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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘sexual abuse’

It’s My Opinion: A Golden Anniversary

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I was an avid reader and fan of The Jewish Press long before becoming a writer in its pages. Our publication recently celebrated its milestone 50th anniversary and I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the paper’s unprecedented impact on American Jewry.

 

The Jewish Press was the first English-language Jewish weekly published nationally in the United States. It was unique. It was printed in English, not Yiddish. It was unflinching in its Orthodox perspective, but took on many subjects that more timid publishers in the Jewish world would long avoid.

 

Its founder, Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, was an incredible Torah scholar who understood the ways of the world. He combined his scholarship with a common-sense approach to tackle issues that affected Jews in a modern world. 

 

The paper addressed sensitive subjects and issues that had, in the past, been swept under the proverbial Jewish rug. Alcoholism, drug use, spousal and sexual abuse, learning disabilities and more have been explored. Halachic perspective on organ transplants, fertility treatments, end-of-life issues and other scientific debates have also been examined.

 

Frum Jews enjoyed and read The Jewish Press. Over the years, an additional readership emerged. Because it was printed in English and contained such a blend of cutting-edge topical articles, in addition to traditional material, the paper has actually served as a tremendous source of kiruv (Jewish outreach). 

 

Rabbi Klass was undaunting in his courageous approach to the publication. He used the pages of the newspaper to champion Jewish causes and issues. He used the influence of his position to help the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The newspaper continues this legacy of Jewish leadership today.

 

Mazel tov to the Klass, Mauer and Greenwald families. You have taken the mantle. You have continued in this extraordinary undertaking. You have and are making a difference. Thank you for being there. The Jewish community needs you now more than ever.

How Can We Prevent Abuse?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Chaya’s older yeshiva-bochur brother told her that there was no problem with his touching her body. He told her it wasn’t against the Torah, and he seemed to know a lot more Torah than she did at the tender age of 6. He continued to touch her first over her clothes, but as the years passed, the abuse progressed to actual rape. Eventually he got married and started a family, appearing to function just fine to nearly everyone in the community. However, he left his younger sister, now in her late twenties, crippled – emotionally, sexually and spiritually.

There are over fifty young women with backgrounds extremely similar to Chaya’s in just one very recently formed support group for women. They all grew up in frum homes and they have all been sexually abused. They are the tip of the iceberg, just now becoming visible. They are just the most courageous young women, who have (just barely) emerged first. The vast majority of survivors live in tremendous fear of telling their stories (even to another survivor of abuse) for many understandable reasons.

What’s the silver lining, when this type of abuse has been going on for many years? (In some families, this seems to be a “heritage” that has been passed from one generation to the next.) The silver lining is that now, as thank G-d, the abuse is starting to come to light, and each previously isolated victim is starting to learn that he or she is not the only one with this secret corrosive problem, we finally have the opportunity to take necessary constructive actions. Now, not only can we support those who are already victims, and this is sorely needed, but also thanks to the many brave survivors of abuse who are finally, painfully starting to share their stories, we can do even more. We can implement effective education on prevention in order to stop the growth of abuse from continuing in our communities.

Of course, it’s not only teenage older brothers or cousins who can become sexual abusers. Uncles turn out to be frequently cited as perpetrators as well as, neighbors and fathers of friends. A trusted family member or family friend commits approximately 80 percent of sexual abuse, with roughly 15 percent being committed by teachers, coaches, youth group leaders or clergy. Less than 5 percent of sexual abusers are strangers to their victims. This makes sense because gaining the trust of the victim is a prerequisite in the grooming process leading to sexual abuse occurring and not being reported.

Why has the sexual abuse of children become such a pervasive problem in our community, when our core values are diametrically opposed to this lowest and cruelest kind of behavior? It’s this simple: For generations, frum perpetrators were allowed to get away with it. A few sick individuals were tolerated in every one of our neighborhoods. Each of these sick individuals typically scars more than 100 children. Many of the victims who have been molested repeatedly, grow up and sexually abuse other children, creating thousands of victims. That is how the problem has increased exponentially – it has gone unchecked. Silence may be golden, but not when abuse is involved. Abuse thrives in silence.

Chaya, at age 6, needs to be taught that she has the right to say “NO!” to any unwanted touch – even if it’s from an older brother or an uncle. Hershel, at age 4, needs to be told that nobody should touch him in the private areas that are covered by his bathing suit, unless it is for health or hygienic purposes, even if it is his babysitter or his stepfather. Rivka, at age 9, needs to learn to tell a trusted parent as soon as possible if anybody attempts to touch her in a confusing way.

Yeshiva students need to get specific information about sexual topics outside of their Gemara Nashim. Their normal surge in hormones needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Clear-cut directives about not touching younger girls and boys, even if they are siblings or cousins, the addictive pull of acting on sexual urges, and the usefulness of physical activity in decreasing their urges by positively channeling their energy, is much more productive than denial.

Parents need to be taught to report abuse to child protective services or the police. Expert professionals are needed when dealing with these serious and dangerous problems that are beyond our capabilities. The most compassionate thing that can happen to perpetrators is for them to be caught and stopped as early as detected. The earliest point of all is beforehand – so prevention is of paramount importance.

In most states, parents and students in public schools have been required to learn basic information about protection from sexual abuse for over twenty years. Parents of students in our day schools still feel unequipped to be proactive in protecting their children from predators. The students in our day schools are unprepared to respond to advances from familiar adults unless they are clearly instructed about this very real possibility.

Educational materials appropriate for all for all age children, including our teens, needs to be made available for use in our day schools, our yeshivas, and our homes. One place to access this essential curriculum is from Mrs. Debbie Fox, at Jewish Family Services in Los Angeles. She has spearheaded the creation of great resources for frum youth on this topic. (Literature and videos are available by contacting Mrs. Fox at dfox@jfsla.org.) If groups of parents request their school’s involvement, they can be even more effective in implementing this critical programming. By increasing awareness and making prevention education a top priority, we can greatly minimize the proliferation of abuse.

The darkest form of education has been going on for far too long behind our own closed doors. Can we now end the strong resistance to seeing what has been happening and open up these same doors to light?

Thank you, Chaya. You are a real woman of valor, teaching us so painfully what we weren’t facing.

Bracha Goetz is the author of ten children’s books, including Aliza in MitzvahLand, What Do You See at Home? and The Invisible Book. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. To enjoy Bracha’s presentations for both women and children, you’re welcome to email bgoetzster@gmail.com.

Lefty Blogger Flunks Basic Honesty

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Last week a left-wing blogger reacted with some indignation to Steven Plaut’s inaugural post on the new Jewish Press blog (shameless plug #1 – you’ll find The Jewish Press Blog at www.thejewishpress.blogspot.com)

That was the blogger’s right, of course, and the Monitor has no issue with that. The problem was the blogger’s predictably dishonest characterization of The Jewish Press.

After dispensing with the obligatory insult, calling The Jewish Press “America’s trashiest Orthodox Jewish newspaper,” the blogger – no need to give him additional publicity by naming him; that information is available on (shameless plug #2) The Jewish Press Blog – writes that the paper is “renowned for excusing the improprieties of rabbinic child molesters and instead attacking their whistleblowers…”

How dishonest is this blogger? The Jewish Press has never – not once – excused any abuser or molester, rabbinic or otherwise. To the contrary; the paper has for years run articles, columns and features on all manner of abuse in the Orthodox community in the face of a number of cancelled subscriptions and threats of advertiser boycotts by people who don’t think an Orthodox newspaper should publicize such sordid reality.

(It was in response to reader discomfort that the paper several years ago moved articles of that nature into a pullout section so that concerned parents could easily separate it from the rest of the paper.)

The blogger’s disingenuousness is further indicated by his use of a hyperlink when he referred to The Jewish Press’s attacks on whistleblowers – but not when he accused the paper of “excusing…rabbinic child molesters.” The reason for that should be obvious – he couldn’t find any such link.

While the paper has indeed editorialized against granting legitimacy to anonymous accusations and anonymous fliers containing unsubstantiated charges, it has, as noted above, never excused abuse or abusers. But by placing that lie in the same sentence with the hyperlinked reference to our editorial stance against anonymous accusations, the blogger planted the impression in readers’ minds that both statements are accurate.

That this blogger knows better can be ascertained by his own words. Last May, The Jewish Press ran an op-ed piece, written by a concerned New Jersey mother, titled “Education Without Strings.” The article minced no words in criticizing yeshivas on a variety of fronts – including their lack of accountability in hiring teachers with questionable backgrounds. Here’s a relevant section of the piece:

“We are all aware of the current controversies involving teachers with questionable backgrounds – controversies that often include allegations of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Why are we exposing our children to teachers who have been accused but not investigated? What if allegations about an individual teacher happen to be true and our children are being abused under our very noses?”

Two days after the article appeared on our website and in our print edition, our friend the blogger posted the following comment on his blog, followed by a link to the article in question:

“My sister…wrote an op-ed in this week’s Jewish Press, which, responding to the recent Kolko controversy, presents a laundry list of concerns from Orthodox parents about how their money’s being spent and who’s being allowed to teach their children…”

Well, who’d have thunk it? Leave aside the delicious irony that the writer of the article happened to be this blogger’s very own sister. Did you notice that the blogger himself made the point that the piece was a response “to the recent Kolko controversy”? And how come he didn’t call The Jewish Press “America’s trashiest Orthodox Jewish newspaper” when he was trumpeting its publication of his sister’s article?

If the blogger were sincere, and even if he knew nothing else about The Jewish Press (which of course he does), just the fact that the paper would feature an article like the one written by his sister should have been enough to disabuse him of any notion that it was interested in whitewashing or “excusing” abuse in the Orthodox community. And her piece was only one of dozens The Jewish Press has run in recent years addressing problems all too many Orthodox Jews would rather ignore.

But what does the Monitor know? When not writing this column, he’s just the senior editor of “America’s trashiest Orthodox Jewish newspaper” (the one that ran the article by the blogger’s sister that the blogger was only too proud to plug) and a contributor to (shameless plug #3) The Jewish Press Blog (www.thejewishpress.blogspot.com).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/lefty-blogger-flunks-basic-honesty/2007/03/28/

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