An Open Letter to Camp Shalvah Parents Whose Children May Have Been Molested

As you know, Yoel Oberlander went through a bunk. This is a man on the sex offender registry because he seized an eleven year old girl and did something to her.

The hanhalah says nothing happened to the children. Their lawyer Scharf says he did not have enough time to do anything. I don’t believe them.

The police arrested Oberlander because the camp accused him of tresspassing and signed a formal complaint. Otherwise Oberlander, who had permission to do a food delivery would have been let go. So parents, ask yourself, would the Bobov dayan allow mesirah just because he walked in the wrong area? After all his last criminal charge was ten years ago and he claims to have done tshuvah.

The camp’s lawyer, Scharf, thinks that molesting requires a whole hinei muchan umizuman and a long brachah achronah. But the 13 minutes he was in the bunk was plenty of time to fondle some boys.

Others will say his tayvah is for girls. But, like other pedophiles his tayvah may not be for men or women, just for children, whether they are boys or girls.

I agree that he probably did not have enough time to touch all the children or even most of them. But what if he touched your child?

The menahel R. Bakon feels it is nisht geferlich. So he instructed the kids to be quiet and didn’t inform the parents. I say it is terrible. Look around you at all the failed marriages, mental health problems, suicides, drug overdoses, lost children and dysfunctional families. Often it is because of sex abuse. The abuse itself is not the worst thing. If grown ups listen to kids and uproot the evil, kids can cope. They even get strengthened by learning they can survive nisyonos (testing circumstances). But if mechanchim and parents ignore their pain they feel abandoned. Once your bond develops a crack, over time that crack gets wider and it eventually splits open. You have put so much work into developing the kesher (bond) with your son. Don’t let it start fraying. If the bond is torn it is very hard to patch up.

When your child comes back from camp tomorrow you have to listen to them. Notice, I did not say talk to them. They have already been talked to, now they need to know that you will listen to them instead of telling them what to say and think. Be sure to give them your undivided attention and not to rush this discussion. Let them know you were upset that someone bad got into their bunk. Let them know that it was the grownup who went into the bunk who was bad, not the children. Let them know that if he touched you or any other boys, you are angry at that grownup, not at the boys. Be sure to let your son know that if he was touched you are not angry at the boy, but could understand why he would be upset. Most importantly, to protect your children in the future, you must tell them that if anyone touches you improperly you should always tell me as quickly as possible so I can make sure it won’t happen again. Make sure they know that no one has the right to say they should keep such a thing a secret.

If nothing happened to your son you are lucky and you have taught them something that will protect them in the future.

If anything happened your son will probably begin talking. They may be hesitating and you will have to be patient, encouraging them and drawing them out. Even a talkative boy may turn into a sheanoy yodeah lishoel (one who does not know how to ask). As it says in the haggadah, at pisach loy (you have to help them open up). They may be afraid and will try to use lashon naki (euphemisms). This is normally good but make it clear than when it is necessary to deal with such a thing they are allowed to elaborate.  They may be upset and crying. That is OK. It shows they have the sechel to know when something is not normal. They may be angry and they may talk with chutzpah. Normally you don’t allow it, but now is a time for midas chesed (gentleness) not midas din (harshness). This would be the wrong moment to reprimand them. Keep listening and keep promising them you will do something about it.

If your son was molested it would be a good idea to make an appointment with a mental health professional, a therapist who specializes in these things. Some kids will do fine and recover easily. Others will need more help. But either way at least get a check up to be sure the problem is not worse than it seems. (If you cannot afford therapy there is money available for crime victims through the police and the prosecutor).

If your child was molested you will have to keep your promise to them and make sure the hanhalah deals with the problem instead of making believe it was just a burglar who was chased away.

If your child was molested, he can recover. But if you betray his trust by not listening and acting he may never recover.

6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Camp Shalvah Parents Whose Children May Have Been Molested

  1. Just want to add.. make sure that therapist is licensed and experienced with such things…not from the Weberman school of “therapy”

  2. Make sure to tell your kids that no one has the right to ever tell them NOT to tell their parents anything that happened or is going on.

  3. Thank you for posting this. The ONLY way that we, as a community will be able to address these travesties is by shedding light on the criminals and the weak willed, misguided people and institutions they hide behind

  4. A. Let me ask you a question. Don’t you think there is a difference between a boy and girl?
    B) There was not even 1 complaint on him that he did or tried to do something to a boy.
    C) The last time when he was charged with a crime was over 10 years ago and it was with a girl not a boy.
    D) Don’t you believe that a person can change in this with time, get married, have a job and kids and live a new life?
    E) I was not there when this story happened and you were also not. The only thing I can tell you is I know this guy for years and he was never ever accused to have one thing to do with a boy, and in the past 10 years not even with a girl.
    E) Now u might say that a person like him that was charged over 10 years ago with a crime should have know better and not have gone in to a bunk even to use the toiled because there are people. like BD that will say that he did something or tried to do something with out one complaint or evidence just because he did something once.

  5. No name,

    I have never talked to Yoeli Oberlander and don’t know his sexual desires. Like I said in the posting, some pedophiles go after both girls and boys. The fact that he was only caught doing something to a girl doesn’t prove anything. You say you know him. Lets just say he did molest boys and girls over the years. Do you think he would tell you? Can you imagine him saying, “After minchah I had a flat tire and had to wait a half hour and by the way, yesterday I got a boy to go with me and I did this and that maaseh Sodom.” Come on! All you can say is what you did, “I don’t know of him doing anything.” That doesn’t prove he is innocent.

    But the videos show him going into different bedrooms and by the way, they don’t show him going to the bathrooms. I assume he knows the difference between a bathroom and a bedroom. Most important, the kids say he touched them. Why would they lie? It is very embarrassing for a chasidish boy to say someone touched me in that way. Now it is always possible that one kid imagined something. But it is extremely unlikely that 3 kids imagined that.

    So what if he is married and has children and a job. Most molesters of either boys or girls, even in the secular world, are married with kids and a job. In the chasidish world almost everyone is married with children by the time they are 30 years old.

    You still haven’t explained why he was in that bunk. I hear a bubbe meise, or should I say a Bobov meise, that the bathroom was broken so he went looking for another bathroom. Ridiculous! He delivered to a kitchen/chadar ochel (dining room) for several hundred kids. They have more than one bathroom. The kid’s bunks are on the other side of the camp. See the maps in Mary Murphy’s TV broadcast or on Nuchem Rosenberg’s blog. The bunks are 700 feet away.

    Yes he went 10 years without and conviction. Thanks to all the cover-ups in the heimish world it is possible he did plenty of things but the askanim did their job and he got to keep doing these things. It is possible, but unlikely, that this is his first pedophile act in 10 years. If so, it is too bad for him and the kids, but it helps show why pedophiles are put on the sex registry. It is a very difficult psychological trait to change and a very hard impulse for them to keep under control. So it is a favor to them to keep them away from children.

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