May 22, 2009

Jewish Media Should Cover Abuse Issue

Thank you for your very important, very well-written May 8 article “One Man’s Harrowing Path From Abuse to Survival.”

First, may I say to the subject of the article, Pinny: I am so sorry for your suffering — and all this right after your mother died! It is paralyzing just to try to imagine how you must have felt, enduring such horrific abuse right on top of so much grief, compounded by the angry, even violent, reactions of the abuser and other authority figures when you did try to report the abuse.

Pinny, I am so relieved and grateful that you decided, at the last minute, to stay alive and fight your demons. Look how much good you are doing because you decided to live. In addition, had your suicide attempt succeeded (God forbid), your own children would have been in the same place you were: They would have lost a parent. Thank God you are alive, thank God you are a functioning member of your community.

I was particularly grateful to see this article because as senior editor of the N’shei Chabad Newsletter, I know how crucial — and also how difficult — it is for all Jewish media to stand up and speak out. I know how much and how long I had to fight to get this subject addressed in the N’shei Chabad Newsletter. Finally, finally, the Jewish media are speaking up and educating the public about the scourge of sexual abuse in the Jewish community. That is all we can do — but that is all we have to do. To remain silent is to be the child molester’s best friend.

Good for you, Forward, and most of all, good for you, Pinny. You all did the right thing, the difficult thing.

Rishe Deitsch
Senior Editor
N’shei Chabad Newsletter
Brooklyn, N.Y.

A Matter of Definition, Not Discrimination

Perhaps the reason American Jews wouldn’t, as a Forward reader suggests, “be so quiet” if Israel were to discriminate against blacks or Asians yet are relatively unexercised about “discrimination against liberal Judaism in Israel” is that the comparison defies reason (“Hello and Farewell,” May 8).

There are no laws barring Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or Humanist clergy from doing whatever they wish. They can hold services, bless marriages and exercise their freedom of religion like any Israeli citizen.

But a Jewish state, understandably, endorses a standard for what constitutes Judaism and determines, for state purposes, issues of Jewish personal status. Israel, from its birth, has chosen the standards of traditional (i.e. halacha-respecting) Judaism.

As it happens, Israel officially empowers the Eastern Orthodox Christian religious leadership to oversee religious rites and determine personal-status issues in that religious community; and it offers its institutions government funds. Israel does the same for other recognized religious groups, including the Roman Catholic community, Muslims, the Baha’i and others.

Were, say, the Reform movement — which has renounced the time-honored character of Judaism: fealty to Jewish religious law — to do what Reform Rabbi David Forman in fact recently suggested in an essay he penned for The Jerusalem Post (“Let’s declare ourselves a separate religion”), that movement could then make a case that it deserves to enjoy the same official privileges as any other faith group in Israel.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
New York, N.Y.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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May 22, 2009

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