As Yeshiva Child Sex Abuse Scandal Grows, Why Are We Afraid To Speak Out?

Community Will Be Judged Harshly If We Stay Silent


By Stacey Klein

Published March 31, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

These fear-based justifications need to be challenged. We Jews are good at challenging our own thinking in the realm of learning, but of what use is this skill to us if we can’t apply it to our lives as Jews and to protecting our children?

Those who are part of Y.U.’s leadership can set things right. They can hold those who erred accountable, insist that the school’s rosh yeshiva, or chancellor, Norman Lamm, resign and then they can clean house. They can publicly apologize on Lamm’s behalf instead of ignoring the victims, and set up a fund for the victims’ therapy costs. They can commit to making their abuse report findings public. This will demonstrate empathy, console victims and exemplify true moral leadership. (Not to mention reduce lawsuits.)

Each of us can help victims, too, by writing to Y.U. and other Jewish organizations, asking them to take a stand for all children, withholding donations until we achieve a more ethical response, and pressuring board members we know to take action. We can encourage everyone in our community to open his or her heart and connect with the victims’ pain.

Here’s how to open your heart: Ask yourself what blocks you from speaking up. Take some time to reconnect with how it felt to be a small, helpless child, dependent on adults for security and love — and then imagine that a trusted, powerful figure in your life (a parent or teacher you admire) violates your trust by humiliating you or sexually abusing you at an age when you are still making sense of your world sexually and otherwise. If you are able to, for a moment, feel how these people have suffered, you will be able to stand up for them.

If we — as Jews, as community leaders, as institutions — do not stand up for our victims, we will become a community that enables abuse. Pedophiles know that in communities where fear of speaking out is high, they stand a better chance of getting away with their crimes. They know that in those communities, people are more concerned with their own reputation and with the reputation of their leaders and their institutions than they are with protecting their children.

If we don’t insist that abuse is intolerable in our midst, it will affect our children and grandchildren. I do not want us to become that type of community.

Stacey Klein works as a psychotherapist in New York City.


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!
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • 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.