Note from Harry Maryles: I usually take this time on the eve of the New Year to reflect on what kind if a year this was for me. The sudden death of my grandson Reuven who suffered from cancer was unexpected. Although his prognosis was never great, he had defied the odds by living as long as he did. People all over the world davened for him and for that I am still grateful. But it was not meant to be.
On one unusually warm morning in early March of this year Reuven was taken from us as he suddenly collapsed – never to resuscitated. That was one of the hardest days of my life. But I am grateful to God for all the blessings he as otherwise given me. And with God’s help I look forward to a much better year ahead.
Aside from that personal note, I am going to relinquish the space I give here to any additional reflection or the Dvar Torah I usually give on Erev Yom Tov- to Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. He asked me if I would cross post an essay from his website on my blog. After reading it, I decided that there is no Dvar Torah that I could deliver that would be more important than his words.
With all the troubles facing Klal Yisroel now, I don’t think there is a single issue more important than the issue of sex abuse in our community. We all know the horror stories the survivors of abuse tell us. And we all too often hear of the devastating consequences they face – some for many years after.
In part the altered lives they live are a result of the abuse itself. But it is in part also because of the unfortunate negative reaction to the victims by their own community. It is to this sad reality that Rabbi Horowitz speaks. The new year is not only a time for reflection. It is a time for change. If there is one thing we need to change as a community it is how we treat victims of abuse.
Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all. The following are Rabbi Horowitz’s words.
As we prepare to stand before Hashem in the days to come, and daven (pray) for ourselves, our families and all of Klal Yisroel, those of us who work with survivors of abuse and molestation ask you to publicly show your support for them in these yemei rachamim (days of mercy).
Part and parcel of the strategy employed by many of the predators in our community is to discredit their victims who have the courage to step forward and press charges against them. Typically, the molester will point to the victim’s 1) diminished level of religious observance and/or 2) self-destructive behaviors, like substance abuse, to “prove” his own innocence.However, for those of us who work with at-risk teens, the fact that one of our tayere kinderlach engaged in hard-core drug use, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, or left Yiddishkeit, makes it MORE likely that the accusation is true, not less. Why? Because we have known for many years now that the vast majority of our kids who have descended into the gehenom of these destructive activities have done so because they were molested.Of all the horror committed by predators against our innocent, precious boys and girls, the premeditated and deliberate defamation of their character is perhaps the most unforgivable; since it abuses them all over again and adds to their disconnect from our kehila – when what they need most is our acceptance and love.
With that in mind, I respectfully ask our readers to please stand with the brave survivors and their families who have the courage to take the lonely path of coming forward and pressing charges, with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching the high-profile cases unfold very carefully to determine whether they too should risk going to the authorities, and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.Precisely because the predators attempt to discredit and disgrace the victims and their families, is all the more reason why we need to reach out to them and let them know how much we respect and care for them.Kindly take a few minutes from your busy schedules and post a Rosh Hashana bracha in the thread
* following these lines, and have them in mind in your Tefillos. Previous efforts to garner public support for victims were extraordinarily comforting to them, as they help restore their faith in humanity and let them know that the vast majority of our community members are behind them.
Please include your real names and the names of the cities where you live to personalize your message and to send a clear message that we proudly stand with the survivors and their families.
Abuse survivors are our heilege neshamosour holy souls. They have endured unspeakable trauma in their lives and had their childhood cruelly stolen from them, because they learned at a very young age, at the mercy of cunning and evil predators, to never trust again. Nonetheless, the vast, overwhelming majority of survivors seek no revenge or retribution. They only hope and pray that today’s children be spared from the horror they endured.
Regardless of their observance level, we ought to welcome these survivors as full and respected members of our kehilos. We ought to commit to them that we will do everything possible to remove from our community those who prey on our innocent children and speak truth to power if necessary in the coming year to keep all our children safe and secure.If the great tzadik, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt’l were alive, I imagine that he would embrace abuse survivors in his shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and proclaim to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, look at these heilige neshamos who have endured so much with such dignity, and in their ze’chus inscribe us all in the Book of Life.”
Best wishes for a k’siva v’chasima tova and may Hashem answer our tefilos b’rachamim u’vrazon.
*Harry Maryles: As always, I welcome all comments to this post. Rabbi Horowitz is also taking comments in the form of Brachos to survivors on his website. If you can, it would be wonderful to get as many readers of this blog as possible to do so. Once again, Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all!
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz