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Schechter, who runs the Center for Applied Psychology at Bikur Cholim Partners in Health, in Rockland County, said his client base has more than quadrupled since it opened just a little more than a decade ago. It now includes about 1,000 people seeking treatment each year.
“I see lawyers and one spouse or another using mental illness indiscriminately in the proceedings,” Schechter said. “Unfortunately, those do not lead to good outcomes for the children.”
Schechter recently started an institute to do research on psychological, psychiatric and social issues in ultra-Orthodox communities, in order to provide meaningful data to rabbinic leadership and clinicians there. His goal, he said, is to “create change without garnering as much reactivity, as much resistance,” from the religious community, he said.
David Pelcovitz, Straus Chair in Psychology and Jewish Education at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, said he saw the beginnings of “at least openness to recognizing the need for teacher training, for rabbinic training and parent training” regarding mental illness. But he added, “There’s still a very long way to go.”
Victims of sexual abuse in particular face a “unique risk” of suicide, Pelcovitz said. They often experience “a loss of sense of meaning, and in religious beliefs,” he explained. Yet if they leave their ultra-Orthodox community, people there often see no connection. “From the perspective of the community the rebelliousness is viewed as willful and without any obvious cause,” Pelcovitz said.
Mirka Hermoza Laznick, a mother of six who resides in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn and says she is fighting similar battles with her own estranged husband, met Tambor at a meeting of OTDers in a Brooklyn coffee shop several months ago. Tambor told her then that her children were being told, “Your mother is a goy; she doesn’t love you.” “She told me ‘I don’t know how to live without them,’” Laznick said.
Contact Debra Nussbaum Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org