'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.
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I don’t know if we will ever find an answer. Yet if we look deep within our own mindset, perhaps we can better understand the complicated factors that have brought the community to where it is today: cover-up, abuse and scandal exploding in the daily news, like buried landmines in old battlefields.

The religious Jewish community is a closed world, one that has built high walls around itself, walls that ensure that the gentiles and their evil influences cannot infiltrate. Yet the religious Jewish community is also a giving world, one with countless chesed organizations, there to help ease the suffering within. It is a generous world so long as the suffering is of a certain kind, so long as it does not violate the rules of what can and cannot happen.

Chai Lifeline, Tomchei Shabbos, Bonei Olam, among others — these are all organizations that help the ill, the poor, the widows and the orphans to deal with misfortunes sent by heaven.

Heavenly tragedies are not in the community’s control. They are there by a decree of the Almighty, a small part of a larger, divine story, just one piece of God’s grand plan, one that we cannot hope to understand. We must accept it with simple faith.

Sexual abuse is not from heaven. Sexual abuse is an act of man. Sexual abuse is suffering brought upon a person by the twisted demons of another. It is part of a darkness we declared to be safely beyond our high walls.

It means that there are victims, and where there are victims there are villains. It means that there are scars, and where there are scars there are criminals.

The ultra-Orthodox community does not want to know its criminals. It does not want to see its villains. It chooses to hide the darkness, to fight like hell against those who try to show it. It chooses to ban the words that define the evil, to intimidate those who try to speak or understand it. This way the community continues to feel safe, to hold an image of itself as whole, unbroken, secure from the harm of suffering children.

It is deeply disturbing, seeing those scars, the part of the community that doesn’t fit the traditional Jewish narrative. It is terrifying to look in the mirror and see a gentile’s reflection; that was only supposed to belong to the goyim. The instinctive reaction is denial: This cannot be us. The instinctive reaction became community policy, and it is visceral, terrifying and cruel. Such children were called mentally unstable. It was better to be crazy than to be abused. Crazy was the child’s fault, abused was the community’s own.


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