'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!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • 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.