Within any civilized and normative realm, the crime of pedophilia is considered beyond the pale. So much so, inside the hierarchy of the prison system, a “chomo”, slang for a child molester, is at the absolute bottom of the prison pool. That says it all.
With that in the forefront of your mind’s eye, it is hard to find that a community which justifiably prides itself on the highest standards – most especially, vis-à-vis family, religious, communal, and educational values – would stand silent in the face of the existence of any case of pedophilia at all in its midst.
More often than not, the reaction has been akin to “circling the (communal) wagons,” an attempt to keep the issue hidden. Except that those needing protection are not the pedophiles, but the violated and highly traumatized children!. Intrinsically, what kind of message does said thinking send to the children, after all, who are the future of the Jewish community, regardless of locale? Above all else, how can this be?
As painfully evidenced within several exposés at this writer’s site, the crime of pedophilia in the Orthodox community does exist, however, and is a blight; a mark of Cain; a wall of shame, but has been coupled with deafening silence. The subject matter at hand is so serious that bypassing it is unthinkable. Inextricably, keeping this topic under communal cover is a non-starter, regardless of its shameful nature and personal attachments.
In the first instance, it hits too close to home and is akin to a dagger in the heart, including this heart. When instances were exposed in Yeshiva University's past, it hit very close to home. My father – of blessed memory – worked tirelessly at Yeshiva University for 45 years, as a Rabbi in its main Administrative Center in Washington Heights, Manhattan. In fact, he taught at its esteemed school for Rabbinical Studies, REITS, when he first arrived in New York from war-torn Europe. YU’s essence, that is, its raison d’être, is to graduate students who will impart values aligned with, and in keeping to, actions that are viewed as a “light unto the nations.” Effectively, it can’t possibly be realized unless those cases were exposed.
Hot on that reportage and on its heels, the egregious crimes allegedly committed by Malka Leifer have exposed the insidious nature of pedophilia, as well as the ricocheting nature of the devastation wrought in its wake, ping-ponging from Australia to Israel and vice versa. Even more so, this case may connect to a wider net of pedophilia in Jerusalem and various surrounding communities.
Despite the discomfort and shock the findings surely evoke, there are hopeful signs. More and more victims (most of whom are now young adults) are finding the courage to come forward – having found their voices and a sense of power through a smattering of long overdue “noisemakers”, as they ring forth from various corners of the community. As a knock-on effect, the victims no longer feel alone; forced to suffer in silence with their perceived shame ans stigma.
Chief among the heroes within the Orthodox community – in this highly delicate arena – is the blessed organization Jewish Community Watch (JCW). It is through their Education Center that the veil of secrecy has finally – dare it be said, miraculously – been lifted from the “crime of all crimes”: pedophilia. The header at the organization’s site states it best. Plainly and simply, it reads:
Child sexual abuse is scary but you don’t have to feel powerless. This area will outline steps you can take to prevent child sexual abuse, as well as give you a better understanding of its devastating implications. You can also find tools for speaking about abuse with your loved ones, including tips for communicating with children and early detection methods.
The “Get Help” section of this page provides educational support for those who have been affected by the trauma of CSA. Information is available to help you, whether you’re a victim of abuse, a family member of a victim, or a relative of an abuser.
(All of the material listed in this area has been adapted from various organizations, therapists, and educators including RAINN, Safely Ever, TheMamabearEffect, MaleSurvivor, Pandys, StopItNow, Taalk).
At the end of it all and at its base, those who stand silently by in the face of such evil, as they “circle the (communal) wagons” to protect the perpetrators, are equally guilty. Aside from that, it is by way of their shameful silence that a double sin has been committed – failing to protect the most innocent among us, as well as blackening the good name of a community which, for the most part, is law abiding and, more often than not, performing good deeds.
Silence is NO longer an option!
Adina Kutnicki is an investigative journalist, living in Israel since 2008. Her work concentrates on militant Islamic jihad and its western knock-on effects. She is the co-author of BANNED: How Facebook Enables Militant Islamic Jihad, She blogs at: Adina Kutnicki, A Zionist & Conservative Blog (www.adinakutnicki.com).