Orthodox Jews Face a Moment of Reckoning

A Plea To Deal Directly With the Problem of Child Abuse

Reform: Orthodox Jews need a Marshall Plan to confront the scourge of child abuse.
Getty Images
Reform: Orthodox Jews need a Marshall Plan to confront the scourge of child abuse.

By Ezra Friedlander

Published December 30, 2012, issue of January 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

After the verdict in the infamous Nechemya Weberman trial was announced, the Satmar community found itself reeling. This story of an unlicensed therapist who for years was sexually abusing a young girl multiple times a week has inflamed our passions to unprecedented levels, and rightfully so. But now that the dust has settled somewhat, it’s time for some personal introspection.

This was brought home to me, a Hasidic Jew who lives in Borough Park, just as the trial ended when I met someone who confided that his daughter’s best friend was also abused by this very same perpetrator. Stunned, I asked him if anyone else knows about this. “No,” he answered. “And that’s how it should remain.”

Who knows how many other young children are living among us, playing, learning, studying, sitting at the Sabbath table, and yet hiding a deep, dark and terrifying secret in their hearts? Who knows how many shattered lives walk among us? Those who come forward are indisputably courageous and bold. But instead of being embraced by our community as heroes, they are shunned and terrorized. The victims are being treated as though they were at fault. Why?

We need to have an honest conversation. The Weberman trial, for all practical purposes, has brought to light a painful issue with which our community is reluctant to deal. For many of us, it’s just too difficult to digest the truth about this case. As a parent of two young children, one of whom is now in kindergarten, I am personally horrified. I simply cannot fathom how vulnerable my child, or anyone’s child, can be and how devastating it would be if any harm would befall him.

To be fair, our community has so much to be proud of. We are second to none in every category of chesed — kindness — and caring. Our record of achievement in terms of aiding the poor, the ill, the suffering and the lonely is outstanding. We were the envy of the rest of society when our people joined forces en masse to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. We showed compassion and caring to Jew and non-Jew alike. So why is it that in the area of protecting our children from predators, we have failed so miserably?


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!
  • 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.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • 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.
  • 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.