May 29, 2006

Sexual Abuse
My heart was racing as I read Robert Kolker’s article—I couldn’t read it fast enough [“On the Rabbi’s Knee,” May 22]. I couldn’t believe someone actually put the horrible truth in writing as clearly and honestly as Kolker has—just as I have dreamed of doing. I was, and continue to be, a victim of abuse and rabbinical cover-up in the ultra-Orthodox community. I went to the authorities, to no avail. Friends deserted me in droves, frightened that their children would be expelled from prestigious yeshivas. They told me that my reporting the abuse was a worse crime than the abuser’s committing it—mesira. All of Kolker’s facts are astonishingly accurate.
—Name withheld

As an Orthodox Jew, I was disturbed to read Kolker’s account of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who is alleged to have sexually molested his students. Kolker suggests that sexual repression, resistance to modernity, and barriers to the outside world create an atmosphere conducive to abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community. To claim a cause-and-effect relationship is unfair to the many psychologically normal and healthy people living in the Orthodox community, who simply choose to lead a more sexually modest lifestyle than others.
—Michael Feldstein, Stamford, Conn.

Ii appreciate the article about sexual abuse in the Jewish Orthodox community. I was abused for four years when I lived in Borough Park, and to this day, I can’t come to terms with what happened. I tried telling the grand rabbi and others, but nobody listened. Today, I am married to a very supportive wife, live in Los Angeles, and hold a steady job. But between the ages of 15 and 25 (I am now 31), I tried suicide, got arrested, married, annulled the marriage, joined the military, moved about ten times—all to try to find peace, and I still seek it. The article, although it will not help me, may help bring this issue to the fore and keep others from having to live the life that I have.
—Steve R., Los Angeles, Calif.

As an observant modern-Orthodox divorced mother raising a teenage son in the neighborhood where the yeshiva in this article is situated, I am alarmed, and so is the community. Some say that self-hating Jews are defaming the Orthodox yeshiva world—that the article is a vendetta against the strict Orthodox way of life. But there are those like me who believe that it’s about time this issue was discussed. I had heard rumors of molestation when I went to yeshiva girls’ schools in the eighties. When I dated in college, some of my boyfriends’ friends were victims of abuse. Though I had to discuss the issue with my 15-year-old son in more detail than I would have liked, I want to thank you for bringing it to the attention of mothers like me.
—Gisele Strauch, Brooklyn

Yasher Koach to David Framowitz in his quest for justice. May Hashem grant him the strength to deal with these hypocrites. May he merit the chance to save other children from this hateful scourge. As an Orthodox Jew with friends who have suffered similar experiences, I say this to those pious individuals with misplaced religious fervor, who would forfeit the life, both spiritual and physical, of a Jewish child, over the embarrassment of a so-called pillar of the community: How’s this for Chillul Hashem? I hope you all enjoyed the New York Magazine story.
—A. Zions, Jamaica

Couldn’t you have selected another cover line, something other than “Do the Orthodox Jews Have a Catholic-Priest Problem?” It somehow implies that there isn’t the same kind of a problem in public or secular private schools, or in so many other places and communities.
—John Kubasek, New Rochelle, N.Y.

Corrections: In “The Influentials” (May 15), David Faber should have been referred to as a co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk on the Street.

In “The Benefit Bunch” (“The Influentials”), a photograph of Jamie Tisch was misidentified as Laurie Tisch Sussman, who should have been listed as Laurie M. Tisch. Also, it is the Center for Arts Education, chaired by Laurie M. Tisch, that “provided more than $30 million to arts groups,” not the Laurie M. Tisch Foundation.

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May 29, 2006