Friday, June 15, 2012

And We Worry about the Internet?

I had a hard time falling asleep last night. I received an e-mail from a friend who is intimately familiar with the Chasidic world of hard-core Chasidus like Satmar, Ger and Sqvere. This letter came from the heart. This fellow is no spreader of LaShon Hara. He is a modest and gentle person; responsible and intelligent; a loving and caring Charedi Jew of impeccable integrity. He is as straight as they come.

He has always been reluctant to tell his story – the story of rampant sex abuse in the Chasidic world. But I guess keeping all that inside has gotten to him. So in a moment of extreme candor he spoke out in an e-mail.

After reading his letter, I was speechless. I found it impossible to believe. And yet he practically swears to me that it is so. If what he says is true, there is an incredible level of cruelty and inhumanity shown by Chasidic leaders who either allow or perhaps even encourage the intimidation of victims while tolerating abusers in their midst.

Apparently the rate of abuse among Chasidim is horrible beyond words. According to some of the mental health professionals who deal with them - estimates of child sex abuse and molestation among the hard-core Chasidim is anywhere from 25% to 33%! But even if it were only 10% that would mean that on average - in every class of 30 students there are three students that have been sexually abused. For me - that is a Holocaust!

I can only imagine the kind of “torture” used against the poor families who come forward. Why do they torture them? I guess because they feel they have no choice since all Hell will break loose if the truth comes out. There would be many hundreds of arrests.

Lest anyone think this description of their behavior is not true, I remind you of the case of accused serial molester Avreimal Mondrowitz. He is a Gerrer Chasid. His extradition from Israel to stand trial in the United States was successfully fought by the Ger Chasidic community there.  I would also remind you that nothing like this is ever done without the approval of the Gerrer Rebbe himself. He either explicitly or implicitly approved of it.  Mondrowitz currently roams the streets of Israel freely.

Just to give an example of another “Mondrowitz”- this one in Skvere. I have been told that a top Chasid of the Rebbe molested and raped hundreds and hundreds of children in 3 generations. And everyone there knew about it! He too has fled to Israel.

And then there is what is currently going on in the case of accused molester Rabbi Nechemia Weberman. The trial keeps being postponed because of witness intimidation according to my sources.

That intimidation tactics exist is not even a question. I direct you to the words of the Brooklyn DA, a man who has been accused of enabling abuse by being unduly influenced by this very same community:
 “I haven’t seen this kind of intimidation in organized-crime cases or police-corruption cases”
 In other words, they are worse than the Mafia!

The innocent members of these communities (whose children comprise the majority that are not molested) are in complete denial about it. Which is why they have no guilt intimidating victims.

There are just no words to describe what is going on… the dysfunction, the incest, the raping of thousands of children, the terror and violence covering it up…!

As I indicated - I find it almost too incredible to believe the high end of this estimate - 33% of all Chasidic children?! One out of every three?!

That 66% of these Chasidic children are treated with the loving-kindness Chasidim are so famous for hardly makes up for the 33% that are sexually molested or abused!! And no one seems to be able to do anything about it!

I know I will once again be accused of bashing Chasidim. This is perhaps the most damning post I have ever written about their community.

The fact is I don’t want to believe any of it. I hope it is an exaggeration. In fact I hope none of it is true. It can’t be - can it? The idea of so many precious innocent Jewish souls being abused while their abusers are protected is too terrible to be believed.

So since I have no proof beyond the word of an “insider” with impeccable integrity, why bring it up at all? Why mention it in a public forum if all it will do is bring shame to all of us as members of the observant world?

The answer is that one may not stand idly by while his brother’s blood is being spilled. If even 10% of what I have been told is true, it must be made public – since keeping quiet will only perpetuate the problem - ‘killing off’ hundreds if not thousands of additional innocent children. Children that will become adults one day; possibly themselves becoming dysfunctional members of society and doing the same thing to others that has been done to them.

How can I keep quiet?

So if my detractors want to skewer me and say that I am an Oisvurf for telling this story and making these charges with unsubstantiated proof - go ahead. Do your worst.

But the more accused sexual molesters like Rabbi Nechemia Weberman are exposed in the media… and the more that community proclaims his innocence and threatens his victims, their families and witnesses to not testify, the more believable this fellow’s words become. The more books like Hush that are published by insiders exposing these same attitudes, the harder it becomes to not believe it.

What is the ultimate truth here? I don’t know. I hope it’s all a lie. But I suspect there is more truth than fiction here. I therefore issue a challenge. If any of this is true - let all victims come forward. Don’t be afraid of the consequences. There is strength in numbers. Report to the police. Tell your story. Testify against the abusers. 

It may be easy to intimidate people as victims come out in drips and drabs. But if they come out en masse, there will be no possible way to intimidate them all. I beg you all: Please do not hesitate any longer. The welfare of your families, your community and ultimately all of Klal Yisroel is at stake.

Update: I have revised the post to reflect the fact that the numbers that have been quoted to me are so shocking that it casts doubt over the whole issue... being too high to be believed and thereby causing a credibility issue. That would defeat the purpose of the post. I have also asked a Charedi Rav who deals with this issue and consults with psychologists about whether the high end of the estimate (33%) is a realistic figure. As soon as I get a response I will post it unedited in its entirety.