By Harry Maryles (Emes Ve-Emunah blog)
December 13, 2013
What a deep hole a sex abuser digs. He not only destroys his victims, he destroys his own family. This is something that should not be over-looked. But neither should it deter us from doing what’s necessary to change the current paradigm in how sex abuse is treated in any segment, whether it be Satmar or YU.
There are no words that can communicate the depth of pain a survivor of abuse must go through. No matter how well a survivor is able to adjust to life, the pain stays with them forever. And not every survivor does well. Some do not do well at all leading a life of depression which often leads to alcoholism and drug abuse… and in some cases suicide.
But none of this is new. What is often ignored or glossed over is what the abuser does to his own family. I can only imagine the pain Nechmeya Weberman’s family feels after their husband/father has been convicted of sex abuse and sentenced to 54 years in prison. The public shame they must feel is indescribable. This was made clear by an open letter to Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz by Benny Polatseck, a close friend of the Weberman family. While acknowledging that his Satmar community has these problems he takes Rabbi Horowitz to task for continuing to focus on this family.
Rabbi Horowitz responded. I think it is important to see what each of them had to say. I will only add that since Mr. Polatesek acknowledges his community has these problems - that he step up and help do something about them. I completely understand what he is saying. But the priorities must by to change the disgusting paradigm that exists in Satmar with repect to sex abuse. His open unedited letter and Rabbi Horowitz response follows.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz,
I have come across your tweets yesterday about the Weberman trial and you’re marking the one year anniversary of Mr. Webermans conviction. Now my letter is not about the trial, it’s not about whether justice was served or not, it’s not about Mr. Webermans guilt or innocents, It’s not even about your involvement in his conviction. I base this letter on the narrative that Mr. Weberman is totally guilty, every single allegation against him is true, and every single unnamed alleged victim was truly victimized. Now after all that said, I have a question for you, what now? What is your goal now? What are you trying to achieve?
Let me explain myself, during the trial you have stated on many occasions that while you truly feel terrible for the Weberman family, who by all accounts have done nothing wrong, you feel obligated to do what you’re doing for the sake of protecting other potential victims, you even stated Poaskim to prove that you are obligated to do it from a Talmudic standpoint. Standing a year after the conviction with Mr. Weberman in a dark cell behind bars far far away from the Brooklyn streets buzzing with sounds of chatter of children happily roaming up and down lee ave on the way to school, no one can argue that Mr. Weberman is still a threat to anyone.
But while all the newspapers and tabloids have long turned to other news of the day, The tweeter hashtag #Weberman has not been in use for months now, the coffee room conversations in offices and in places of worship have long switched to other topics, there is still a family out there who has not and will never move on from that cold December Friday when their husband and father was escorted out of a Brooklyn court room with his hands cuffed.
There is a famous saying from Markus Zusak author of The Book Thief "Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day", on that note, Let’s put ourselves in Mrs. Weberman's shoes for a moment, a women who has done nothing wrong to anyone, a women who is a quiet down to earth lady who never speaks up, suddenly turned into a household name with her face painted on every newspaper cover, Imagine the stares she gets every time she walks into a grocery store by people trying to study her face in an attempted to read her emotions, Imagine the struggle of a mother having to struggle for words to explain to her 5 year old who is asking day in day out why tatty is in jail, when the alleged crime is not one that can even be explained to a kid of this age, Imagine the daily struggle to feed the hungry mouths of a household full of children when your left without a source of income, imagine the lonely long cold winter nights after a long day of a wife not having for whom to wait at the door because that door is never opening, imagine the little boys red face Simcahs Torah when all the daddy's are dancing with their boys beaming with joy on their shoulders and this little boy has no daddy to smiling to him. Imagine the struggle of this 10 year old who is bullied in school by other kids who overheard their parents talking about a Weberman who was jailed for unspeakable crimes and they find an easy target in him.
I'm not hiding under a false name pretending to be who I'm not, because there is nothing to hide from. I know the weberman children, I went to Yeshiva with one of the Weberman boys, one of the nicest and Kind Hearted kids in my class, this has noting to do with Satmar, Casidim, Cover ups, Or even abuse. this is about a family that has been broken and shattered into a million pieces, and a man that only takes the broken glass and trows it again and again and again to make sure that not one tiny piece is left.
Now you can say whatever you want, but just don't pretend that you feel bad for this family Because if you do, you’re lying! Now that Weberman is behind Bars there is no possible justification in your actions to keep talking about him, and in the same time making sure that the wounds that this family has incurred never has a chance to heal. You are stabbing a 5 year old boy who doesn't even know what the word abuse means, your stabbing a women that has never hurt a fly on the wall.
Your actions in trying to keep this story on the headlines day in day out comes to show your true intentions, which is a truck load of ADD, you can call yourself with whatever titles you want to, but in heaven there is one that looks at those Weberman children's pain and does not look at the title before ones name.
There is no Talmud that justifies doing what you’re doing, there is no rabbi who can possibly justify shaming a entire family when the excuse "protecting victims has been gone for a year".
Your actions makes one think that what you did all along was not about safe streets, protecting victims, or anything close to that, it was about making a name for yourself, it was about gaining some much desired fame, it was about a man hungry for a dose of much needed attention even when getting the dose means spilling blood of fellow Jewish brothers and sisters who have never done a thing to you or to anyone for that matter in their life.
It’s time for you to stop, forget about the name Weberman!Move on to other sources of attention believe me there is many, stop the cruelty already, it has been more than enough.
12/12/13 6:15 PM
PS. There is no way that one can say that this behavior is justified because its an attempted to scare off other perpetrates and save future abuse victims, because your not god almighty, and a man does not have any right to chose who should be victimized on the expense of saving other victims. The blood of (If there will ever be) any future victim that may be saved by your actions is not any redder then the blood of the Weberman's who are presently victimized by you day in day out.
Thanks for taking the time to write this http://bennypolatseck.blogspot.com/2013/12/an-open-letter-to-rabbi-yakov-horowitz.html in response to my tweeting about the anniversary of Weberman's verdict. What you wrote was clearly "devarim hayotzim min ha'lev," and they were received as such.
You are certainly correct that his family members are suffering even though they did nothing wrong, and I always say that there are no "winners" in cases like these, just varying degrees of innocent loss among all parties (except for the perpetrator).
Benny; what I noted in the tweets was the question of "what has changed in your kehila as a result of this incident?"
You wrote that you are operating under the assumption that he is guilty and that there are other victims.
OK; Benny, .... Here are a few questions:
1) what is being done to help his other victims and other abuse survivors in your kehila repair their broken lives? Why aren't there public appeals inviting victims to come forward in privacy to get free counseling? Why is the kehila who taught and continues to teach all of us about tzedakah v'chesed not supporting these tzebruchene neshamos?
2) what is being done to educate today's children to protect themselves from r'l other tragedies like this?
3) who can your victims turn to in your kehila for support -- or even to seek guidance? I got news for you, Benny, they are calling me and others like me who are outside the kehila in terror and fear to get help and hadracha. Isn't that a tragedy beyond words?
There is much more on my mind re this but I just don't have the time to write more now and I felt that as you took the time to write, I should try and respond.
Benny; I extend a sincere offer to you. If you want to help keep tragedies like this from happening in your kehila by educating todays kinderlach in child safety i will be glad to meet with you and work hand in hand with you to make that happen.
Followup response from Benny Polatseck:
A Response to no response...
You can read Rabbi Yakov Horowitz's (non) response on his blog.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz,
While I tried really hard to find the connection between my letter to you, and the response that was supposed to address my points, it was impossible, I came to think that you may have sent out an old post of yours by mistake.
Have I ever defended or even mentioned the way abuse is handled in the community that you are referring too in your response?
Was this article about how kids are educated about abuse nowadays?
If indeed your response was not a case of an email error, then I have to assume that you just choose to stir the conversation away from an uncomfortable zone due to the truth in my words, to issues and topics that had nothing to do at all with what I wrote.
Steve Jobs wants said "Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations" Rabbi this was a poor attempt to innovate a letter that i never wrote, nice try...
My letter was not about anyone, any issue, any hard feelings that you may or may not have towards or with any individual or community, it was not about any victims who do or do not come to you for counseling or advice, it's not about anything but the one single issue that I addressed, it just happens to be the very same issue that you conveniently forget to address in your so called response.
The issue is "you" dear rabbi, "your? actions "your" tweets.
Please leave everything else on the sidelines and try to focus on the yellow line (in this case Bright red that just happens to be the color of blood)
The issue is your constant refusal to let go of the simple word Weberman, to the let this family breathe to let those kids have one day in peace, for god's sake, give them some time to wipe the tears off their faces.
It's very easy to sit on a comfortable big leathr executive chair in a fancy office surrounded by expensive furniture looking out a big round window to a bright and sunny day and type a few words on a key board and send it out to the world, that takes no guts everybody can do that (see even I do that...)
I want you to sit in the Weberman dining room looking at the eyes of the 11 year old Weberman girl, eyes that lack any life, eyes that can't even tear up anymore, eyes that have been unable to close at night for the last 12 months, when this child is put to sleep to the sound of her mommy sobbing in the room next to hers, eyes filled with fear that no child should ever know of.
You should hop along on the school bus that stops every morning at the building where the Weberman's live and walk down the aisle to the very last seat where the 9 year old weberman boy sits with his head between his hands thinking that if he sees no one, no one will see him and he might just might escape the insults for just one bus ride to school.
You should have sat at the window at the Weberman residence just 2 weeks ago first night of Chanukah when all the surrounding windows are lit by tiny flames reflecting on the outside in the darkness of night, when inside those windows cute little faces with red cheeks filled with smiles from ear to ear are standing around the candles humming along with their totty's singing the Chanukah melody's, but one window is dark, there are no tiny flames, there is no menorah at the window at all, and inside that window the silence speaks volumes, the little cute faces are sitting on the floor and their big brown watery eyes are glancing at their dark window in pain.
That's the place I want you tweeting from, That's where I want to hear your explanation on why in the world you have to bring up Weberman name day in day out, I want you to do it while looking at the innocent faces of those poor children, I want you to look into Mrs. Webermans eyes and say to her what you keep on saying to others while sitting in the comfort of your home.
You write "You are certainly correct that his family members are suffering even though they did nothing wrong, and I always say that there are no "winners" in cases like these, just varying degrees of innocent loss among all parties"
So your mission is making sure that the normal cycle that sadly plays out in cases like those are displayed in full color here as well?
Are you tasked with making sure that the "norm" takes place? Because this sure is what one understands when he is reading your words and interpreting the meaning of it, let me rephrase your words if I may, "I am spilling the blood of the Weberman's because this is usually the normal course in cases like this one. Therefor I'm working extremely hard going great lengths to make sure that the Weberman children are feeling no different than those of the Penn state football coach".
It may be true that in most cases family members of the alleged perpetrator are innocently victimized, but in this case you're the one who victimizes them, you are the one who makes sure they have no rest, you make their life a living hell.
And please don't tell me that what your doing is done to protect future victims, because no matter how holy you are, no matter how many countless victims you save every day, no matter how pure your intentions are, you still have no right in the world to chose one child over another, Shelly Klein's (fictional names) blood is not redder then Leah Webermans, you are not god almighty.
You can't victimize one child in order to save another child, there is no justification to do that, not from a human standpoint and surely not from an halachic standpoint.
I will not go in to a discussion about abuse at all, this was not what my letter was about at all, and this is not what I'm here to discuss, I'm not a Rabbi, or therapist, or carry any other fancy name or title, I'm not here to fix the world, I try using my whole energy to better myself, instead of fixing others.
I write to you as a plain human being of flesh and blood who can't bare my friends and my friends family's pain anymore, I write to you as one who has seen way to much tears in the last year, I'm obligated to speak out, I'm obligated to put myself on the line.
Unlike you Rabbi I I earn no business or gain any fame out of this, and I surly don't gain any friends, I have been hammered with insults in the last few hours by people I never spoke to or seen in my life.
There is a powerful saying by Jane Hirshfield "Silence is not silence but a limit of hearing", I would love to be able to stay silent and ignore your actions but you have pushed me into a corner, you have locked me into a spot, you have forced me to do this.
Your actions against this family have to stop, I don't want to be the one to witness a breakdown, or worse... And then having to say to myself you could have done something and you didn't.
Please I beg you stop while there is still something left to repair, because if you don't there will be noting anymore C"V.
Please I beg….
Followup response from Rabbi Horowitz:
Thanks for taking the time to write this http://bennypolatseck.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-response-to-no-response_12.html in response to my post of last night.
In it, you question the logic of my "non-response" to your question of, "how can you ignore the pain of Weberman's innocent family members"?
The answer is that I was, in Jewish fashion, answering that question with the question of: How can you only consider the pain of his family members (which he caused) and ignore the pain of his countless victims and their family members? Many of those families also have darkness in their homes on Chanukah and every other night of the year.
That said, your point that (most of the) advocacy for his victims, abuse survivors overall, efforts to raise awareness and educate today's children in child safety to avoid the horror of abuse and molestation in the future can all be made without mentioning Nechemia Weberman's name and bringing more pain to his family is fair and correct and as such I accept your tochacha (rebuke) with respect and humility.
Last night, I was reminded of a phone call that I got years ago from a relative of Avrohom Mondrowitz during the time when I wrote columns advocating for his extradition to America so he can be brought to trial for his monstrous crimes. She said that she fully understands my efforts to support his victims, but asked that, "every time you sit down to write a column on this, just remember that he has many decent family members who are suffering horribly." I continued to write about that matter and even wrote an open-letter op-Ed In the Jerusalem Post asking the judge to extradite him after that conversation, but I did think about her sobering words often, as I will yours.
Benny; just understand that regardless of what I as an individual do or don't do regarding this case, the Weberman case will never really be "closed" until your community leaders take the advice of Steve Jobs that you noted -- to stop changing the subject, but rather apologize to his victims, offer clinical and emotional support to them and start educating today's parents and kids.
Those of us who advocate for and are trusted by abuse victims in heimishe kehilos don't sit on comfortable leather chairs. It is very difficult for us to have the bandwidth to think of the family members of the pedophiles as we perpetually sit on the low stools of mourners day after day, night after night, listening to the silent and silenced heartbreaking screams of their abuse victims.
The discussion on Rabbi Fink's Facebook page
December 12 at 5:52pm ·
Rabbi Horowitz reminded me that the Weberman trial verdict was one year ago (Dec 10, 2012).
Linked below is what I wrote at the time. I was hopeful that the verdict would herald changes and improvements to the way we handle sex abuse. I think a bit has changed in the non-Chasidic community. We see heroes like Rabbi Tauber and Rabbi Stulberger in Los Angeles taking bold stands. We see Jewish Community Watch gaining a foothold in the more insular non-chasdic communities.
Unfortunately, it seems that nothing has changed in the community where Weberman flourished. In fact, they may have even taken a step backwards because of their disapproval of the Weberman verdict. For example, one writer has taken great umbrage with Rabbi Horowitz for even mentioning the trial. His argument is that the trial is over, the deed is done, why bring up bad memories? (http://bennypolatseck.blogspot.com/2013/12/an-open-letter-to-rabbi-yakov-horowitz.html)
But Rabbi Horowitz is correct. (See his response here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rtg781) Until there is a clear path to safety and a road to justice for victims of abuse in the Chasidic community the Weberman trial is ongoing. It was a moment that had great potential to be a turning point. So far, it has failed miserably to live up to that possibility.
But it still can happen. That is why it is fair, maybe even mandatory, to recount the sins of Nechemia Weberman and do everything we can do to inspire and provoke the chasidic community to prevent such atrocities from taking the innocence of our brothers and sisters and to help heal any victims of abuse.