JewishMOM.com’s 2012 Person of the Year: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Last week a Nachlaot family woke up to find a swastika painted on their front door. Why? Because a child in this family is scheduled to provide damning testimony against Nachlaot pedophile “Rabbi” Zalman Cohen who was indicted last year and whose trial is starting now.
Many of the families of Nachlaot’s molested children have been harassed in various ways. Several have received death threats. Others have had false rumors spread about them. And others have gotten off “easy,” like this family with the swastika on their door, with mere property damage.
It’s upsetting to see victims and their families being victimized yet again by the pedophiles and their families. Why are these victims living in fear, and not the pedophiles?
But to be fair, it’s scary standing up to condemn criminals. It’s scary standing up and saying “A man who molests children is no longer welcome in my shul.” Or ” I don’t rent apartments to pedophiles.” Or simply “I know what you did and it’s unforgivable.”
The problem with being scared is that it leads to silence. And silence is what pedophiles need to continue molesting our children.
The same day I saw the swastika, I returned home feeling deflated when I saw a letter from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz of Project YES in my inbox. He was appealing, yet again, to the thousands of members of his worldwide mailing list to write letters of support to a victim of sexual abuse, and wrote explicitly about that specific pedophile’s repulsive crimes.
More than anybody else I know of, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is fearlessly leading the fight against sexual abuse in the Jewish community.
He provides a courageous personal example of outspoken and unflinching support of the victims of sexual abuse as well as vocal condemnation of the pedophiles who prey on our children.
Therefore, I would like to recognize Rabbi Horowitz’s great contribution to protecting our children and educating our communities about the dangers of sexual abuse by naming him the 2012 JewishMOM.com Person of the Year.
I recently came across the following:
Winners say “It may be difficult but it’s possible.”
Losers say, “It may be possible, but it’s too difficult.’
Winner always have a program
Losers always have an excuse.
Winners see an answer for every problem
Losers see a problem in every answer
That’s why winners are always part of the answer
And losers are always part of the problem.
On behalf of all JewishMOMs, I would like to thank you, Rabbi Horowitz, for being a winner. I pray that many rabbis and members of our communities will follow your inspiring and holy example.
Click here to join Rabbi Horowitz’s mailing list
Here are three must-read articles written by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz on sexual abuse in the Orthodox Community.
The Monster Inside by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
A classic comedy routine involves a ‘good guy’ being chased by a villain. The good guy finally finds a safe haven, enters, slams the door behind him, and mops his brow with a sign of relief. However, he soon discovers that somehow the villain snuck in behind him. Now, he is alone in a locked space with the ‘bad guy’ – and nowhere to escape.
Whenever I hear people discussing the need to build higher and higher walls around our homes and communities to protect our children from the very real spiritual danger of ‘Walmart’ that I discussed in a recent column, I find myself increasingly playing in my mind a tragic version of this scene. Why? Because it is my strong and growing feeling that the number one risk factor for our beloved children abandoning Yiddishkeit is child molestation/abuse.
The very real threat posed by the external influences from which we all strive (in various degrees) to protect our children – such as media, Internet, and ‘bad friends’ – are all firecrackers compared to the atom bomb of sexual abuse…
Abuse robs children of their safety and innocence. Its ravages follow them through their teens and into adulthood, often shredding their marriages and complicating their relationships. Children who were molested harbor a simmering rage at the adult world that could not provide them with what should be the most basic birthright of every child; a sense of security. This anger displays itself in many forms – cultural, familial and spiritual. What is most dangerous, however, is when the rage turns inward and the children begin to self destruct by using drugs, abusing alcohol, engaging in self-mutilation … even committing suicide…
Abusers are nocturnal creatures, operating most effectively in the darkness of denial. What they fear most is the light of day and the righteous indignation of victims. Most predators have a sixth sense of which children are from homes with parents who are inattentive or not ‘complainers.’ They zoom in on them like a moth to light knowing that the odds are slim that their despicable acts will be reported.
So ‘walled’ communities are the dream setting for a child molester. A community where negative news is not reported and the fear of causing a chilul Hashem makes people hush things up is a community where an abuser can comfortably set up shop.
Much as I would love to pass on the sensitive matter of child abuse and molestation, I feel the burden of responsibility to squarely address it due to the life-threatening danger that it represents to our children. I write these lines because I am haunted by the images of the many abuse victims I have encountered over the years. I visited shelters and substance-abuse facilities where they attempted to recover from drug overdoses. I tried my best to comfort their parents who were going through their own personal gehenom, while their children confronted theirs. I paid shiva calls to bereaved parents and siblings of abused children who later committed suicide and to those whose children’s suicides were presented to the public as death by other cause.
In short, I keep seeing the horrific carnage that the monster of abuse is causing among our children. We have the capacity to banish it to the other side of the door. All we need is courage and conviction.
L’maan Hashem, let’s finally do it.
Our Children Are Not Hefker
One week ago on my website I announced my intention to attend the next court appearance of a man who was arrested last year and is now standing trial on 10 felony charges of child abuse.
I am attending the court proceeding to stand with and support victims he allegedly abused and to let them know they are valued members of our community.
I am doing so to send a loud and clear message to the predators who abuse our precious kinderlach: Our children are not hefker.
I am doing so to support the rule of law. Time and experience have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that well-meaning, untrained people (like this writer) are powerless to protect children. Chazal (Avos 3:4) wisely stated that we must pray for the stability of our government for “if not for the fear it holds over its citizens [who commit crimes], a person would swallow his neighbor.”
In my web post, I asked members of our community to please post supportive comments, which I would print out and deliver.
All week long, people wrote the most beautiful notes of support to the victim and his family members. As of this writing, more than 200 individuals from across North America, Europe, Eretz Yisrael – even Australia – posted comments and sent e-mails of support.
I strongly encourage readers to visit the website and join this effort. Let the family members know we love them, are terribly sorry they had to suffer this way, and will do everything in our power to see that those who abuse our children will be reported and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
I respectfully ask that you kindly sign your real name and your city of residence. We should be proud to do what the Torah instructs us to do – 36 times, no less, far more than any other mitzvah – to give comfort to the gerim (strangers) among us as they lack the support structure so vital to one’s well-being. I can think of no greater “stranger” than the innocent children who have been ravaged by pedophiles.
…our reluctance to squarely stand with abuse victims who report predators to the authorities, has sent a shameful and dangerous message – that we do not have the moxie to do what it takes to keep our children safe.
We are also sending a shameful and dangerous message when we sit by silently, while friends and family members of the alleged perpetrators harass the victim’s family members for reporting the abuse to the authorities. That is why your notes of support for the victim’s family are so very important.
Sitting on the sidelines and not supporting victims of abuse is not really a neutral position, for your silence only emboldens the perpetrators.
In his remarks upon accepting the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel eloquently stated: “And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Each and every one of us has a sacred obligation to stand with the victims and with those who are oppressed. Again, we need to send a loud, clear and consistent message: Our children are not hefker.
For God’s Sake, What will it Take?
It is difficult to describe the sickening, gut-wrenching sensation I experience when I get phone calls from parents whose children were sexually abused or from adults who have carried the horrible scars of childhood abuse for decades, often shredding their relationships and ruining their lives. And, I am sad to report that those calls are getting more frequent as time goes on.
L’maan Hashem – what will it take for us to take this issue seriously? How many more indictments of frum pedophiles will it take for us to cut through the denial and deal with the fact that we have a real problem? Not a Jewish problem, but a human one. (As I’ve written in the past, abuse and molestation are issues that all communities face. It only becomes a Jewish problem when we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.) How many more suicides or drug overdoses do we need to endure before we will start understanding that this is one of the pressing challenges that we need to squarely face? And, in my opinion, sexual abuse is by far the leading cause of high-end drug use and ruined lives of the teens in our community.
The saddest thing of all is that the steps that need to be taken to prevent today’s innocent children from future abuse are not terribly complicated. From my vantage point; all it takes is to:
1. Raise the awareness level by having community leaders write and speak about this issue in a forthright and unequivocal manner
2. Teach our parents and educators how to speak to their children about personal privacy. And this can be easily done in a modest, Torah-appropriate manner.
3. Develop the righteous indignation to finally protect our children by sending a clear message that those who molest them will be treated like the rodfim and murderers they are – reported to the authorities, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
This is not only a school issue; it is a communal one. Abusers are far more likely to be family members or kids on the block, rather than educators. This is not to say that schools should not address this matter squarely; rather to note that simply dealing with it in the limited scope of school will not eradicate the scourge of abuse. We are all in this together and it will take broad-based initiatives to improve things.
Is there any more sacred obligation than protecting the children entrusted to our care? Shame on us, for failing to treat it as such.
Shame on us, for allowing ourselves to repeatedly get distracted with meaningless and often silly non-issues raised by self-appointed “askanim” that purport to pose spiritual risk to our children while our paramount communal responsibility to keep evil people from destroying the physical and spiritual lives of our children keeps getting bumped to the back burner.
Shame on us, for allowing people like Avrohom Mondrowitz, and others like him, to live peacefully in our communities while their victims live tortured lives. Please excuse my sarcasm, but lately, when people ask me what they ought to be doing to rally support in their communities to keep our children safe from predators, I occasionally tell them, tongue-in-cheek, that it might be a good idea to spread rumors that the pedophiles are distributing non-kosher candy to their children while molesting them. Who knows; maybe that might get people to take notice.
I began writing about sex abuse in these pages more than four years ago – before this was thrust in our faces when we were shamed in the national media with reports of the abusers in our community. I wrote about the scandal of our silence over Mondrowitz’s alleged crimes months before it became public news, when efforts were made to finally extradite him to America to face a small modicum of justice after all these years. Shame on us that little has changed in that time despite all the chillul Hashem we have endured over this matter since then.
Recently, my wife and I had the incredible zechus of walking our fourth child to the chuppah and it is exactly one year since Hashem blessed us with the birth of our first grandchild. Knowing what I know and listening to what I listen to on a daily basis, makes me fearful for his safety and the safety of our grandchildren yet to be born. For so long as we do not make every effort to have the warped pedophiles in our midst locked up in prison or in treatment facilities − trust me, when I say that none of our kids are safe. At this moment of great simcha in our lives, I am committed to see to it that our grandchildren will be raised in an environment where the evil monsters that prey on our children live in fear – not the parents and grandparents of our kinderlach…