About a year ago, I sent a copy of the following letter to every rabbi of an Orthodox shul in Baltimore. I received not a single response to my letter; neither in writing, phone call, or e-mail.
Fifteen years ago, the president of the Vaad Harabonim of Baltimore, Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer, advised my family to cut me off unless I promise never to state publicly that my father molested me. The problem is that my father is the principal of an elementary school in Baltimore, Torah Institute. My father has never taken responsibility for his actions and continues to work with children.
Please publicize this and hold the Baltimore rabbis accountable to their words:
To the Vaad Harabonim of Baltimore, and The Baltimore Frum Community:
Over twenty years ago, when I disclosed that my father molested me, I was given the message that I would be better off dead than speaking my truth.
Back then, I believed the message that the rabbonim and my family gave me, and at the age of twenty two I survived a serious suicide attempt. A few years later, I was told by Rabbi Hopfer, through my family, that unless I agreed to keep quiet about my experiences I would receive the worst punishment in the Torah; Kares.
I could not survive and keep silent, and so I lost everyone that I loved.
On April 11, 2007, The Vaad Harabonim of Baltimore issued a letter to the community where you claimed to know something about child sexual abuse.(I am quoting directly from that letter)
"The greatest allies of the abuser are ignorance and silence. The abuser thrives
in an environment where he is confident that his victims will not report what
they have experienced, or where their reports of abuse will not be taken
The Vaad Harabonnim of Baltimore have effectively created an environment where my father is confident that any victim of his, who dares to come forward,(and not many will dare, after the example you made of me) will not be believed or taken seriously.
You claimed in this letter that survivors are:
"so richly deserving of your compassion and support."
Yet, you abandoned me, and continue to abandon me.
You wrote that a single abuser will often have many victims.
Yet, you continue to allow my father to be in a position of power and authority over innocent
children. You wrote in your letter:
"The damage that abuse can cause is devastating and potentially life altering; it
commonly ruins an individuals sense of self, their ability to trust others, and
their ability to engage in a healthy intimate relationship."
These things are all true.
I am, to this day, still dealing with the after effects of the abuse that I endured.
You wrote that your own poskim pasken that an abuser is a "rodef", that he is incapable of teshuva, that publicizing his status as an abuser, while causing enormous damage to his own family, may be the only way to truly protect the community from him.
You claim in your letter to believe that abusers must be stopped, and that you
have made terrible mistakes and that they haunt you. I am one of the mistakes that will haunt you.
I have nothing to hide.
I offered to speak with you, as well as to allow you to speak with my therapist,
and you ignored me. My offer still stands.
Everything you wrote in this seven year old letter is true...and yet, you have not been capable of applying it in a situation where you know and trust the
Dr. David Pelcovitz, a community expert on this topic, often says that the closer
you are to the perpetrator, the more you can identify with him, the less likely
you will be to see the truth, and the stronger will be your denial. You all know
and trust my father. Some of you knew my grandfather. None of you know me,
as an adult, nor have you tried to know me.
You are all allies of an abuser. You are all still failing to protect our children
Some of you may not be aware that I was not always considered crazy. I was actually, according to my bosses at the time, Rabbi Velvel Rosen and Sara Itzkowitz, one of the best pre-school teachers in T.I. That is, until I spoke my truth and tried to get help.
In Israel for the past nine years, I ran a progressive and very successful early childhood program: www.ganulpan.org
When I heard about Eliyahu Goode's death, I felt his neshama crying out to me
and I thought it was because he, like I, was also an abandoned victim of child
sexual abuse from our community. It was only afterward that I realized that
Eliyahu had been a student of mine, when he was five, and I was twenty, and teaching pre-1-A at Torah Institute. Eliyahu was a sweet boy, and a good boy. He too needed and deserved your support.
I know, Hashem knows, and Eliyahu knows, that I am doing everything I can to express what he and what so many other victims of child sexual abuse in the Torah community can not say, because we have been silenced and shamed by you, the rabbonim.
I think it is a mistake for rabbonim, or anyone else, to think that they can judge
between me or my father, or evaluate my mental status.
The fact that my father has more than one serious allegation against him, raises doubt about his safety around children. Attacking an alleged victim's mental
health to prove non-credibility, is as ridiculous as saying that a girl can't
possibly be anorexic since she weighs seventy five pounds and barely eats.
It is a fact, that in many cases, child sexual abuse and incest cause mental
health issues, just as anorexia causes weight loss. In my case, and all cases of
alleged child sexual abuse, assessing risk is appropriate. Judgment is not.
Hashem is unconditional love and truth. Torah is truth and love. Truth and love are stronger and far more enduring than power and control.
Abusing your power and authority to silence victims of child sexual abuse,
as you have in my case, has nothing to do with Torah, and should not, and will
Let Rabbi Hopfer know what you think about this:
She'airis Yisrael (Glen Avenue) shul