by Pinny Taub
I reached a point that I cannot sit idly by and watch how the Jewish people are being stepped on, day in and day out, by none other than people who call themselves Orthodox Jews. The chillul Hashem (Desecration of G-d’s Name) that is being created is beyond words. The kind of garbage that is being thrown on our gedolim (leading Rabbis) and holy organizations has not happened since the days of the pogroms and it’s all coming from within. It hurts me to write this to the very same people I once believed were protectors of abuse victims in the Jewish community. It hurts me even more to write to the very same people I once called very dear friends and believed were helping my brothers and sisters in pain.
What is important is the truth coming from my broken heart.
I am Pinny Taub, who is a survivor of one of the most horrific crimes that has happened to a Jew by a Jew. My story is known and is not important to repeat at this time. Despite all that, I decided that I would not be a victim anymore and I would survive. Ever since I made this decision I have taken on a new role, by helping other victims and by educating those who don’t understand. I have spoken publicly, have done interviews, and have met with rabbonim (Rabbis), gedolim, leaders, policy-makers, law enforcement officials, and private citizens. While it was very painful for me to see how people have a hard time understanding this subject, I learned that I have a lot to understand about other people, as well. I have realized that change does not come overnight, but change will come when you present the truth and nothing but the truth. When I began reaching out to the leaders and our rabbonim, it was done with a great deal of anger and resentment. What I’ve learned by reaching out to them with respect is that they really do understand and do share the pain of those who were victimized, and show anger towards the criminals who destroyed so many precious lives. All of them want change in how we treat victims, deal with perpetrators, and implement prevention. Yes, there are major differences of opinion on certain subjects. There is no subject on the face of the earth on which all participating parties are of the same opinion, especially something as complicated as abuse, which involves understanding the long-term effects on a victim, legal issues, and halacha.
The tragedy that happened just a few weeks ago has affected all of Klal Yisrael (the Congregation of Israel) and beyond. The pain of this wound is still fresh. No one can make sense of it, and as fancy of an article as anybody may attempt to write, one cannot possibly explain why it happened. But one thing every righteous human being will agree about concerning Leiby: he united us all, regardless of our affiliation. There was complete unity in the outpouring of manpower that came out to look for Leiby—men, women, the elderly, and kids. There were charedim and non-charedim. Jews and non-Jews. There were organizations like Shomrim that showed a dedication and cooperation never seen before. They were praised by every NYPD agency, from the local police precinct commander to the police commissioner, for the great job they did. To have anti-Semites from within quote “anonymous police sources” that don’t have the guts to give their name to besmirch an organization that the community depends on and that the police use as their eye and ear is beyond chutzpah.
I will say it the way it is. All these hate-filled articles on the blogs and in the non-Jewish press and the Jewish Week have very little to do with Shomrim or Agudah; they have everything to do with charedi (traditional Orthodox) Judaism. Has anyone noticed that while the issue of abuse still needs a lot of work in every circle, every single article implies that the problem exists only in the ultra-Orthodox community? Aren’t you the same bunch running around with a study that says that one in four girls and one in six boys will be abused by the age of 18, and that Jews are no different? Then why do you make it sound that it is a problem in the ultra-Orthodox community only? Oh, it must be because of the Agudah who said that one should not follow the law. Wait, the recording is online for everyone to listen to, and I was there throughout the entire shiur. Within the first three minutes the presenter said he was not there to pasken shailos (issue Halachic rulings), only to go over the shailos he had asked of the leading poskim (decisors) — and that it is clear that halacha and secular law on this matter do not contradict. So where did this hateful lie regarding the Agudah come from? Since when do these people, who have absolutely no respect for Daas Torah (Torah knowledge) anyway, care about what our Torah giants are saying?
Another excuse for the charedi-bashing goes as follows: the only group that still does not report to the legal authorities are the chareidim. Really? Last I checked there have been more than 40 arrests in the charedi Brooklyn community alone and I know for a fact that there are 40 or more open investigations (I am not saying this with pride). You say that as long as we don’t have mandatory reporting, you won’t be satisfied, but in the State of New Jersey every single adult is a mandated reporter. It makes no difference. When was the last time an arrest was made in connection with the one-in-four and one-in-six study in non-charedi neighborhoods? Last I checked, the leading poskim have said that every single Jew is a mandated reporter. As frustrating as it is and as painful as it is, change takes time.
Have you yet realized that the ones who are cruel are not the ones in the community who have done something positive on this issue without media attention? It is the ones who are shaming Torah and Yiddishkeit at every opportunity that are cruel. Unlike you, who are tackling this issue with raw emotions and bashing, we try to face it with understanding. As a survivor, my raw emotion also says that a perpetrator should be shot in the public square, but as a fellow Jew I still remember that we are an “Am Achad,” one nation—one body—one soul. When someone destroys someone else’s life we have a responsibility to do something and that may require reporting a fellow Jew, but at the same time we are one nation and one body. When a doctor tells someone that a foot has to be amputated because the infection or tumor growing there may cause further harm to the rest of the body, you know what you have to do, as painful as it is, but it’s not a time to party and celebrate. You will have to live without a foot for the rest of your life. It is sometimes a necessity to report someone from our own communities, but he or she is still a part of us.
As victim advocates, why be so cruel to my fellow victims, who are suffering enough and are angry enough about what has happened to them, by feeding them non-stop false information saying that nobody cares about them and nothing is being done? Would you tell a victim of a drunk driver that you feel their pain, but they have to understand that where you live nobody cares, or that there are so many drunks and drunk driving is rampant, that as long as the sale of alcohol isn’t prohibited it will not stop? Of course you wouldn’t.
Reach out to them with the truth. There is still a lot that has to be done, but more than you can think has changed.
I just hope and pray that you will come to realize the amount of damage you have caused on this issue for our community. I also hope you will come to realize that you are repeating history by feeding your brethren to the hungry mouths of the anti-Semites.
In the memory of Leiby, I hope you can go back and take another look at this story and see the beauty of achdus that has been on display.
This letter was edited by and published in Ami Magazine, and we appreciate their permission to use their edited version.