Moishe Witkes, Mentor for Kav L’Noar together with input from the staff of Kav L’Noar wrote in to Ima2seven with the following information about the 8th Annual Conference Promoting Healthy Family Relationships at the Ramada Hotel on January 22,2012:

CONFRONTING ABUSE IN OUR COMMUNITY. 

I felt is was important enough to publish as a separate post. Please read the information, and attend the conference if you can. May we see such a conference and increased education in the Jewish communities in chutz l’aretz as well.

Moishe Witkes writes: 

“In response to the latest reports regarding the sexual abuse of children involving a ring of pedophiles in Nachlaot, I need to express my sorrow for the young children and their families who have been victimized. I feel frustrated. We are faced in our community with an avoidable tragedy.

As a social worker and clinical therapist having dealt with abuse in our community, I am unfortunately not surprised by these events. When there is insufficient commitment to transparency and education, these events can plague our community. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic in most communities and even more so in the religious community.

Our duty as professionals, parents, volunteers and leaders in the community is to ensure the safety, healthy development, and growth of our children. It is critical that we are informed and familiar with the inherent risks in the relationships we initiate for our children.
More information about sexual abuse and useful tools to help build awareness, educate and prevent more children from being abused and hopefully prevent these tragedies from occurring in our communities will be discussed at the upcoming
8th Annual Conference Promoting Healthy Family Relationships at the Ramada Hotel on January 22,2012

CONFRONTING ABUSE IN OUR COMMUNITY

This conference was planned several months ago and will feature Rav Zev Leff and Dr. David Pelcovitz. A message from a parent whose children are victims of abuse will be included in the program.

Please visit our website http://www.kavlnoar.org/ for more information and to register for the conference.
http://www.kavlnoar.org/the-8th-annual-kav-lnoar-conference-promoting-healthy-family-relationships/
If you would like to contact the author you may do so via Email:MoisheWitkes@gmail.com
Questions can be sent now for Rabbi Leff and Dr. Pelcovitz tokalnoarcenter@gmail.com

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I have been very fortunate to be writing lately of frivolities, indulgences, and good news.  I am so grateful for all of the good in my life these days.

But I am also crying. I have been crying a great deal over this particular tragedy, which is tragic on just so many levels…. The neighborhood of Nachlaot, one of Jerusalem’s oldest, has been broken – destroyed.  The people who live there – members of our one Jewish family – have been attacked, ruthlessly, for years. The children EVERYONE who lives there, is in constant fear.

Except for the terrorists.

There is a ring of at least 10 adult male pedophiles who have been terrorizing the neighborhood of Nachlaot. They are clothed in religious clothing and have been attending local synagogues as upstanding ovdei Hashem. And only 3 of the ten have even been arrested. The situation is a nightmare.

I don’t know where to focus my anger, sadness and outrage because there is just so much wrong with this story:       

1. The police made a statement on the TV news in Israel in Wednesday that “there is an investigation underway and a police presence in the neighborhood and the families are satisfied.”   This is a scandal, a lie, a sheer cover up. The ringleader of the ten – many of whom he recruited – is walking free. The police have thrown out the testimony of scores of children as “unusable” because the investigators themselves couldn’t get around to acquiring their statements fast enough. Children who were told that if they were brave and told the truth would see the bad guys taken care of by the trusted authorities now see the police doing little to nothing, and their rapists walking free, sharing their kiosk and daily bus.

2. There are not enough Haredi therapists qualified to treat the dozens (probably more than 100) children in their sector that have been terrorized. Their parents understandably want therapy for their children from a Haredi therapist. So children are going without treatment. On Wednesday’s channel 10 news report an anonymous Haredi parent said he did not ask his children if they are among the victims. His claim on TV is that his RABBI TOLD HIM NOT TO ASK HIS CHILDREN. I don’t even know what to say. **Note: Please read Chavi’s comments below that this was a distortion by the television news, and has more of an explanation, of course.  A tragic, but logical explanation

3. There isn’t enough money in the world to put the staff on this case that is necessary. There aren’t enough investigators trained to take statements from children. So the statements aren’t all being taken.

4. There are very consistent accounts from many children that siblings were forced to watch the molestation and rape of their siblings, and that the sex acts were filmed. NO FILM HAS BEEN RETRIEVED AT ALL. While private investigators could be very helpful in this case, it costs money.

5. Parents do not feel safe allowing their children out at all. Yet they must run from therapy to therapy to treat their children, if they are in fact getting treatment.  How they can be in so many places at once – and of course not getting the therapy for themselves that they need – is just beyond me.

6. The silent victims are the ones that scare me the most. Who knows how many children can’t, won’t, admit what has been done to them? Each of these children, those who have bravely spoken out and those that have not will grow up with all of the scars of this horrible nightmare:

  • The scars of being raped
  • The scars of watching the violation of others
  • The scars of not being believed or heard
  • The scars of being betrayed by the police, their government, their rabbis, their community
  • The scars of being betrayed by Klal Yisroel.
The city has (finally) admitted that there is a real crisis here and they don’t have the resources, training, manpower or no how to address it properly. This must be fixed. We owe these children, these families, nothing less.

Kol Areivim Ze L’Zeh“. We are all responsible for one another. Every Jew is a cell in one Jewish body that acts to serve G-d. And yet this part of our body is screaming, terrorized, broken, betrayed. And where is Klal Yisrael??? Where is the outcry and support from the Rabbis? The community? The Jewish Human Rights Activists?

Who in the Diaspora KNOWS about this? 

Chana Jenny Weisberg at Jewishmom.com has done a HEROIC job of publicizing this horrific tragedy, but since it is her community she has paid a price. And she has been mostly alone in her efforts. I am so grateful for her letting me know and giving me an opportunity to pray and cry with the mothers and children of Nachlaot.

But we can do better. WE MUST DO BETTER.

I know there is a lot of press right now about Beit Shemesh and the tensions between religious and non religious groups in Israel. I hope this sinat chinam is not related to this horrible suffering we are seeing. But regardless, this is our chance to show some unity and help poor innocent children, religious and non-religious who have all been hurt.

We simply must act. 

Kol Areivim Ze L’Zeh. We will be held accountable for our silence on this matter, and it makes me tremble, quite honestly. I worry about these children as adults. How their untreated trauma and terror can create Jews who hate the world, hate Israel, hate Hashem, G-d forbid.  G-d forbid, it can create future victims, according to research.

I hope this bleak and poorly written blog post makes you upset. And I hope it empowers you to help.

There is a lot that YOU can do:

1. MAKE A DONATION. There is so much need, both in terms of resources to help these families, as well as to fight the battle properly in court. (Assuming they can get an arrest of the known perpetrators). These children will obviously need YEARS of therapy and assistance. Their souls, their minds, their well being are the collective responsibility of the Jewish people and right now they are broken. Destroyed. I hope to see their future participation in the type of camps and retreats set up for other terror victims, such as the work at One Family Fund. I hope they read this, and make an inclusion for this horrible type of terror victim.

Click here to make your donation to the Nachlaot Pedophile Crisis Fund:

(Note: If the link isn’t working for you, please try logging in to Paypal and then clicking on the button. Sorry.) 

2. Letters can be sent to these children to let them know that they are NOT ALONE. That Klal Yisrael loves them, and that most Jews are not the monsters they have experienced. They need love, lots and lots of love.  Letters can be sent in Israel to:  Children of Nachlaot (or Yaldei Nachlaot) c/o Weisberg Family, Shirizli 11a, Nachlaot, Jerusalem, Israel

In America to: Nachlaot Children, c/o 3 Overton Road, East Windsor, NJ 08520. They will then be sent to Nachlaot. Gifts are welcome too, but please send them directly to Israel.

3. Emails can be sent to the Justice Minister, Yaakov Neeman:  Neeman@hfn.co.il.  At least one person has had trouble with that address, so you can also send to the Ministry’s Director General: mancal@justice.gov.ilComplaints to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat can be sent through the form at this link: http://www.jerusalem.muni.il/jer_sys/residentsRequests/requestAccepted.asp?Type_complaint=100.

They are waking up to the extent of the damage, but public pressure and concern will help get the attention and resources where they need to go. It is already too little too late, but we can still make a big difference. Not just to help these victims, but to pressure the administration(s) to make permanent changes so something like this can never happen again.

NOTE: Since the writing of this post, this is finally being discussed by the Knesset. Please see Altea’s comment below. Pressure and attention is still needed, of course. If you can read in Hebrew, or if you use google translate, you can read more here:  http://www.jerusalemnet.co.il/article/41031

4. Prayer – this will always help. Join me in letting Hashem know that these are our children too, and that their trauma is our trauma. That Nachlaot is broken, so we are broken.

5. Publicity – please share Jewishmom.com’s articles on this matter with people you know. Share this post. Let people know. Make sure your local Jewish paper is talking about this. Appeal to your Rabbis and leaders to talk about this. Grown Jewish victims of pedophilia around the world will tell you the damage they have been caused by Jewish institutional silence. It is a second rape. We can do better. We must show them that we can and will scream out loud in pain for them over and over until the noise is heard.

6. Volunteer.  Altea Steinherz is a local lawyer and hero. She is coordinating volunteers and says she needs anyone who can and will help. You can email her at: alteasteinherz@yahoo.com.

7. Donate. I said this already, but I want to remind you in case you got distracted. I am sorry for not making this story easier to read. I am too upset, and too much time has gone by for these families already.

Please leave me comments to this post, so that I know I am not alone. Because I will keep making noise until I feel like someone out there is hearing me. I hope that happens soon. I also must mention that in addition to her other heroic efforts on this front, Chana Jenny Weisberg raised $4500 for these families. Would that it were enough. Let’s help rebuild Nachlaot.

We, Klal Yisroel, can do better.

Additional resources for information about the situation in Nachlaot include:

Israeli news report from Channel 10 

An Aspiring Mekubal

Failed Messiah

Haaretz (all the way back in October – little has changed since)

Jewishmom.com 1

Jewishmom.com 2

My Teacher, The Abuser 

A Mother in Israel

Related Reading:

David Morris in Beit Shemesh, Israel, writes a blog “tzedek-tzedek” in which he discusses social problems affecting Israeli society, most particularly the religious community. His is one of the few blogs that I read. Not because it is light and happy, but because he sheds light where very, very few are willing to do so, and does it skillfully and with class.

In his posting http://tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com/2009/11/will-motti-borgers-suicide-make-any.html, he discusses the recent suicide of a religious man who had been a victim of child sexual abuse. It is a somber wake up call.

But for me, it is also yet another disturbing reminder that I have access in person and on line to Torah classes on every imaginable subject. Yet there doesn’t seem to be ANY guidebook on how to speak to religious children about pedophilia.

Why should it be any different for someone who is Orthodox than for anyone else? Well, I would imagine it isn’t easy for any parent, and that there is a dirth of good information out there period.

But we do have some additional challenges. My children have very successfully internalized the concept of avoiding lashon hara – hateful speech. This means that they really are loathe to speak ill of someone else. EVEN WHEN IT IS TRUE. This is an obvious obstacle.

They also are taught to respect their elders, their authority figures, and adults in the community in general. So, if G-d forbid a trusted adult should do something that violates them in any way, I fear that they will believe what they are told by such a person, “respecting them” and buying the lies that pedophiles are known for telling.

So… that brings me back to my point. What works? I have tried so far to relate this subject to other examples of “mitigating circumstances” and the “exceptions to every rule” that exist in Judaism. There are times when we MUST say lashon hara. There are times when we should NOT respect an adult – no matter what. This is very confusing and difficult for my yeshiva trained children. So, I think that one part of the puzzle is to repeat myself, and to remember that this topic, as uncomfortable as it is, cannot be raised once and then forgotten.

However, I read David Morris’ blog (I hope you will too,) and I am therefore reminded to raise the topic from time to time. I have already mentioned how little this topic seems to be raised in the frum world, so I wonder how easy it is out there to forget?

I would very much welcome any suggestions from my readers on things to say – and not say – on the subject.

Something I wish none of us needed any expertise in….

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