Quote of the Week: Most Yeshiva Kids Have Been Molested

I don’t know what the percentage is, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but, uh, there’s hardly a kid who comes to a yeshiva,  to a program, that hasn’t been molested.

(Manis Friedman as transcribed from his tape recorded broadcast)

Incredibly, he does not follow-up that observation with a cry of outrage, a demand for change, or even a gentle advisory about how  something has to give. He has just declared that the frum world is Sodom and he moves into telling victims to adjust to this reality instead of whining about their psychological pain.

I am going to speculate about his motives. Most orthodox spokespeople deny or minimized the extent of child abuse. At most, they admit it happens but it is no worse than in the secular world.

Friedman is smart enough to know that things are bad, real bad. He also realizes that the cat is out of the bag and more and more victims are speaking up and going to the police. As this trend intensifies orthodox institutions will be hit with bad publicity and expensive lawsuits.

Manis Friedman is trying to get ahead of the curve by saying, “Yeah, but…”  Yeah, even if they were molested we should not allow the victims to bid for our sympathy and ask us to support them in seeking justice through the courts. Instead he is doubling down on the old Haredi strategy of minimizing the significance of abuse, using new-age pseudo-psychology. In effect he is saying, with the miracle of religious thinking, you can manage trauma by minimizing its significance and shifting attention back to guilt about inadequate religious observance.

This approach has the added bonus of separating victims from their potential supporters by using a religious litmus test. Victims who are not observant enough can now be ignored. Victims inside the community can be guilt-tripped. Most of the more vocal victims have left the community and are no longer inhibited by communal pressures. Still, some of these victims have important supporters within the community who believe that molesting is what drove the victim away. Manis Friedman seems determined to eliminate that rationale.

Manis, your reasoning and agendas are revolting, but thank you for conceding the pervasiveness of molesting.

Hat Tip to my anonymous transcriber

23 thoughts on “Quote of the Week: Most Yeshiva Kids Have Been Molested

    • Hirshel, I quoted Manis, your tzadik, and you accuse me of exaggerating and lying. You can do better. You are a talented blogger.

      This is a lazy drive-by shooting. Tell me why you think I am “lying and exaggerating?” I know you are a great defender of Manis Friedman, but those are his words and ideas. I offered an interpretation. Maybe I am wrong. But your labeling me doesn’t mean anything.

      Hirshel, seriously, when I comment on your blog I offer reasons. Chabad must be in serious panic to be ignoring your gentle kiruv style and going for the jugular. I wasn’t sure we were making any headway in our critique but you have brightened my day. Thank you, and if you are touch with Manis, thank him on my behalf.

  1. Mr. Lopin,

    I’m remain troubled by your shita. Perhaps you have information that I lack.

    Why hypothesize z’donot rather than sh’gagot in this case? This is a question I’ve had to wrestle with in my own situation, in which I have, over many years, found myself completely unable to substantiate, e.g., any factor of malice on the part of those who harmed me. (Psychologically I would have preferred to have found z’donot.)

    The causal agency of sh’gagot is equally as dreadful as the causal agency of z’dnonot — this is why, al pi ha-Torah, we are gravely responsible for them. I’m inclined to think that a situation of sh’gagot can be much more horrifying to victims, because sh’gagot are commonly sustained by belief-systems and blindnesses that extend far beyond the individual sinner.

    • Good question. I assume intentionality because this pattern is pervasive. I cannot know what goes on in MF’s head. Over and over I encounter two types of insiders in the cover up system. Those who use flat out denial that anything happens and a the more sophisticated types (who are more dangerous) who admit there is molesting but on a case-by-case basis justify not acting. Manis seems to be the latter type. In some ways they are more dangerous. What happens is a yeshiva kid or his/her parent goes to a rav with the complaint about molesting. They are relieved to hear they are believed and this person agrees that molesting happened. Then they get lulled into inaction because they trust that rabbi. I could fill volumes with stories of this sort.

      What is interesting is that these types will come up with the right angle for a particular party. They don’t really have a shitah sincerely believed (even if wrong) they just look for the best angle for accomplishing a cover up. To one person they will say, but mesirah, to another, what’s about shiduchim, to a third, testifying could be traumatic, to a fourth, “he stopped,” and to a fifth, we are investigating.

      I could be wrong, but I figure Manis Freidman is that kind of a guy.

  2. I have heard this line by many others who are not Rabbis but who are Chassidim and have this stupid concept. My reply to them is “so you believe this is a right of passage? You know this and you do nothing about it? What kind of parent are you? Strike that what kind of a Jew are you, what kind of human being are you?”

  3. Very astute analysis. I especially like the description of Manis’ trying to get “ahead of the curve”.

    One thing though. Manis’ technique of rabbinical therapy is as you describe, to cover up the trauma, (which may or may not have a guilt component.) by saying that its all trivial in the face of the many aveiros the victim and everyone has committed/will continue to commit.

    In my opinion this is like curing a toothache by smashing your pinky with a hammer. It may take your mind away from your toothache (temporarily) but it doesn’t really do anything to address the pain either.

    Though this may be truly non therapeutic in terms of making us FEEL better, as manis says “we are not psychologists”. Presumably he is saying that making a person FEEL better is not his job.

    Rather in the Jewish tradition his job is to help you double down on the guilt and trauma to the point that you essentially become addicted to covering up every subsequent guilt and traumatic feeling with ever exceeding things to think worse about.

    If all else fails think about the holocaust. Being raped is nothing compared to that. (and he would be right)

    • agree with this comment 100%.

      “If all else fails think about the holocaust. Being raped is nothing compared to that. (and he would be right)”

      I was molested and it was pretty horrible. While I know others have been through much worse (grandparents are survivors – other have more traumatic abuse/rape) it does not take away the pain and trauma that i feel!

      Yerachmiel – this quote is the most telling of the general attitude. We know every kid is being molested, ok, thats a fact that we are not working to change. next topic…

  4. The problem is certainly larger than Manis. Jewish guilt has a long history of being employed to deal with all of sorts of life’s ailments.

    I think the reason that it looks strange to us in this context, is mainly because we’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of comfortably, to the point where its hard to find many things in our daily experience that compares with the unpleasantness of being psychologically and physically raped. (other then forgetting al hamichya of course)
    I think that reason we have not dealt with abuse within our own community s not due solely to the existence of the internet. Another big reason is that 70 years ago we where to busy being raped by Cossocs, and gassed by the Germans.

    Many of us, especially the more traditional and historically (hysterically?) have the uneasy feeling that our current situation within the Western World is temporary- and its only a matter of time till our situation becomes untenable.

    Credible or not. This is how many of us think. Lets keep it quiet before they come to get us. Nu suck it up and deal with it. You’re ruining it for everyone.

  5. I see I accidentally left a misspelled fallacy hanging in the middle of the previous comment. Fraudian slip. Lest anybody think I wasn’t being factious.

    Also left out the word “minded” after historically.

  6. I was told recently by an ex-Satmar that 80% of bocherim there were sexually abused. He was very matter-of-fact about it, and certain. I believed the guy. Even someone really in the know that I told did not believe it could be so high. So, on the one hand, given his views, I don’t know if I would believe Manis about the time of day, but on the other hand, his claim may well be true.

    • I agree that Manis is given to exageration for dramtic effect. He ingeneously mixes it with the truth and sprays it with glistening veneer of pop psychology. Still, I agree with you, that in this case he believes what he says, more or less, as much as he believes anything.

      Certainly, the comments of your ex-Satmar informant are consistent with the things I have been hearing.

      On this, Satmar and Chabad may be in agreement.

  7. Lets assume Manis isn’t exaggerating. If he is accurate in his assessment, it would stand to reason that every Yeshiva should be closed and all Rabbis on staff should be incarcered.

  8. Maybe, he was himself a victim of abuse and he’s in denial, because he said that he’s also damaged. What does he mean?

    • I think you may be on to something. Two other things may or may not be relevant. First, in many cases the feelings of the victim toward the abuser are ambivalent — there may have been (and even continue to be) feelings of love (filial or erotic or both) as well as shame and guilt. Second, one who has been abused is more likely to become an abuser himself, for complicated reasons. So if what R. Friedman says is true (discounted for exaggeration), he not only knows many who have been abused, but probably also knows several who became abusers. It is very hard to advocate “throwing the book” (as American civil society does to convicted child sexual abusers) at someone for whom one has some understanding and empathy, even though one fully accepts that abuse is wrong and must be stopped.

  9. Reading the resposes it just occured to me that there is a play in NYC whose name seems appropriate here:
    “The MF with the hat”

  10. i dont understand what this whole talk is about. why are you people so insistent on talking about this. Have u never experienced the torment and anguish abuse causes. You make yourselves sound like arguing about all this molestation in the Jewish community will help. But honestly your ideals wont accomplish anything. they don’t even offer support victims like me who have been multiply molested and search for support. You seem to think that you could be the ones to lock up these sick people but you have’nt done that and you never will

    • Sadly, you are, in part right. Individual victims like you have your own personal needs. I strongly encourage you to contact http://supportthesurvivors.blogspot.com/ who might be able to help you or direct you to others who might be able to help you. Depending on your community there might be local resources available. http://www.RAINN.org , is another good resource to help or to find other resources for help.

      Some victims/survivors do get some emotional support from reading the sorts of things that appear here and on other blogs. They feel the writing validates their experiences and gets their outlook put out so others can understand it.

      Apart from helping those who were abused there is the urgent need to stop future molesting by education and criminal justice enforcement to identify, incarcerate and monitor molesters. Much of my work in conjunction with others attempts to make these things happen. I believe, I, together with others finally broke the conspiracy of silence by mobilizing major support for the victim who testified in the Weberman case. The witness was forced to go through an unprecedented 13 hours on the witness stand. Many seasoned courtroom observers expected her to break under the examination and the hostile cross-examination. When she didn’t break we all admired her strength and discipline. I wonder if it was possible because every time she looked out into the courtroom she saw about 75 people rooting for her. I believe that sort of support is part of what this blog and other like it make possible. We also help people better understand the communal obstacles to change so they can challenge them with more information and understanding.

      Once again, my heart goes out to you for your suffering and pain and I hope you can find some useful assistance. I hope you will be able to see that that with so many different things that need to change, others of us are also helping other kids avoid having to go through the things you suffered. Maybe you can draw some small comfort from knowing that these sorts of changes are happening, even if way, way too slowly.

    • “wont accomplish anything” is in fact incorrect. Just in reaction to the exposure of this Friedman wickedness, 2 young victims have come to my son Manny, & he accompanied 1 to the police station to make a statement. And in my case, when I was first approached nearly 2 years ago to speak to the press, I asked the lead detective if my speaking to them would be good, bad or indifferent from his point of view, as far as helping the police investigation. He thought a few seconds & said “it would be a good thing”. It’s a long term, consistent chipping away at the secrecy & coverup that is most definitely required, if not in your particular case, then in many, many others. Secrecy & coverup are unfortunately the rule, not the exception, in the Ultra-Ortodox community, worldwide. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

      • 1. His intentions are so blatantly clear to anyone who wants to be honest. His whole comment, while easy to misinterpret if that is your wish, is made clear when he says “it is so cathartic.” He is not minimizing, not dismissing, not demeaning. He believes (and has seen it work) that this kind of approach is therapeutic, has healing powers. You don’t have to agree with him (even though it wouldn’t be an intelligent position to take, because in what basis would you be able to tell a guy, ‘I just know that whatever you’ve been doing successfully for so many years is just wrong!’?), but why are you all so bent on, so quick to, so determined to attributing the worst, most evil intentions to a man most of you have never met?
        2. I also love how you are all making fun of the Al Hamichya comment, showing your complete disregard for Torah. This is his point exactly!! Even a small mistake like forgetting Al Hanichya is far worse that the “sin” of being molested. Oh, forgetting Al Hamichya doesn’t bother you, doesn’t ruin your life? Then why are you letting something smaller (on the sin richter scale) ruin your life. Try to see things from Gd’s perspective, and you will feel better!
        3. So instead of thinking, maybe he’s making a valid point, worthy of consideration, lets all sit around and make fun of Al Hamichya, because really, who the he’ll cares about that??
        4. And Lopin, my comments that you censored were worse than the first comment on this post? Where someone who knows nothing about Rabbi Friedman or what he’s been through in his life, wishes upon him some of the worst atrocities? You are not running a civil discussion. You are overseeing an evil group of hate-filled hearts.

        • 1. I am amazed at how you guys are defending his position as cathartic because it relieves guilt. You ignore what Manis himself already admitted, he was grossly insensitive because the issue, Mr. armchair psychologist, is not that abuse induces guilt, but it also induces profound pain of many other sorts compounded by the failure of others to acknowledge or validate it.

          1a. You and others in his chorus of chabad backers keep insisting, nothing succeeds like success, and we know Manis helped thousands, ergo he is right, his comments were beneficial.

          2. Now you are stoked on missionary steroids and insisting you know G-d’s perspective and those who mock Manis, “Show a complete disregard for Torah.” As Oliver Cromwell said a long time ago, “Everyone claims G-d is on their side; the question is who is on G-d’s side. For Jews, one established criterion is being rachmuna (merciful). By Manis’ own admission and apology, he flunked that test. Another criterion for a rav is behaving bekovidik (in a dignified manner). His comments were prust (coarase, boorish). Do you guys all go around Crown Heights telling each other, “Yo Grandma was F’d by Cossacks?” I hope not. So why is it OK for Manis to train Kiruv workders (that was his audience) to talk that way to potential BTs.

          3. You can’t have it both ways. You insist Manis isn’t ridiculing sex abuse, but all his critics are ridiculing the blessing, al hamichyah. Guess what, his comments were deeply offensive to many people who scrupulously say al hamichyah.

          4. Now we come to the real point of all your comments. Just for your information, Mr. Lopin, or Yerachmiel are civilized ways to address me. But you start off oozing with contempt and build up from there. You write, “You are overseeing an evil group of hate-filled hearts.” No, I am giving voice to the offended, hurt hearts of victims and survivors who are virtually unanimous in their anguish and outrage. Be like Manis and admit the magnitude of his mistake. But you seem to feel that Manis should not have apologized. Thank you for admitting as much. I have serious doubts about the sincerity of Manis’ apology. The continued venomous and disingenuous defense of his comments reinforces my skepticism. A man who sincerely apologizes calls off his attack dogs. What I see is that you want it both ways; we should uncritically accept his apology but also admit he never owed one.

          Next time you come back, be unequivocally clear. Do we believe his apology with its retraction, or do we believe he still stands by his original comments? Methinks, “the Rabbis View” is to look out both sides of his face and see and reply with whatever will play well with a particular audience.

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