A Walder Survivor Speaks Out

Rena Salomon is the pseudonym of a woman repeatedly raped as a child by Chaim Walder. Her letter was first circulated in the weekly vort email of Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman (Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic) who translated it from Hebrew.

When Weeping Is Not Enough

by Rena Salomon

Dear Rabbi Eisenman,

My name is Rena Salomon, and I am a victim of cw.

I say this is in the present tense because even though he is dead (may the name of the wicked rot), he still terrorizes and victimizes me. I have never been to Passaic, New Jersey, and I am sure we don’t travel in the same circles.

Why am I writing to you?

I could pander to you and tell you that I am writing because “you get it.” However, that would be a lie. You may want to get it and try to get it, but you can’t, and you will never “get it.” My great grand-parents both did a stint in Hell on Earth. The world knows it as Auschwitz. They passed away when I was a child. My grandmother told me that her parents never spoke about being incarcerated in Hell.

The first time she asked her mother about the strange numbers on her forearm, her mother cried, pulled down her sleeve to the wrist, and through her tears said only, “mein baliebte tochter, vet keinmal nisht farshteyn” (my beloved daughter, you will never understand). Much later, my grandmother understood why her mother never spoke about it. Survivors such as my great-grandmother were embarrassed to speak about Auschwitz for the first few years. They always felt as if the listener blamed them for being in Auschwitz or never fully believed what they endured and how painful and life-changing it was.

Later in life, when the street narrative changed and holocaust survivors became heroic people who you should seek out for Brochus, my great-grandmother still chose to remain silent. When asked by her daughter, who by then was herself a grandmother, “Why, Mama, do you still remain silent?” My great-grandmother answered with a wave of her hand, “ich darf nisht kein rachmonus” (I don’t need anyone’s pity).

So too, Rabbi Eisenman, there are still many people who blame me for being molested. They ask me (or I can tell that they at least want to ask me) the same question as they questioned (or wanted to question) my great-grandmother, “Why didn’t you fight back?” Certainly, those people don’t get it as they persist in their belief that most victims are either lying, exaggerating or loshon hora mongers who have thinly-veiled agendas to destroy Orthodox Jewry. Thankfully, as time has gone on and more people have come forward, and the realization is beginning to take hold that sexual abuse occurs, the reaction of some people towards the victims has changed. Just as people began to change in their reaction to Holocaust survivors, people are also changing in their response to abuse survivors.

The reaction varies from disbelief at worst to pity and compassion at best. As much as compassion is better than feeling repulsed, rejected, tainted, and not believed, I say to you Rabbi Eisenman as my alter-bubbe told my grandmother, “ich darf nisht kein rachmonus.” I, and survivors like me, are not interested in being looked at as pitiful, stained misfits who now deserve your “deepest sympathies.” Rather, we need people to believe us and in us. And we need people to treat us as true survivors who have withstood the horrors of abuse and molestation and are still functioning human beings.

You want to commiserate and validate my pain. However, you have never done a stint in Hell on Earth on the folding cot in cw’s warehouse while being raped between stacks and stacks of books whose themes were helping, protecting, and empowering children. You have never lived a day in Hell where the daily schedule consisted of being violated and humiliated by the man (whose horrid breath I smell every day of my life) who was regarded by hundreds of thousands of admirers- as the ultimate protector of children. I appreciate your compassion, but never think Rabbi Eisenman (or any other rabbi) that you “really get it.” Unless you too were incarcerated, battered, humiliated, and wounded for life by the recipient of the 2003 Magen LeYeled (Defender of the Child) award from the Israel National Council for the Child- you don’t get it.

Would you ever tell someone who was in Auschwitz, “Yes, yes, I understand your pain? I, too, went through hard times.” That statement would be laughable cruel, and insensitive. Just as you can never understand imprisonment at Auschwitz, you can never understand being a caged twelve-year-old girl enslaved and subjugated by an evil, pernicious pedophile.

This pedophile is the embodiment of brutality and heartlessness. For me and hundreds of others, he was the most demonic creature to walk the face of this Earth. Therefore, you can never fully understand as sympathetic as you are, although I appreciate your sincere desire to understand.

There is something; I, too, will never understand. I will never understand how any sane individual, much less a rabbi, could allow cw’s books to remain part of a home or school library. If your grandmother was medically experimented on by Josef Mengele Yimach Shemo, would you ever think to allow his medical books in a Jewish home?

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