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Israel - Time Magazine: Charedim Cloistered In Abuse Shame

Published on: June 1, 2008 10:20 AM
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Israel - Among Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jews, the Haredim, social workers are often called “child-snatchers” and the police “Cossacks,” harking back to the 19th century pogroms against Jews in Russia. These cloistered communities, in which women are expected to raise and financially support their large families while their husbands spend their days stooped over the Torah, make up 10% of Israel’s population and a third of Jerusalem’s, and consider themselves defenders of a core morality in Jewish society. But that moral authority has come under scrutiny since evidence began to emerge in March of incest, rape and child abuse in four different ultra-orthodox enclaves around the country.

Over the last few weeks the Cossacks have arrived wearing the uniform of the Israeli national police force. In a series of raids following tip-offs from victims’ relatives, neighbors and hospital workers, the police have arrested ultra-orthodox wives, husbands and yeshiva students.

Community elders were at first appalled. Now they are grateful for the intervention. “The Haredim are shocked by these cases,” says Noach Korman, a Haredi attorney in the rabbinical court that adjudicates family and religious law, and the director of a shelter for battered wives. “At first they said, ‘These people are crazy, they don’t belong to us.’ But now I hear Haredi voices saying: ‘We should examine ourselves and not close our eyes to why these things are happening.’ “Says Naomi Ragen, an orthodox woman who is an author and advocate for gender equality: “These shocking things had to come out. There was no more room left under the carpet.”


predators operate with ease among the ultra-orthodox communities because female victims often keep quiet, knowing that to speak out will damage their prospects of finding a husband. “The families all want their girls to have a AAA marriage to a religious scholar from a good family, and nobody’s going to marry a girl who gets raped,” says Ragen. In Bnei Brak, a predominately Haredi city near Tel Aviv, social worker Doron Agasi says one young Haredi man told him that he had molested more than a hundred girls. Agasi, director of the Shlom Banaich Fellowship, the only organization in Israel that treats pedophiles and their victims, convinced the young man to confess to the police. But, says Agasi, the authorities refused to bring charges because none of the parents of the alleged victims had filed complaints. Agasi says the rapist is now roaming free.

The majority of ultra-orthodox families are orderly and loving, but for some mothers, the stress of raising an average of seven to eight children while holding down a job is too much to handle. Haredi men place a higher value on spiritual learning than on money or possessions; devout husbands, who wear black hats and long-tailed coats modeled on those of 18th century Polish noblemen, are expected only to study. And when they are abusive, their wives often cover up to preserve the family’s honor. Says Ragen: “You hear the Haredi women say: ‘I took the stain on me so that my husband could be as white as snow.’ ”

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Read Comments (32)  —  Post Yours »


 Jun 01, 2008 at 10:56 AM Anonymous Says:

While we can all agree that hiding abuse is terrble this will just be another excuse for gender equality feminazis to gleefully emerge from their stinking filthy rat holes to further erode any vestiges of tahara in Klal Yisroel.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 11:15 AM Anonymous Says:

Who elected this author of trashy romance novels to be the spokesmouth for all Orthodox women?


 Jun 01, 2008 at 11:19 AM Anonymous Says:

"Says Ragen: “You hear the Haredi women say: ‘I took the stain on me so that my husband could be as white as snow.’ “

I have never, EVER heard a Haredi woman say anything like this.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 11:37 AM a Traveler Says:

A'kitzur the truth hurts. We hear allegations like this, most of us knowing its true, and these are the only complaints you can come up with? Shame on you. Even if Ragen does not speak for the Charedi Jewish community, it is time to do something about this. It is rampant and wide spread.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 11:50 AM Anonymous Says:

Whle there is definitely a lot of abuse that gets shoved under the rug,the objectivity of this article is called into question when a famous Charedi basher like Naomi Ragen is the spokeperson on this issue.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 11:54 AM Anonymous Says:

Who is in more of a position to educate families and put a stop to thiese terrible things, the rabbeim and educators in the community or some gossip monger who makes a living by entertaining people with abuse fiction? This woman does not want the abuse to stop, she wants more and more of it so she can make more and more money from it. How are abuse victims helped by her? Their suffering goes straight into her bank account.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:00 PM moshe mulva Says:

The kind of lifestyle these people promote...husband learning full-time...wife cleans house, cares for kids, goes out to work...Gee, what's wrong with that picture? Never in Klal Yisroel have the women been abused by alleged halachic imperatives...


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:10 PM Anonymous Says:

I would really like to know if the situation is any better at the modern orthodox community the ones who want equal rights, if you look you find.I'm not naive and I know that there are many unfortunate incidents going on by the ultra orthodox community but to speak out against them? you're not any better.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:16 PM Anonymous Says:

What is the most effective way to stop abuse? What are secular Jews and non-Jews doing to prevent abuse? Is there a community on earth that has been successful at preventing abuse? Instead of beating up the messenger, why not look for solutions?


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:18 PM Another Ashkenazic Yid Says:

Everybody should stop pointing fingers at everyone else and start cleaning their own house. It unfortunately exists in every society. The issue is how it is dealt with- THAT it is dealt with.

And in many groups, it isn't dealt with at all or is dealt with inadequately.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:31 PM Chayim Lybish Says:

I'm pleasantly surprised Time Magazine said things like: "The majority of ultra-orthodox families are orderly and loving..." In the old days they wouldn't miss a chance to bash anything religious, especially those silly Chasidim. B'chlal there's been a shift towards respect in the media in recent years with regards to faith.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:37 PM Babishka Says:

What is the most effective method of dealing with these problems?


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:48 PM FocusOnFacts Says:

The ISSUE is the amount of abuse ongoing(and the fact that it exists at all) and the foolish additonal abuse heaped on the victim sby well meaning but misguided people who do not report or condemn and are not iwlling to tetsify against these reshawyim.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 12:51 PM V. Upset Says:

When you want to hold on to a lemon so it shouldn't drop, you hold tight. If you hold too tight, the juice will start to squirt out.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 01:06 PM moshe mulva Says:

What's wrong with truth-telling? A lifestyle that, in some cases, is abusive towards women is is need of corrective action?...


 Jun 01, 2008 at 01:21 PM M.P. Says:

There is no doubt that there are sexually confused individuals in our community.

There is no proof that this disease is any worse in our community as the writer above implies, but it sure sounds worse when the perpetrator hides behind a hasidic mantel.

This topic has been on the headlines lately, and many found a stage on this issue but little has changed.

A lot of the paranoia in our community stems from the fear of implicating the innocent.

There are many issues in dealing with these cases,and it should be dealt by professionals.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 01:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Is there a central Heimishe place that we can trust when we see abuse going on? What about mental abuse? It's because we can't possibly trust the system that things get swept under the rug. Perhaps our "leaders" can get together and work on this very vital issue.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 01:52 PM Anonymous Says:

The abuse issue has reared its ugly head. And it will continue to avoid being addressed properly by citing the PC terms and phrases such as “shidduchim”, “mesira”, “protect the reputations of the families”, “don’t wash dirty linen in public”, and “don’t let the secular systems of police and court manage these affairs”. It is as if we continue to live in the delusion that we have any clout in establishing rules and their enforcement by using community resources, Rabbonim, and batei din.

I would bet that there are many times when accusations of abuse are either overstated or plainly false. After all, just the allegation is enough to ruin someone’s reputation forever. But we are notoriously ineffective at protecting our young by removing pedophiles from the community, even those who have been convicted and admitted their wrongs. We still listen to the line, “I did teshuvah”, as if any member of the human race is allowed to base their halachos of how to interact on something that is limited to being “bein odom lamokom”.

The focus on the messengers, some of the individuals quoted in the article, is misplaced. One does not need to respect them at all. However, there is a painful reality that a single pedophile can ruin the lives of so many people. There is a clear halacha of rodef that is often cited when discussing the issue in general, but nearly always brushed aside when we have a true perpetrator. Why – dear Rabbonim, why?


 Jun 01, 2008 at 02:00 PM Anonymous Says:

Don't blame the Rabanim, Don't blame the schools & Don't blame the media!
There are all sorts of problems in every community. The issue is how to deal with them.
If we're going to continue living our lives consistantly influenced by what 'the Jonses' may say or think, the future issues that will face our commynity will only pale to the present ones.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 03:13 PM Anonymous Says:

From the article:

Social workers at Jerusalem's shelter for battered Haredi women say that family violence OFTEN erupts during the ritual Shabbat dinner, when all children are gathered — tempers flare over mundane arguments and the husband strikes his wife.

Often? I think that's rubbish!


 Jun 01, 2008 at 03:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Also from the article:

"many Jewish feminists say that women are MORE REPRESSED THAN EVER inside Israel's Haredi community. Anat Zuria, a respected filmmaker who focuses on the Haredim, says that many Haredi now believe that, according to Biblical prophecy, Judgment Day is fast approaching. "The Haredi are becoming more Messianic, and they believe the Messiah will only come if there's purity and modesty among women," she says. To that end, boys and girls are segregated early on."

MORE REPRESSED THAN EVER? I think that's more rubbish!


 Jun 01, 2008 at 03:45 PM ploni almoni Says:

If we're going to continue living our lives consistantly influenced by what 'the Jonses' may say or think, the future issues that will face our community will only pale to the present ones. Just because the rebbi wears a long black frock everyday everywhere he goes,and a big black round hat and perhaps an expensive fur shtraymel-hat on Shabbos,with a long beard and a fluent Yiddish,does not make it OK for him to fondle and cuddle with little boys and rape girls. It does not make him innocent of beating his wife and ordering her around.It's not supposed to be talked about.The rabbi will tell you, 'es passtn nicht' 'to discuss it,so on it goes,even in the yeshiva building.People think that a person dressed a certain way behaves accordingly,but it is not always the case. When something happens,it is even more shocking.We don't expect it to happen,so we don't believe it when we hear about it.
06-01-2008 - 2:00 PM


 Jun 01, 2008 at 03:46 PM Babishka Says:

Jewish feminists are enraged that their "message" has failed to attract women from the Haredi community.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 03:46 PM Bernard Antin Says:

Clearly even one incident of abuse is too many. The several that have come to light recently while reflecting elements that cross the line between extreime and the pathological thereby placing them beyond the pale of haradei society. Even so the community needs to self -examine and choose to improove.
That being said Ms. Ragen has a long standing bone to pick with the Haredi community which casts much of her opinions as being suspect.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 04:06 PM Anonymous Says:

Although there are abuse cases that fall throught the cracks, anybody who is involved in communal leadership knows that there are plenty of cases that are known about and dealt with.
but due to the nature of these cases, even then they are kept quiet. so no one really knows what percentage of cases are ignored by the leadership and which are dealt with


 Jun 01, 2008 at 06:26 PM Babishka Says:

You know, Time Magazine ran a very similar article about this exact topic almost 10 years ago. And guess who they consulted as their "Haredi expert"? The "expert's" solution: Haredim have too many babies.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 06:59 PM Anonymous Says:

How some of you posters just don't believe abuse exists in the Chassidishe world astounds me. Do you like having your heads in the sand? True, per capita there's probably less abuse within our lifestyle, but it DOES exist, & no amount of denial will change that fact. The question is, how can it be prevented in Charedi circles?

Once we figure that out, we will be well on the way to eliminating this cancer. Frum shelters in more remote places are a must. Women & kids need to feel safe from spousal/parental abuse, & sick pedophiles need to be prosecuted & locked away.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 07:57 PM Babishka Says:

Nobody is claim abuse doesn't exist. The question is how to stop it and how to prevent it. Here is what we know DOES NOT work:

1) Taking children away and giving them to secular Ashkenazi elitist to raise (the "Yemenite" solution of the 1950's)
2) Taking children away and giving them to Child Protective Services (The Texas FLDS case)
3) Taking children away and giving them to gay couples (The "Gay Right" to Adoption)
4) Prevent families from having too many babies (the People's Republic of China)
5) Anonymous phone calls to police accusing of abuse (Texas FLDS, again)
6) Training mikvah ladies to report unusual bruising (or it could be a bad reaction to a medication)
7) Community dealing with perverts as they deserve (use your imagination)


 Jun 01, 2008 at 09:33 PM st Says:

You may not like the messenger but dont shoot her . Truth hurts unfortunately. Apparently it bothers you that these deep secrets came out finally . Do something about it for a change instead of blaming the messenger you fool.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 11:06 PM Babishka Says:


"the messenger" is making big bucks writing abuse stories, makes money from the pain of victims but does NOTHING to help the victims or stop abuse. No different from the scumbags who stood around snapping pictures of Princess Diana while she was bleeding to death.


 Jun 01, 2008 at 11:33 PM Anonymous Says:

The message of the article is that abuse occurs. Fair enough.

However, the IMPLIED message is that abuse occurs in the chareidi community BECAUSE of the chareidi lifestyle.

Why else the references to men "stooped" in learning, the "18th century Polish" levush, the number of kids per family, etc? How is this relevant to the issue?

It isn't. Thus, instead of making the claim outright(that the chareidi lifestyle fosters abuse, or has more abuse), the article relies upon inuendo.


 Jun 02, 2008 at 12:38 PM Yitzchok K Says:

Any one who denies that the Rabbonim don't cover up scandal and sexual abuse lives in fantasy land. Witness the recent Menaheles of the Bais Yakov in Melbourne Australia who abused her talmidos and was given rush tickets by the Hanholo to flee to Israel rather than face the music.


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