'Ub-u-sive'

Spelling Out Abuse After Nechemya Weberman's Conviction

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published December 20, 2012, issue of December 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Guilty on all 59 counts: guilty, guilty, guilty.

On Monday, December 10, a jury of 12 found Nechemya Weberman enormously guilty. The jurors convicted him of sexually abusing an underage girl entrusted to his care. They declared the respected member of the ultra-Orthodox community to be a criminal and a fraud, and thousands of survivors, advocates and victims, many of whom still live in silence, breathed a sigh of relief as one.

Once, an ultra-Orthodox man could not be found guilty of sexual abuse. He could not be charged with a word that did not exist.

I was 9 years old when I first encountered the word “abuse.” I was at my friend’s house. I found a book on a desk near her room, and ran to the staircase to read it. I don’t remember the title, or what the book was about, only that across its white cover was a picture of a gun, and on the first page, in the subtitle, was an adjective I’d never seen.

I read it, slowly: “Ub-u-sive…”

My friend’s mother came up the stairs just then, and when she saw me holding the book, she gasped. I wanted to ask her what ub-u-sive meant, but she grabbed the book right out of my hands and scolded me. She warned me never to take books without permission. Clasping the book firmly in her hand, she closed the door of her room behind her, and the book disappeared, hidden away, I suppose, in that mysterious, forbidden place where all books go that are not meant to be read.

It remains a vivid memory in my mind, the first of many similar episodes with books, magazines or pictures. Every incident reinforced the dominant ideology of the ultra-Orthodox world: More important than what you are allowed to know is what you are not allowed to know.

In the ultra-Orthodox world, words are important. Words are powerful; they give life to an image, reality to an idea. If you use only pure words, your mind cannot be tainted; bad words will leave a stain, marking you as less-than-good.

Abuse was not a word. If there was no such word, than there were no such children. And truly, for decades, there were none. They did not dare to exist.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.