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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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In our March 30th column, a male reader offered advice to the woman involved in a relationship with a married man who has yet to make good on his promise to divorce his wife. “Been there and done the right thing” claimed to speak from both a male perspective and experience; he too had cheated on his wife (with a coworker he’d fallen in love with) but had within a six-month time frame divorced his wife and “started fresh.”

The following letter, submitted by yet another male reader, takes “Been there” to task.

Dear Rachel,

In opposition to Mr. Been There, I would like to stake my claim on the male perspective (concerning the cheating husband). My qualification…? Simply, I haven’t left a slew of miserable and scarred family members in my wake while pursuing whatever “floats my boat” at the moment.

A successful life consists of self-control at every turn, be it when focusing on one’s studies as a student, maintaining proper ethical standards in the business world, or seeing the real priorities in relationships and family life and acting accordingly. Mr. Been There lays claim to being qualified to offer up the male perspective without exhibiting a shred of self-control in his own life.

In defense of his lack of self-control, Mr. Been There and ‘Done the Right Thing’ (HAH!!) claims that “men are cold and callous,” that “it is a man’s world,” and that men “have the power to get on with our lives if need be.” In this way, believing he is simply a typical male, he rationalizes his behavior. (Notice what little emphasis he places on the fact that he “cheated on his wife” and “lost contact with his children.”) While his situation may have changed, his attitude sure hasn’t.

The real perspective on life – whether male or female – is uncomplicated. One should live one’s life in a way that allows him or her to look in the mirror at the end of each day and say, “I am a good parent, spouse, friend and human being.” If someone like this guy presses REWIND on his life and gets disgusted while watching, he may have to concede that he hasn’t “done the right thing” after all.

Time to look in the mirror

The following was written in response to the third letter in that same column. The reader who signed himself “Keeping our Children Safe” outlined an approach that he felt was indispensable in thwarting the evil acts of the child abuser/molester in our midst.

Dear Rachel,

Several years ago, a “reputable” rabbi molested many children — including my son. What was most aggravating, frustrating and deplorable was the reaction of many frum communities who refused to hold this rabbi to the coals, who wrote many letters to papers excoriating the reporting of his despicable actions, and tried every which way to exculpate him by citing “all the good he has done.”

First person accounts were treated rudely and were an affront to the victims. Many rabbis of shuls refused to ban him, even as they were aware of his reputation that dogged him for years.

I will be eternally grateful to Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of the Jewish Week, as he broke the story that allowed everyone to know what was up until then kept a secret by so many. Till that article appeared, I was forced to remain silent. My mother/my lawyer advised me that unless there was a corroborating witness, only my son would be reviled. He knew of others, but their parents refused to go “against” a rabbi. However, once that article appeared, kids and names came out of the woodwork. CORROBORATION!

The writer in your column was 100% correct… and a breath of fresh air. Believe your child, protect your child, and no one is above the law — NO ONE!!!

Had the greater frum community actively and publicly condemned the actions of this person, his abuse would not have thrived for 30 years. Silence, accommodation, ignorance, turning a blind eye, choosing to put some rabbis on a pedestal that they do not deserve, ignoring children’s voices, refusing to report illegal activity to the police, leaving pedophiles to be adjudicated by batei din, totally unprepared and ill equipped to deal with such serious issues, is a shanda – a disgrace – and shows a complete disregard for our children.

Rachel, I am so appreciative that this topic is finally out in the open, that people are at last coming to grips with the fact that there are MANY sick people out there… sick people more than eager to hurt our children. If we, the adults and parents, are not diligent in protecting our kids, who will be?

It’s up to each and every one of us!

Dear Readers,

Both of you have spoken the truth, openly and boldly. To the male reader who advocates looking in the mirror and honestly assessing one’s behavior, your advice is apt for every human being. None of us are above reproach, and each of us should strive to improve our conduct and middos at every turn.

At the same time, we are individual molds and thus cannot always fathom the nisyonos – trials – dealt another. Sure, we can reprimand and say, “You shouldn’t have wandered there in the first place.” But as the past cannot be undone, the next course of action becomes yet another trial. Take the instance of the man whom your letter addresses. Is his eventual act not preferable to that of the married man who continues to string both his long-suffering wife and mistress along in unending duplicity?

To our second writer, the mom who had to endure the heart-wrenching pain of discovering that her son was molested by one trusted to play the role of community leader, no less: Your wait for justice was slow and painful, and gratifying as it finally was, the wrong done to your son will forever be a part of him. Again, a past that cannot be undone, but it can be learned from.

We must do more than protect our children from dangerous, human predators. We must do our utmost to ensure that none of our children will, Heaven forbid, morph into one of those dreaded molesters/abusers/pedophiles (each, we might keep in mind, once some mom’s innocent child).

Only by fostering open, loving and caring relationships with our children can we give them the best chance to fend off the advances of twisted mortals and to recognize right from wrong.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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