Since the news broke more than a week ago about the arrest by the FBI of a frum, heimishe man in my hometown of Monsey for allegedly doing unspeakable things repeatedly to a girl/young woman closely related to him over a period of many years and spanning three countries, people have been asking me the same question again and again – “Could this possibly be true?”
To all worried parents and community members asking this question, my unequivocal answer is “yes.”
I do not know any specifics about this particularly ghoulish tale other than what I read in the secular press and by reviewing a hair-raising copy of the federal indictment (which is available online). Thus I cannot comment on the veracity of the charges. Additionally, the accused individual has not yet had his day in court. But I have heard far more than one or two stories like this one in the past from credible people. (For the record, I always ask the victims to go straight to the police and report the abusers.)
So even if this story is not true – and it is beyond naïve to think that federal agents would convene a grand jury and make an arrest like this merely on the say-so of a vindictive family member without substantive forensic proof – the terribly sad fact is that it most certainly could be true.
It is exactly these types of horrible stories that I was referring to in the opening lines of my column in this space a month ago, titled “L’ma’an Hashem: What Will It Take?” Here are the first two sentences of that column: “It is difficult to describe the sickening, gut-wrenching sensation I experience when I get phone calls from parents whose children were abused or from adults who have carried the horrible scars of childhood abuse for decades, often shredding their relationships and ruining their lives. And I am sad to report that those calls are getting more frequent as time goes on.”
If your children are married and out of your home, feel free to join those who blame these stories on “anti-Semitic, secular newspapers,” and “self-hating Jews who love to bash haredim.” Or you can join those who would rather stay clueless and say things like, “Wow, did you hear that story? Please pass the salt.” You can also trust the people who tell you not to worry about this since there are only an infinitesimal number of frum pedophiles.
But if you are a parent still entrusted with the care of your children, please read the non-airbrushed story in the secular newspapers and be frightened. Very, very frightened!
I suggest that you develop a mental image of a deranged frum adult walking around your neighborhood with pruning shears viciously cutting off the index fingers of any children that he can get his hands on. Then imagine seeing hundreds of frum kids walking around with bloody bandages around their hands – while the unhinged fellow with the shears calmly strolls around unimpeded. Are you sufficiently terrified now? Well, that is a tamed-down version of how I see things as far as the abuse/molestation issue is concerned. Because these evil monsters that molest our innocent children and the soulless, immoral people who cover for them are cutting out the very souls of the poor kids whose lives they ruin.
This incident proves what I have written about numerous times in the past – that this is not only a school issue but also a communal one. It is also one that can be dramatically improved with awareness and Torah-appropriate education of parents and children. My friends, all the finger- pointing and blame games won’t save the life of a single child. So let’s please not focus our energies right now on discussing who is responsible for this mess, as it will distract us from what we need to do in order to protect the children that Hashem entrusted to our care.
I am beyond heartbroken that not enough people in our community have the courage to discuss this life-threatening, colossal threat to our children, and that we keep allowing ourselves to get distracted by the meaningless and often silly non-issues raised by self-appointed “askanim.” Instead, we must concentrate on the safety of our children. I am also stunned that our communal anger is perpetually deflected from the predators and those who cover for them, and directed at those who courageously try to improve things.
All I can do is beg parents b’chol lashon shel bakasha to take this issue seriously and start speaking to their children about privacy and personal safety issues. L’ma’an Hashem, parents, please start protecting each and every child of yours as if his or her very life depends on it.
Because it does!
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Project Y.E.S.
On Sunday, October 26, Project Y.E.S. is running its first major fundraising event – a concert in The Jazz at New York City’s Lincoln Center. The concert will feature Avraham Fried and Chazzan Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. Please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-758-3131 x 106 for more information about the concert, to become a sponsor, and to purchase tickets.Rabbi Yakov Horowitz