. 
I will not be invited to his wedding.
I am not invited to family simchas.

Yom Tov brings back the reality of how alone I am.

My good friend Hadas suggested that I write a letter to myself from my siblings.  A fantasy letter, if you will.  Hadas suggested imagining someone in my family communicating with me from a place that is real, healthy, and honest.  Imagine someone in my family asking themselves honestly, "What does Hashem (God) want from me in this situation?" Hashem is the spirit of life and unending love and intelligence in the world.  Hashem kel rachum v'chanun.  Hashem is a God of mercy.  Hashem/God cares first and foremost, how we treat each other.  How might my family respond to me, and communicate with me if they believed this?

Perhaps something like this:  (assuming that they honestly don't have knowledge of the abuse I suffered, which to me is doubtful.)

 Dear Genendy,

I don't know you very well, nor do you know me very well, as we haven't spoken in many years.  I wish you wouldn't talk about your memories so publicly.  It causes all of us a lot of pain and embarrassment.  I can not begin to imagine where you are coming from.  I don't remember anything like what you say you remember from our childhood.  My memories and experiences don't match yours at all. Our other brothers and sisters say that they can not relate to your experience either.  Your story seems to have changed, and to keep changing over the years.  I have a lot of questions about things you say, and have said, that seem inconsistent.   I am very angry and hurt by your behavior.  You are my sister, though, and I love you and care about you and would like to try to find a way to work through this with you. 
Your Phantom Sibling,
No one