"I appreciate the serious approach Mishpacha has taken regarding the recent topic of abuse and molestation"
Seeking That Balm [Inbox / Issue 894]
I was so relieved and thankful to see Mishpacha publish Rabbi Lopiansky’s heartfelt response to the recent devastating events, and also amazed when I read about Rabbi Zev Cohen and the special Beis Din of Chicago a week later.
You see I’m not as lucky as the letter-writer who recently disclosed her history to her rav. Her rav cried. He told her husband to stand up for her and described what she went through as her own personal holocaust.
I cried longingly when I read her words: “You cannot understand the balm it was to see someone of that stature acknowledge the depth of the pain I suffered.” I cried because I’ve been searching for that exact balm for two years now, and still have not found it.
When I went approximately two years ago to disclose my own story to a rav, he advised me not to share it with my family members and to keep up a relationship with my family, where the abuse happened. And I tried. Eventually, when I found that I couldn’t heal without revealing my dark secret to my husband, and that interacting with my family including the abuser was too painful for me, I went to another rav. He supported my decision to tell my husband and to stop interacting with my family — but asked me not to use his name because he can’t afford the inevitable backlash.
These rabbanim believed me, but they couldn’t cry for me. They could not stand up for me.
Recent events reawakened that pain in me. That craving for a rav to stand up for us was back with a vengeance. “We need guidance and direction from rabbanim,” I cried out to a therapist who is also on the advisory board of Amudim. “Where are the rabbanim?”
He answered me with the sad truth and with the explanation that Rabbi Lopiansky echoed in the piece that he so bravely and warmly wrote for all of us. (I quote) “There is no organization called ‘the rabbanim’.... [The rabbanim] must have time to deal with an issue... they also must have training in this area... Finally, there must be some system in place to protect the dayanim and members of this forum. An accused person typically becomes desperate and launches an all-out war against the ‘corrupt’ beis din.”
That definitely explained the reactions of the rabbanim I approached, and understanding helped soothe my pain somewhat. And that is also why I was so amazed to read the article about Rabbi Zev Cohen, describing how Chicago was able to do it!
But the main thing I am trying to gain from these two brave articles is the elusive balm. Until my city catches up, for now I will take the weeping of Rabbi Lopiansky and the declaration from Rabbi Cohen that “Our first priority is the well-being of the victims, doing whatever is possible to help them overcome their pain,” as a balm for my soul.
Thank you, Rabbi Lopiansky, for standing up for us in this forum. To have someone of your stature publicly acknowledge the depth of the pain that we suffer, I’m sure is a balm for many of us silenced victims. And thank you, Rabbi Cohen, for showing us that there is a way for communities to protect their victims. To think that 30 years ago a young rav had the foresight and strength to set this up!
As he says, “Let’s just hope that the moment has finally arrived” — and that we victims can get the support and the balm from the rabbanim in our community that we so badly need.
All the Reasons [The Moment Has Arrived / Issue 894]
As a parent and educator, I appreciate the serious approach Mishpacha has taken regarding the recent topic of abuse and molestation. After thinking the matter over, it seemed to me that setting up a specialized hotline, similar to those for domestic abuse, would be a very good first step, and I was gratified to see in the interview with Rabbi Zev Cohen of Chicago that this is an initiative he has been campaigning for.
A hotline would serve the following purposes:
It would preserve the anonymity of victims who wish to come forward, but are afraid of the damage it could do to them and to their families.
It would immediately validate the pain of victims, who might not come forward otherwise for fear of being ignored or worse.
It would provide help to victims, who would otherwise suffer in silence or go to someone who might not know how to correctly handle the sensitive situation.
It would have the knowledge and wherewithal to investigate the claims and hopefully stop the perpetrator from continuing to harm other victims.
It would be a resource for community members who have suspicions or knowledge of abuse, but don’t know how to handle the knowledge in a safe and sensitive manner.
I hope that someone will take the initiative to make this hotline a reality, and that this tragedy will serve as a catalyst for serious change in our community.
T.M., Queens, NY
Unnecessary Attention [Perspective / Issue 894]
I have a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for all of Alex Fleksher’s endeavors. Her articles are always written with respect and humility, and it’s clear that she intends to bring more meaning and emes into Klal Yisrael.
That’s why I was disturbed by her article in this past week’s magazine, in which she encourages the use of social media to make the case for frum Jews.
When we intentionally draw attention to ourselves as Jews, whether we’re trying to dispel a non-truth or not, we’re engaging in conversation around something we’d rather not engage with on a fundamental level. As Jews, we’ve always been safer beneath the radar.
I can certainly relate to wanting to correct a misconception, but in cases of anti-Semitism I believe that the energy given to the topic is misplaced. Putting a misconception up on a pedestal draws unnecessary attention to it.
When I was growing up, I remember the “Just Say No” campaign designed to create awareness around drug usage. Multiple studies later showed that it had the opposite effects, due to bringing excessive awareness out in the open.
I was so gratified to read that Mrs. Fleksher’s initiative resulted in many women speaking about their happiness within their Orthodox lives, but I am worried about those who suddenly felt a need to question the innate happiness that is so fundamental to their Yiddishkeit.
I do want to express appreciation for the ideas put forth regarding presenting ourselves positively as frum women in all settings. The kiddush Hashem that will surely result from that effort knows no bounds.
First, Look In [Perspective / Issue 894]
I am writing in response to Alexandra Fleksher’s piece about promoting an accurate image of the Jewish woman in the secular world. While she offers some very practical ideas which can be applicable even for the “laywoman,” I would like to add an additional point.
Many years ago, I attended a seminar on the topic of kiruv by Rebbetzin Denah Weinberg. She asked us, a group of frum seminary girls, to raise our hands if we felt it was difficult to be Jewish. Some girls shifted uncomfortably in their sears, unsure what the “right” answer was. A few of us (myself included) raised our hands, assuming that the noble response was one that squarely faces the reality that being Jewish is not always easy.
Her answer surprised me. She explained (by way of a mashal about carrying a sack of dirt vs. a sack of diamonds) that if we think being Jewish is difficult, we do not belong in the line of kiruv. A Jew must appreciate that while his load is objectively heavy, it’s worth it. His perception will be sensed by those he is trying to be mekarev, whether he likes it or not.
Perhaps by looking so far out into social media and the secular next-door neighbors, we are not getting to the root of the problem — which lies within ourselves. If the woman with seven kids piling out of her minivan is happy with her role, that will spill over to those around her. Her neighbors, and more importantly her daughters, will feel it too.
Do our daughters — the future women, wives, and mothers — understand and appreciate their tasks, or are they feeling a heavy burden that detracts from their daily simchah? Do we?
I was once sitting on a plane next to a non-Jewish woman who realized I was a Jew. Mid-flight she opened up a discussion and declared, “It must be so great to be a Jewish woman. The women in your religion are held on a pedestal.” This forced me to look inward. She recognized this truth; did I?
There has been a great deal of discussion recently in Family First about the goals of a seminary, from developing textual skills, to middos work etc. Maybe when choosing an educational institution for our daughters a — if not the — top priority should be one that turns out students who believe in their mission and will impart a message of positivity to the next generation.
And if a girl is uncomfortable with her roles and tasks, does she have parents and mentors she can turn to with those questions? Is she living in an environment that embraces those questions and offers solid answers? Do the women of our community have the proper outlets for growth and chizuk to support them in their tremendous work for their homes and their kehillos?
In addition to (or perhaps even before) looking out, we should be looking in.
Mindel Kassorla, Jerusalem
Completely Oblivious [Close to Home / Double Take — Issue 894]
Yaffa and Leah seem to have a beautiful mother/daughter relationship, and it’s wonderful that Leah was able to help Yaffa start out in her business with a significant leg up, enabling it to flourish and provide a real source of parnassah for her.
But somehow, the story left a bitter taste in my mouth, and an unanswered question about our society in general. Parents of young marrieds often look for ways they can help them out, whether monetarily or otherwise. It’s a natural tendency for parents to want things to be easier for their children, and even if they can’t help through every challenge or expense, any bit of assistance can make a big difference for the young couple.
But that is no license for complete obliviousness on the part of the young couple in question! How is it that not once during what was surely a painstaking house-hunt, did the question of Yaffa’s salon come up at all between her and her husband, whether in the immediate or in the long term? Were they truly under the impression that they were forever entitled to this too-good-to-be-true setup? At the very least, wouldn’t a conversation between them and Yaffa’s parents been in place, so everyone can get on the same page?
When I see this kind of cluelessness among young people, part of me understands those parents who are insistent on couples being independent from Day One, without any form of regular assistance. Their children, or peers, might view them as heartless, but maybe they’re being more considerate than anyone else by forcing the next generation to think reasonably, and make responsible decisions.
Malky W., Lakewood, NJ
Where Was the Gratitude? [Close to Home / Double Take — Issue 894]
In my book, when a Double Take story has me nodding along with both narrators, it’s a juicy one. This past week’s story got high points on the juicy scale. I could really relate and sympathize with both Leah and Yaffa and found myself thinking about them for a while afterwards.
One thing I wondered: How much of this was about independence, responsibility, privacy, and all the seemingly big issues involved, and how much was about basic menschlichkeit?
What would have happened if Yaffa had consistently thanked her parents, both verbally and in heartfelt notes; if she had made sure that the salon caused them as little trouble as possible; if she’d occasionally given them thoughtful gifts — items to spruce up their own home or dinner at a nice restaurant?
If Leah had felt appreciated, if she’d known that all her little sacrifices were noticed and valued, would she have reached breaking point? Or would she have had the fuel to reach in a little deeper, to give a little more?
Appreciation is like water to plants — with it, the smallest seeds can flourish, without it even the most robust plant will wither.
It’s hard not to wonder how things would have played out if, rather than constantly minimizing the imposition she was causing her parents, Yaffa could have allowed herself to imagine all the difficulties her salon caused her mother and expressed constant appreciation for all she was doing for her.
I realize these people don’t exist, but it may be worth asking ourselves who in our own lives could use more watering.
Was Her Business Really a Success? [Close to Home / Double Take — Issue 894]
I read the latest Double Take story, about the woman who wants to keep her beautician business in her parents’ basement indefinitely, wondering why it was that both parties involved seemed to be entirely missing the primary concern. Of course, Yaffa is wrong for keeping her business in her parents’ basement, despite her mother’s evident and growing discomfort; that goes without saying. But I wonder why no one has questioned Yaffa’s business plan — or should I say, the lack thereof.
Yaffa’s business is described as “wildly successful” — yet she makes it clear that she and her husband are barely breaking even, barely covering their bills, struggling to afford even a small home, certainly not able to afford to rent a storefront in the location she needs.
How is this business supposed to enable her to support a family? Her expenses will only keep growing. Why didn’t Yaffa sit down before embarking on this career — or at any point during her eight years of work — and figure out if it was lucrative enough to pursue?
It’s possible that this is a result of ill-planned expansion; Yaffa describes the purchasing of expensive machines and hiring a receptionist. Perhaps before making those decisions she should have sat down with a business coach and figured out where and how to invest in growth to ensure a sustainable business.
Too many young people strike out as entrepreneurs without a clear plan. And like Yaffa, years later, they find themselves having invested years of their life and tens of thousands of dollars in a career that is not sustainable. Like Yaffa, many of them have convinced themselves that their businesses are “wildly successful” — but an experienced analysis of their books often shows otherwise. All too often, their perception is based on a faulty understanding of their own expenses and net profits.
Make no mistake: A salon that cannot afford a basic expense like rent is not a successful business.
Note: The photo of Rav Zev Cohen in last week’s magazine [Issue 894] should have been attributed to Avraham Elbaz. We regret the omission.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 895)
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