Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Inside, Outside, Past, Present

Last week I sent my parents and siblings announcements of my son's recent Bar Mitzvah.  I included a family photo. I don't expect much in response.  I fantasize about a connection with someone in my family in the future.
 Anyone, who is willing to allow me to exist.
 Perhaps, it is as hopeless as the Palestinians admitting that we Israelis have a right to exist.  I sure hope not.  Yet, my family treats me similarly to the way the Palestinians view Israel.  I am the aggressor in their minds, although I know they are the ones who hurt me.  They deny my right to exist.  They want to silence me because I speak a truth they can not, and do not want to hear. 

 My family's view of me is that I am fake.  A liar. A figment of my own imagination.  To my family, either my inside world, my outside world, my past, or my present has to be made up.  In their minds, something has to be fake about me.
Until now, I accepted this as truth.
 Nothing matched. Nothing made sense to me.  Something about me must be made up if my family said it was, and I had only to understand what it was...The past?  The present?  My feelings?  My memories?

 The truth, as it turns out, is that nothing about me is fake.
 The only thing fake is my family's bizarre and inaccurate view of me.  There view of me is a lie.  A figment of their imagination.  The only thing that doesn't match who I know I am, is their treatment of me.  I was always a child who wanted to be good and to be loved.

My inside world, my outside world, my past and my present are all real.  I recognize the truth of this statement, and I'm still processing this as a new awareness.   I never made the connection in quite this way before. Intellectual knowledge of my constant reality and existence is finally turning into emotional acceptance.

I was not allowed to know I was sexually abused. I was not allowed to try to defend myself as a child, or to heal myself as an adult.  I coped in the only way I could.  I separated the feelings and the knowledge of the sexual abuse into dissociated parts.  I separated real parts of myself that were, and still are, unacceptable to my parents in order to try to gain there love and acceptance.

That is how badly I, and every child, needs our parents' love and acceptance.

Badly enough to participate in our own destruction, if it will only earn our parent's love.
I pretended, like they do, that very real, very hurt parts of me, were neither real nor hurt.  I called them different names, and agreed with my family that I made them up.

Because I did make them up.

  I made them up in order to try to distance them, hoping they would indeed become fake, so my parents would love me, accept me, and take care of me unconditionally.

Whatever it takes, Mommy and Tatty.  Please just love me.  Please just take care of me.

 But as hard as I tried,  it didn't work.
In the end I was forced to choose between life and death.

My parents and siblings continue to hurt me by ignoring my existence.  It's still hard for me to come to terms with the cruelty of their behavior.  Not one of them called to wish me mazal tov on my son's bar mitzvah.  Not one of them calls to check on my safety as rockets are aimed at my home, and my children, their grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  As air raid sirens blare, and we hurry to find shelter in our safe room.   Not one of them can care about me, and love and accept me as the sister and daughter I am.
 I am alive.
I am very real.
 I am willing to love and accept my family in spite of their limitations.

I felt my grandfather, Grosspapa's,  presence very strongly on Shabbos at my son's bar mitzvah. I cried together with Grosspapa.  The tears, for both of us, were tears, not of sadness, but of joy, of gratitude and relief.  We both felt relieved and grateful that in spite of what he and my father did to me as a child, I was really in a a shul, really celebrating my sons bar mitzvah.

Considering some of the other places I could be, and some of the places I have been, finding myself in a shul celebrating my son's bar mitzvah is indeed a miracle.

  I felt wonder at the situation, wonder at the love of my husband's family, and close friends, my family of choice, surrounding me.  Love at the greatness of God, who allowed me to heal to the point where I could watch my son read from the Torah proudly, with tears streaming down my cheeks, in spite of having been molested in a yeshiva by my father and grandfather, and having almost died as a result.

The rebbe looked up and caught my eye.  He nodded, and made a throwing motion.  It was time to throw candy at my son.
It was time for a miracle.
This is a time for miracles.
There is a God in this world and He is good.
 God will continue to protect my right to exist as a person, to heal and to thrive, just as He protects our right to exist as a nation, to heal and to thrive, in spite of those who want to destroy us.


  1. 2 things
    1) You sent them an announcement of your sons "recent" bar mitzva? After the fact? That is just mean. You expected a response?
    2) You have been not nice to your family by posting your private conversations with them. Your mom in particular. Why would they correspond with you at all, if you will just publicize their remarks in a hurtful way.

    1. 1) Actually, in many cases, estranged family receive nachas(enjoyment) from hearing about Jewish milestone accomplishments, especially grand-children's.
      2) If there was private communication then there would be no need for public communication.

  2. Anonymous, (Btw, posting anonymously is the antithesis of a blog like this)

    Speaking to your first point, many people who's families have rejected them can be torn as to how much they want to try and include their families in their own major life events. I was at Genendy's wedding and even though they were already not on speaking terms, her whole family showed up and were the life of the party. They had an amazing Chayus and danced like there was no tomorrow. It was like a 8 hour hiatus where her family showed up in numbers and celebrated her as if nothing had taken place.

    On the other hand, Genendy probably wished that instead of pretending nothing had happened, they showed up and supported her in spite of what happened.

    To your second point, Genendy has said time and again that what she writes here is what she wishes she could say in person to her family. I am an avid blogger myself and when I feel I can't say something, I put it down into words and share it. My wife and I recently made aliyah and in order to make sure my employer in the states didn't find out we were planning on leaving the country we kept our plans very very private. It ate me up that I wasn't able to share what was going on in my life with my friends and family who are so integral to my life. When we were close enough to our move that I could finally share with my coworkers, friends and more of our family what our intentions were, it was like a GIGANTIC weight was lifted.

    So, Anonymous, please try to understand that Genendy isn't running this blog as a hate campaign against her family. She's running it as a love campaign for herself. Therapy comes in many different ways and by writing out her feelings, Genendy is trying to find a place of healing and love.

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    I hope that you were able to hear Yehuda's words. There is wisdom and humility in them.

    It is worthwhile to note that, in contrast to your response, Genendy never attacks. Her approach is paradoxically gentle and courageous. She is, by nature, one of the gentlest and kindest people that I have had the privilege to know. Circumstances have prompted her to be - unequivocally - the most courageous person I know.

    No one chooses the circumstances of life. All that is available to us to choose is the response. Were Genendy able to choose her early life circumstances, certainly she would have chosen otherwise. And yet, she does not blame others, but rather takes responsibility for herself, and for her own healing and thriving. Were she able to choose to heal within the boundaries of her family, I have little doubt that she would choose to do so (and in fact, has tried to do so, countless times). Her family's unwillingness to engage in such a process of healing and reconciliation (perhaps highlighted by the tone of your letter) leaves her no choice other than to heal from and process the reality of her childhood sexual abuse on her own.

    I would add to Yehuda's comment, that posting anonymously is antithetical to brave and forthright dialogue. I would go so far as to say that it is cowardly. If you are unable to claim your words as your own, perhaps it is best to refrain from commenting.

  4. Many lessons can be learned from the recent conflict in the middle east that you so cheaply refer to on this post. Perhaps the most important is the understanding that you cannot take reporting of any incident at face value. Hamas uses publicity exceptionally well and manages to obtain world sympathy while causing the death of innocents and blaming them on Israel. I am very wary, when reading post after one sided post to accept that there is no other side to this story. I am not condoning any form of abuse just as I do not condone the murder of innocent people. The question just begs to be asked, where is the family's response? Perhaps Israel should take a page of what seems to be Genendy's family's guidebook: Be quiet, those who hate you will not hear what you are saying and those who seek the truth will find it.

  5. Truth seeker makes good sense. It is always puzzling to read this blog. I am impressed that the above post made it through and agree with it fully.

  6. To truth seeker (keep going, you're not there, yet),
    If you were living through the conflict and hearing the sirens and running to the miklat then I don't think you would describe it as "cheap". The people who have experienced it can refer to it. I am sorry to hear that you have not noticed the excellent and extremely prioritized Hasbara (reporting) that Israel is doing with cameras and statements, even in the UN. Israel has had much backing around the world because of their video captures and publicity of them, which they previously had not done for security reasons. The family's response is quoted on this site numerous times, keeping reading and seeking the truth. There are quotes here from Genendy's father and mother. Also, there are numerous posts here that are clearly from the family. As we see, Israel has learned from the Torah, one is supposed to speak out against false claims (Yoma 77a/Shabbos 55a). And those who have justifiable claims will do that. They will not just call someone crazy, with no other explanation. The truth can be found by speaking to people who know Genendy and appreciate her wisdom and courage. Seek and you will find.

    1. Truth Finder,
      you seem to have misunderstood me. Firstly, I was not describing the situation as cheap, I was calling the comparison of Genendy's family to the Palestinians, "Perhaps, it is as hopeless as the Palestinians admitting that we Israelis have a right to exist." that was a cheap shot. Secondly Im happy you have found the sources of news that portray Israel fairly but unfortunately in most of the mainstream media, and in the UN, Israel is demonized. Thirdly, I did not notice while reading through this blog comments submitted from anyone saying they are Genendy's family member (quotes taken out of context by someone with an obvious agenda do not count for me). You seem to be insinuating that any negative comment (Im not sure what else would be "clearly from the family") is from Genendy's family; this sounds like paranoia. Lastly when someone makes an outrageous statement (like, "cant you see the grass is purple?") it does not always warrant a response. I shell continue seeking the truth...

  7. Truth Seeker: I continue to be puzzled by two factors: 1. Why is it that you are reading a blog of this nature, when you seem to have a very hard time validating the fact that the blogger's experiences may, in fact, be true? What connection to the topic or the blogger herself keeps you reading these posts, and feeling the need to comment in an openly hostile and suspicious tone? What exactly is "outrageous" about this blog?
    2. Concerning your comment about paranoia: it is actually logic, and not paranoia, that would lead anyone objective to assume that there IS a bias in negative comments such as yours. Based on the decades of research into trauma and recovery, it is often those closest to the victim and perpetrator, who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, and not questioning the assumptions that allow them to remain in denial. Who WOULD want to believe that such things could happen? Who WOULD want to believe that such things could happen TO people that they love, or FROM people that they love? Thus, individuals fall prey to a syndrome called "blame the victim." It would be so much easier and less painful if the victim would stop talking about their abuse. Then we wouldn't have to face it, or deal with it. The problem is, that's a lie. The abuse already happened. The victim is the last person who would choose for it to happen. By denying the abuse, you are doing exactly what the textbooks would expect you to, whether you are a family member, or someone close to them, who has a vested interest in not seeing the pain, and not seeing the person who is in that pain, because seeing the pain requires you to respond. What is required here is compassion, not cynicism.

  8. Am I allowed to wish you and your precious son Mazzal tov? I hope you don't mind. Sorry if I have made a mistake... (I am not Jewish)