Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jung, Dali and endless thirst for life: one woman's story

NOTE: Dr Simonne Jameson is a member of The Awareness Center's international advisory board

By Robin Usher

The Age - April 28, 2007

Simonne Jameson

SIMONNE Jameson has known enough trauma during her long life to turn into a neurotic mess.

She was sexually abused for three years as a child in Nazi-occupied Paris, only to recover and be left homeless with four children after being deserted by her husband years later. But her life force remains strong.

"If people take advantage of their opportunities, there is nothing we cannot do," she said.

"My philosophy is to teach people to stop complaining and concentrate on what they can achieve."

A book Jameson wrote on her life, Men or Rats, is being turned into a film this year, starring Ewan McGregor. But she says that, at 79, she is not interested in the dark aspects of her life.

She prefers to concentrate on two of the remarkable men she has known — pioneering psychotherapist Carl Jung and surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The two men feature in a four-hour lecture series she is giving next month, starting on May 19.

"People need to know about them," she says. "This is something I want to do before I turn 80."

The differences from Jameson's early life are stark. She was an isolated 12-year-old Jewish girl in occupied Paris in 1941 after her family escaped to the French countryside.

She had been left behind because a police commissioner convinced her parents that he would protect her. Instead, he took her to a rat-infested cellar. The rapes by pedophile police officers began within days.
When Jameson emerged from hiding three years later, she had tuberculosis and weighed only 38 kilograms. She was sent to a sanatorium for two years.

"It was very important to be still alive," she said. "I don't remember grieving about anyone except my sister. It is always necessary to go forward."

This is what she did, adopting a philosophy of forgiveness but not forgetting. Her first marriage lasted just three months, but it was long enough to produce a daughter. Then she married a Swiss man who was friends with Jung and she began to study psychoanalysis. "But I was pregnant when I met Jung and he would have nothing to do with me," she said.

Instead, he introduced her to Dr Jolande Jacobi, another Jewish woman. Jameson credits her with providing enormous help.

She knew Jung for three years in the 1950s, and was one of the few women in his circle not to be under his spell. Her world fell apart again when her second husband left and sold the family home, forcing Jameson to take her children to Rome for work. It was a move that added another layer of complexity to her life.

As well as working as a psychotherapist, she became interested in art, running a gallery and working as a critic. This led to meeting artists, including Dali, Picasso and Chagall.

Jameson had discovered her two main professional interests — psychology and art. She was awarded the gold medal of France for services to humanity in 1967, then married again and moved to London.

She moved to Adelaide in 1975, working as a child psychologist. She now lives in Melbourne and runs Art Sans Frontieres, a non-profit organisation that promotes exhibitions here and overseas.

Her fourth husband died four years ago. But she has fallen in love again. "I have been positive all my life and even though my son says I should have turned lesbian, I have always been looking for the next man."

For details about Jameson's lecture on May 19, phone 9445 0325 or email:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out - Baltimore

Photograph by Vicki Polin

Throughout the month of April, 2007 there has been a heightened awareness of child sexual abuse in the Baltimore Jewish Community.

On April 11th the Vaad Harabbonim's (Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore) published a letter that was sent to homes of many community members. Next came the Baltimore Jewish Times article exposing Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro's alleged past of being a serial child molester. Almost immediately after the publishing of the article, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann reacted by posting a sign in his synagogue banning the newspaper. The Awareness Center believes that The Baltimore Jewish Times is the only Jewish newspaper in Baltimore that has the courage to allow survivors of sex crimes an avenue to have their voices heard. The paper is helping to prevent any more children from being harmed.

Rabbi Moshe Heinemann
With everything that has been happening in Baltimore, we cannot overlook the effect this is having on individuals who live in the community. The entire Jewish community of Baltimore has been put through a whirlwind of emotions.

I know for myself when a friend handed me a copy of the letter from the Vaad, my mood was immediately elated. I thought to myself, finally, the rabbonim of Baltimore are "getting it." I personally felt validated for the work I've been doing along with everyone connected with The Awareness Center for the last six years.

I went to bed that night with a smile on my face, but when I woke up the next morning with my joy turned to sorrow. I couldn't stop thinking of the survivors I know who have been sexually victimized. The number of years of pain and suffering they have been enduring by the lack of education and awareness in our community or any other community in the world.

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro
I am not unlike other survivors, I felt like someone had died. I started wondering if the letter was just some sort of public relations stunt to show the world that our rabbis cared. I knew the article regarding Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro was coming out that week in the Baltimore Jewish Times. I also knew the rabbis knew it was going to be published. I hate being cynical, yet after working in the field for as long as I have -- it made sense not to trust the letter.

My reaction was to call all of the rabbis who signed the letter from the Vaad Harabbonim. I wanted to personally thank them for having the courage to sign and publish the letter. I wanted to meet with each one personally. I started leaving messages.

The first rabbi I made an appointment with was Rabbi Moshe Heinemann. The night before the meeting is when I learned of his letter, banning the Baltimore Jewish Times. When we met, I made it a point to discuss his letter along with many other issues. After the meeting I realized how much more education was needed in the community. This was just the beginning. At least the community finally admitted that there was a problem. That was a giant step in the right direction.

The most important issue we all seem to be neglecting is healing the community from the heightened awareness that there are individuals in our community that molest our children.

With the exposure of sexual abuse in the Baltimore community -- goes a loss of the innocence and a reality many of us wanted to hold on to. This is a major loss for everyone. The entire Jewish community of Baltimore is going through a period of mourning. The entire community has been traumatized. Many community members are in a state of shock.

Community members are now faced with the fact that there have been several community leaders they trusted who molested children. Many community members are also shocked to learn that many of their friends are survivors of criminal sex offenses.

The community is forced to be aware that many community leaders they loved and trusted helped to cover up these serious crimes. The community is also being forced to deal with the fact that some of the criminals may end up in prison, and could also end up on the national sex offender registry. All of this is a great deal to process in less then a month.

I've received phone calls and various community members have been stopping me on the street wanting to talk. I've been trying to explain that the reactions of the community is very similar to those who were hit by hurricane Katrina. Everyone is in a state of shock. It's almost as if a bomb went off and everyone is afraid that there may be another one. Many community members are experiencing what I like to call the "deer in headlights syndrome".

Many individuals in Baltimore have been telling me they are having difficulties sleeping at night or waking up from nightmares. Some are saying they are having difficulties concentrating, having difficulties making decisions, not being able to eat, etc.

When individuals or communities are traumatized it is vitally important for there to be an open dialog going on. It's important for each person to talk about what they are experiencing and to express their thoughts and feelings with those they trust. Everyone may have to do this many times over and over again for the next several months. The community is basically experiencing vicarious victimization (secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

I am suggesting that community members in Baltimore have gatherings in their homes with friends and talk about what they are experiencing. The Awareness Center is more then willing to help in anyway we can. Please feel free to call us: 443-857-5560.

Remember talking about it is Healing!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"It Takes a Village to Raise a Sexual Predator" — Vicki Polin

Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out [United States]
April 24, 2007

Vicki Polin has said it a million times: "It takes a village to raise a sexual predator"

I think the rabbonim of New York, Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles need to be aware that the problem we have with sexual predators is on them. The warnings signs were there, yet they choose to lead our communities to ignore them. It's been much easier for them to blame survivors of sex crimes.

It's vitally important that all survivors and parents of survivors to make police reports on those who offend. It's not up to our rabbis to conduct investigations. It is also important that survivors of sex crimes file civil suits against those who offend and also those who enable them to continue to rape our men, women and children.

It is time for all Jewish survivors of sexual abuse, sexual assault, clergy sexual abuse, sexual manipulation to unite. There is power in numbers. Don't allow those who ignored our cries to divide and conquer us anymore. Start self-help groups in your community and start networking with others. We do not need to be alone anymore. Use the law of the land and not the politics of our religious leaders.

Law of the land

Friday, April 20, 2007

Explaining Pedophilia - What Is Pedophilia?

By Martin Downs

Recent revelations about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have put pedophilia in the national spotlight like never before. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- all the loud headlines and lurid accounts of child molestation, many people still don't understand what this mental illness is all about.

The biggest misunderstanding many people have is that pedophilia and homosexuality are one and the same. But to say that all homosexuals are pedophiles, or that all pedophiles are homosexual, is like comparing apples to rat poison. "They certainly are two distinct things," says James Hord, a psychologist in Panama City, Fla., who specializes in treating sexually abused children.

Hord explains that while some pedophiles may prefer boys over girls, or vice versa, it's not so much about gender as it is about age. For homosexuals, Hord says, sexual preference is "simply not linked to the age." If a man, for instance, is attracted to other adult males, he is a homosexual. A man who is sexually attracted to male children is not considered a homosexual: He is a pedophile.

As with all things sexual, however, it's not always so simple. Heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual men and women may become sexually attracted to children even though they're also attracted to adults. When this happens, it's usually because of insecurity or stress in an adult relationship, says Anthony Siracusa, a psychologist in Williamstown, Mass., who specializes in treating abused kids and sexual offenders.

These people, Siracusa says, are called "regressed offenders" because they have literally regressed: They lose the social skills they need to deal with other adults, which makes children more attractive to them. Regressed offenders may "bounce back and forth" between normal sexual relationships and criminal relations with children.

Insecurity, Hord agrees, is at the heart of pedophilia. Typically, pedophiles have trouble relating to people their own age. They need to feel they have power and control in a relationship, which is easy with children. One pedophile, "PwC," attests to this, writing on a pedophilia Web site:

"I'm 21 years old, and a virgin, I've never even kissed a girl. I have no job, and can't keep one. I'm frustrated that I'm a virgin, and it seems very unlikely that I'll ever get the kind of woman I want, and I'm desperate, because I need love. I never have molested a little girl, never! I want to though, I'm truly desperate. I want to hold a little girl in my arms, and tell her I love her, and that I'll keep her safe, and protect her, that appeals to me greatly."

This man is remorseful, but there are plenty of pedophiles who are not. Men and women who molest kids "for sport," as Hord puts it, are the most dangerous. They are also the ones who try to justify their sexual preference, arguing that pedophilia should be "normalized," just like homosexuality has been.
Homosexuality was, in fact, listed as a mental illness in psychiatry's main reference book, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, until the third edition came out in 1980. This edition included a category for homosexuals who were troubled by their sexuality and wanted to change it. All mention of homosexuality, however, was purged from the manual by 1987.

"It was well overdue," Siracusa says.

According to a 1994 statement from the American Psychiatric Association, the change came after decades of research showed that "a significant portion of gay and lesbian people were clearly satisfied with their sexual orientation" and showed no signs of mental illness. "It was also found that homosexuals were able to function effectively in society, and those who sought treatment most often did so for reasons other than their homosexuality."

Mental health professionals agree that pedophilia should never be considered normal, because it is truly a disease. None of the things that make homosexuality a normal variation of human sexuality apply to pedophilia.

Sadly, there is no "cure" for the disease. Therapy combined with drugs like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) works well for many people with other mental illnesses, but it doesn't work for most pedophiles. The best doctors can really hope for is to help keep pedophiles from acting on their urges.

More Than Innocence Lost
The first thing that jumps to mind when we hear about a child having been sexually abused is the "loss of innocence." But that's our reaction, not necessarily the child's.

Although you may shudder to hear it, the fact is that young children may enjoy the experience. It's not until later in life, as they mature sexually, that these kids realize what happened to them was bad, and they begin to have problems.

"All cases result in some harmful effects," Hord says, even though problems may not show up until years or even decades after the abuse happened.

Abused kids are hurt in different ways depending on whether the abuser was a stranger or a beloved figure in the child's life, like a parent. "To treat those two children the same is just nonsense," Hord says. In cases where a parent commits sexual abuse, "We have a very confused child," he says.

Children who are molested by loved ones often feel tremendous guilt for having reported the abuse, which is not typically the case when the offender is a stranger. When abuse happens in the family, "The child is groomed into that circumstance," Siracusa says. As it goes on over time, he or she accepts it as the norm, and it becomes a matter of balance in the family. The child wants to be good and help keep the family running smoothly. Once the child realizes that the sexual relationship is wrong and tells someone about it, "They've now unsettled the balance," Siracusa says.

Often, "The family feels victimized by the child's disclosure," he says. The guilt-ridden child may then take back the statement, denying that anything ever happened. This causes even more problems for everyone involved.

Hord says that when he's dealing with these children in therapy, he tries not to focus on the abuser any more than he has to. It doesn't help the child, he says, to explain that this beloved adult is a criminal, a monster, or a sick person. "I try not to offer any more explanations than the child demands," he says. "The child will develop an answer that makes sense to the child."

In the long run, sexual abuse during childhood can lead to just about any kind of mental problem, including depression, alcohol or drug abuse, and anxiety disorders. Some, but not all abused children go on to become pedophiles themselves. Right away, abused kids may have trouble sleeping and eating. They may revert to thumb sucking and bed wetting. They may act out or withdraw. But to read a list like this can be misleading, Hord says, because all these things might be caused by something else.

According the American Psychological Association, there are clearer signs: Abused children may know more about sex than you have taught them, or they may have an "inappropriate" interest in sex for their age, which may include acting out sexually with others. (Experimenting with masturbation is normal, however.)

If a child tells you that he or she has been sexually abused -- although probably not in those words -- that's the clearest sign of all. Children rarely lie about it.

Keeping Wolves at Bay
Most kids who are molested know the perpetrator, so "don't take candy from strangers" doesn't always apply. You have to tell your kids that no adult should touch them -- or ask to be touched -- in any way that's confusing or scary. Teach children to say, "no," and to tell you immediately if it happens. You should also teach them that no adult should ever ask them to keep a touch or a kiss secret.

The Kidscape Charity for Children's Safety, in London, interviewed 91 pedophiles about their methods for choosing child victims. The researchers found that pedophiles are skilled at charming children into their trust, plying them with gifts, and taking them on fun outings. They "often target single-parent families where mothers might be especially grateful for help with looking after the children." Nearly one-half of the pedophiles the researchers spoke to met the children they molested through babysitting.
You should be suspicious of someone who seems overly interested in your kids, especially if they're always angling to be alone with them.

If you suspect that someone you know may be a pedophile, you can check your state's criminal records. The Safeguarding Our Children organization has a page of links to state sexual offender registries online:

Despite the fact that most cases of sexual abuse involve an adult the child knows, kids are sometimes assaulted by strangers.

One thing you can tell your kids is never to get close to a car if someone stops and asks for directions, lest they be snatched. It's also important to teach them that they will not be punished for breaking a rule if someone tries to molest them while they're breaking it. According to Kidscape, "One child was walking in a park when told not to and was molested -- she was afraid to tell because she had broken the rule about being in the park."

Some pedophiles troll the Internet, so you should make sure you know what your kids are doing on the computer. Tell them never to meet privately with anyone they have met online and never to give out personal information, like where they live.

Children should also know what to do if they get lost. It's helpful to give them a prepaid calling card to use if this happens: They should memorize their phone number and address. Tell them to call the police if they can't find you or reach you on the phone, and never to accept a ride or wait alone with an adult they don't know. If you're coming to fetch them, tell them to wait in a store or restaurant -- someplace where there are plenty of people around.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mandated Reporting - Rabbi Gottlieb

Many Midrashim claim that the sea split in the merit of Yosef
by Rabbi Gottlieb
Shomrei Emunah - April 10, 2007

Below is an edited write-up of the drasha delivered after Mussaf on the last day of Pesach 5767 (4/10/07).. Because so many of you who were away for Yom Tov have asked me for a copy of the speech I am presenting it here.
I gave the speech with very basic notes and therefore had to reconstruct it almost all from memory. I have done my best but undoubtedly this is not a "word-for-word" transcription. It is my hope that the drasha will be read in the same spirit that it was given – as devarim ha-yotzim min ha-lev.
§ § §
Confronting a Painful Reality
I want to talk with you this morning about the problem of sexual abuse in our community.
When I say "our community" I mean both the American Orthodox community and, specifically, the Baltimore Orthodox community.

I am sorry to have to speak about this topic at all and I am particularly sorry to have talk about it on Yom Tov. But I am doing so in advance of a letter that you should all be receiving later this week. The letter is a statement adopted by the Vaad HaRabbonim addressing the issue of abuse in our community.

As difficult as it may be, we feel it is important to address this topic openly and directly because ignorance and silence are two of the greatest allies of abusers. Hidden under the cloud of silence individual acts of abuse can become long-term abuse and small problems can grow into full-blown crisis. And the best antidote for a cloud is sunshine.

§ § §
I would like to frame my remarks in the context of an enigmatic comment made by Chazal about the central event we are celebrating on these last days of Pesach, Kerias Yam Suf.

A number of Midrashim (see, for example, Bereishis Rabbah 87:8, Mechilta, Beshalach, "Va'yehi" #3) maintain – based on a common word choice – that God split the sea in the merit of Yosef refusing the advances of Potifar's wife.

Many meforshim struggle to understand what deeper connection presumably exists between these two seemingly unrelated events. Perhaps the best explanation is that overcoming natural instinct is central to both of these stories. Yosef was confronted by temptation and his natural instinct would have allowed him – as it would for most of us – to yield to her advances. But Yosef's greatness is that he restrained his natural instinct and overcame his temptation. Similarly, the natural state of water – in a sense, its "instinct" – had to be overcome as the sea split apart and allowed the Jewish people to cross through.

Similarly, I believe, when it comes to the sensitive issue of abuse, we must resist a number of – what may be – natural instincts.

§ § §
First, we must resist the instinct of denial – in all of its forms.

For many, I believe that this instinct comes from a "good place." We believe that a life based on Torah is holy and ennobling. When confronted with allegations that people who appear to be dedicated to Torah may have engaged in dark and destructive behavior there is an instinct to deny that such a thing is even possible. There is a further instinct to deny – even if it is acknowledged that something may have happened somewhere, maybe, to someone – that this constitutes a "problem in the community."
These instincts must be overcome because they are simply inaccurate. Of course the truth and beauty of Torah is axiomatic in our lives! But human beings are still human beings and some are, unfortunately, sick in a way that tempts them to harm others.

I am not aware of any reliable statistics about the exact number of abusers in our community. But based on my own knowledge, my discussions with more experienced rabbis, and my consultations with mental health professionals who serve the community, it is clear that we have a problem.

It's important – and this I must stress – not to be alarmist or to exaggerate. There aren't abusers lurking around the corner in every day school or behind the tree in every playground. But they do exist and we must confront this painful reality.

In a related way, there are some people who do not fully appreciate the serious and long term harm that can be inflicted by sexual abuse. Questions are sometimes asked about why the survivors can't just "get over" their abuse; after all, it was so long ago and other survivors seem to be just fine and aren't "clamoring for attention."

While it's true that, Baruch HaShem, some victims of abuse have been able to emerge relatively unscathed from the trauma – largely aided by supportive family and friends – unfortunately, many have not been so fortunate.

I have met with victims and have seen and heard about the damage that abuse caused. Many of them have had their lives shattered – emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. The fallout from abuse leads to higher risks of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, other self destructive behavior. It is also becoming clearer that much of the "teens-at-risk" problem in our community stems from abuse.

It should therefore come as no surprise that all of the major poskim that I know of, across the spectrum of Orthodoxy, view this as sakanas nefashos and the abuser as a "Rodef," and believe that virtually any method can be employed to stop future abuse.
§ § §

A second instinct that we must resist is the temptation to hide behind cherished the halachos of Kiddush / Chillul Hashem and Lashon Hara.

Again, this in instinct comes from a "good place" as we are certainly right to remain committed to these core values. But we must make sure that our instincts are guided by appropriate application of the halachah.

Regarding Kiddush / Chillul Hashem, even if dealing with something quietly will prevent a Chillul Hashem, one must carefully question whether halacha would choose that outcome if it came at the expense of "lo sa'amod al dam re'acha" and preventing future abuse. Unfortunately, experience has shown that "quiet arrangements" to deal with abusers, even when made with the best of intentions, have all too often been ineffective in protecting the community.

Either way, as Americans if not as Jews, we should have learned by now that it simply doesn't work. The overwhelming majority of time that information of this sort is initially kept quiet it eventually comes to light. Any successes are short lived and any prevention of Chillul HaShem is only temporary. And when the information eventually emerges it causes a far greater Chillul HaShem than it ever would have if it was addressed clearly and publicly at the outset.
Some may have the instinct that these topics – and certainly allegations about a specific abuser – should not be publicized or reported because to do so would be in violation of the laws of Lashon Hara or related prohibitions. Here too I believe this to be mistaken.
The Chafetz Chayim himself (Hilchos Lashon Hara, sec.10 and Hilchos Rechilus, sec.9, especially note #1) makes clear that these halachos were never intended to enable wrongdoers to harm unsuspecting victims. It is no coincidence that the very same pasuk (Vayikra 19:16) that starts with "lo selech rachil b'amecha" ends with "lo sa'amod al dam re'acha" as the latter is meant to qualify the former. The Chafetz Chayim therefore rules that even if it is only to avert a loss of money, let alone to protect someone's safety, the obligation to do so is paramount.
It seems clear, therefore, that the prevention of future abuse – which often requires publicity and reporting – is the primary halachic obligation even if it requires us to do things which would – in a different context – flout the regulations of Lashon Hara.
I must add an important caveat: None of this permits useless gossiping and rumor mongering. This "hetter" is limited to situations which are productive and will have concrete benefit (to'eles).
Furthermore, we absolutely must be sensitive to the possibility of false accusations. After all, it is impossible to overstate the harm that is caused by a false accusation. Nothing that was mentioned above sanctions Motzi Shem Ra which is always prohibited.
But this concern cannot paralyze us and cause us to reject out of hand any accusation of abuse. Rather, this demands that all claims and counterclaims are thoroughly investigated so that we can be as sure as possible about the veracity of any accusation. Complete and thorough investigations are the best defense against false accusations. If a claim is unsubstantiated then, "hitzdiku es ha-tzaddik," we must make that clear. But when accusations are credible then, "hirshiy'u es ha-rasha," we must be prepared to confront the awful truth.
§ § §
Third, I implore you to resist the temptation to avoid talking about abuse with your children. I know that this is a difficult topic to discuss and that for many of you this will be an uncomfortable conversation. But it is a conversation you must have.
It is absolutely critical that we talk to our children in a sensitive and non-alarming manner and educate them about inappropriate touch. It can be very confusing for a child to understand that certain things are really inappropriate when there is an adult involved and especially when that adult is a role model. By speaking with them we can give our children not only the clarity, but also the strength, to recognize if something wrong is happening and, hopefully, to prevent abuse from happening. And if, Heaven forbid, abuse does occur, our prior discussions will give them the knowledge that they have their family to turn to for support.
§ § §
Before looking toward the future we must first confront the past.
In a sense, this is the most painful part of the drasha for me to discuss. But as a member of the rabbinate, the "shevet ha-rabbanus," I think it is critical for it to be said.
Commenting on the pasuk (Vayikra 4:22) "asher nasi yecheta," Rashi cites the teaching of Chazal that "Fortunate is the generation whose leader is concerned to bring an atonement for his inadvertent transgression – all the more so that he regrets his intentional transgressions."
It must be acknowledged that in the past, when allegations of abuse were presented to community leaders, mistakes were sometimes made in handling these situations. Abusers and the nature of abuse were simply not fully understood and other genuine considerations, such as the desire to prevent Chillul HaShem, were perhaps too heavily weighed. These mistakes – even when arising from the best of intentions – have tragically allowed the toll of victims to rise. The fact that similar mistakes may have also occurred in other places in and outside of the Jewish community is of little solace. We, as a rabbinate, must seek atonement even for these unintentional errors.
§ § §
Going forward, we can once again look to the Torah's account of the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt for inspiration.
As we know, the Bnei Yisrael panicked when they realized they were trapped by the raging sea in front of them and the charging Egyptians behind them. They complained bitterly to Moshe, who, after trying to reassure them, was apparently davening. And then, amazingly, Hashem admonishes Moshe, "Mah titzak eilai" – Why do you cry out to Me; "daber el Benei Yisrael v'yisa'u" – tell the Jewish people to go forward!" (Shemos 14:15)
The Kotzker Rebbe understands this to be, not only a command to Moshe, but a timeless lesson for all generations. Obviously Hashem wasn't downplaying the importance of tefillah; prayer should always be central to our lives. But He was teaching us that "l'kol zeman v'es" – there are times where what is needed isn't tefillah but v'yisa'u, not talk but action.
When considering our current challenge I feel that this is just such a time. The letter you will receive from the Vaad HaRabbanim is an important statement and I hope that this drasha is beneficial as well.
But in the end, a letter and a speech are a lot easier – and a lot less important – than action.
What we need and what you have a right as community to expect from the rabbanim is action.
The next critical step, which we will begin, iy"h, after Yom Tov, is to develop a community-wide action plan to better educate and protect our community. There are numerous ideas which can be implemented and I think we should consider all possibilities.
In fact, we are blessed to have had with us for Yom Tov – and sitting here this morning – Rav Gedalyah Dov Schwartz, shlita. R. Schwartz, as you all know, is the Av Beis Din of Chicago, and a number of years ago Chicago became the first city to develop protocols for dealing with abuse. We will look to Chicago – and other cities – to see what ideas we can learn from them and adapt for our community. In Chicago, for instance, they set up a special Beis Din to take care of abuse related issues. This may be right for our community as well.
Another important element of the effort in Chicago – and R. Schwartz asked me to stress this – is that it has been led by both R. Schwartz and Rav Avraham Chaim Levin, shlita, the Telshe Rosh Yeshiva. They are both committed to dealing with this problem and by working together it has assured all parts of the community that they are represented and given their effort the widest possible support. This is a model which I believe we should adopt.
§ § §
The issue of abuse is painful and complex but it one which we must confront.
There may be some difficult moments for our community in the near future but if we take the necessary steps and make lasting improvements then I am hopeful that we will look back on this time as a pivotal and positive chapter in our communal history.
May Hashem grant comfort and healing to the victims of abuse and may He give all of us the necessary strength and siyata dishmaya we need to protect our children and to rid our community of this scourge.
Any questions about the speech or the general topic it discusses can, of course, be addressed to Rabbi Gottlieb, either by phone (410-358-8604) or by email .

Monday, April 02, 2007

Passover Prayer On Behalf of Abused and Neglected Children

(2007) Author Unknown

The prayer below was written for protective parents and their loved ones, child abuse advocates, and all who care about children to recite at their passover seder.   A spring onion is added to the seder plate, or placed on the table as a symbol.

The Passover Seder is a time to celebrate our freedom and remember those who still struggle for the freedoms they deserve. Freedom from tyranny, violence, and oppression is a core value for us as our ancestors have known slavery, and our heart goes out to the enslaved and the imprisoned of any race, culture or creed. Tonight we remember a group of individuals often forgotten, trapped by a kind of slavery so cruel, that society often looks the other way---children (including adult survivors of child abuse) enslaved in lives of abuse.

Today I remember ____________ (fill in name of a child or children you know trapped in lives of abuse. or substitute... "these children.") Though many of us have tried to free them, the Pharaohs in our generation have blocked our efforts or looked the other way. Our hearts ache knowing the pain these children live with day after day. They are not forgotten. With this prayer we share our commitment to find a way to liberate them from their lives of exploitation and tyranny.

This spring onion on the Seder plate is our symbol for these children and their plight. The shape of the onion reminds us of the whips used on slaves to keep them subjugated. The tears we shed from the onion remind us of the silent tears of these children waiting for rescue. The newness of the onion reminds us of the promise of hope, that one day these children can grow healthy and free from the tyranny they are living with today.

We pray for the wisdom to find an effective path to liberate these children. We pray for the courage to stand up to the Pharaoh's of our generation and speak the truth of what we know. We pray for the strength and fortitude to keep on fighting for their freedom.

May these children (including adult survivors) soon know the sweetness of freedom from violence and oppression and share Passover Seders and other celebrations of freedom, safely, with loved ones next year!