Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Survivors Story:

I am a survivor of rabbinic sexual misconduct. I was subjected to sexual boundary violations, psychological and emotional abuse and a physical assault by a Reform rabbi in 1999 to 2001. These incidents occurred in Orange County, Calif. I am still married, only because I said no to the affair my then-married rabbi/abuser wanted. I celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary this November. Baruch Hashem that my husband and I are more in love and our marriage is stronger than ever, because of and in spite of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my rabbi. My daughter, who was 7 and 8 at the time of the abuse, has learned the hard way that you trust a rabbi only after he/she has earned your trust. She has learned that no matter what a person's profession is, trust only comes after they earn it. You never trust a person because of what they do for a living. Many adults know this but it's not a concept that most 7 year olds learn. Most of us teach our children to trust rabbi's. Sometimes that is a huge mistake. My husband, daughter and I learned the hard way that the often repeated statement: "Rabbi's don't do that!" is complete rubbish. Rabbi's do "DO THAT" and don't you forget it.

I want to use this blog to help other victim/survivors. The way I am trying to turn my abuse into a blessing is to reach out to others, utilize my experiences as a teaching tool to educate, assist and empower others. It's not easy looking back over the last six years but I think it will help me to continue to heal. I want to let other women know what I've been through and most important, to know that I'm OK today and I'm stronger than I ever was before. I have deep scars, I will probably never be able to hear the Reform liturgy without crying at certain points in the service, but I am OK. If I use what happened to me to help other victims/survivors then there is a reason for what occurred. It's a way to turn trauma into a blessing.

In 2001 I lost my shul and became spiritually homeless. I had most members of my spiritual family at my former shul turn their backs on me. They preferred to support and protect their rabbi, rather than help the victim who was abused. I reported my abuser to the Central Conference of American Rabbi's (CCAR) in 2002 and lived through a year-long investigation that was painful, insulting and demeaning. Their Ethic's Committee, headed by Rabbi Rosalind Gold, voted unanimously to censure my abuser in Aug. 2003, ordering him to undergo a complete psychological examination with therapy as appropriate. This terrified my rabbi/abuser who, instead of using this examination as the way to prove his innocence (prove that he was totaly 'normal' and well-adjusted), appealed the decision of the Ethic's Committee and asked the CCAR Board of Trustees to vote whether to uphold the decision or overturn it. An innocent man would welcome a psychological examination - why did this rabbi, who protests his complete innocence to this day, object so strenuously to seeing a shrink??? Methinks the man doth protest too much. True to form, the CCAR Board of Trustees (all rabbi's, mostly male) voted to overturn the censure and gave the rabbi/abuser a letter of reprimand instead - a letter that no one will see, buried in his permanent personnel file at the CCAR in New York.

I still hold a deep anger towards some of the rabbi's of the CCAR - those who choose to support 'their own' and work to silence the victims. The CCAR is a 'good old boys club' - I know this - I've been there, done that. Even most of the female rabbi's in the CCAR support the 'good old boys club' - if they don't, no doubt their careers would suffer. There are a few female (and male) rabbi's who buck the system and I will write about them in later posts. They are swimming against the tide and there are far too few of them to make any real changes in the way the CCAR addresses rabbinic sexual misconduct (RSM). They are trying to improve the reporting and investigation of RSM, but as long as the process is conducted by CCAR rabbi's and done in secret, there can be NO real progress. Rabbi's cannot police their own - it must be done from outside the CCAR. This is the only way to be completely fair and unbiased.

I've been shunned and ostracized by my own people because I had the courage to speak out against a repeat rabbi/abuser, in public, through Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) articles that ran in Jewish newspapers all over the U.S. and in many other countries - including Israel. In Southern California, they ran in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and the Orange County Jewish Journal in June/July 2004. I went to the press to warn other women in the community of the danger in our midst. I did this as Tochacha, it was NOT Lashon Hara, as many of my rabbi/abusers friends and supporters claim. I chose to throw away my families privacy in order to ensure that the women of my community knew what this rabbi was capable of, what he'd done in the past and what he could very well do again - if he does not seek treatment, which I doubt he ever will. I went to the press after the CCAR Board of Trustees voted to overturn the censure and give my abuser a useless, confidential letter of reprimand. The CCAR Board voted in Dec. 2003, behind my back, without my knowledge, in direct violation of the CCAR published rules on Ethic's violations. I protested and was granted a redress. The CCAR Board voted again in June 2004. I went to the press before the second vote because of the biased, secretive way the CCAR Board had treated my case and to warn other women about this rabbi. I knew that due to the way my abuser was earning a living back in 2004, he was even more of a danger to women and must be stopped somehow.

This rabbi was conducting a pastoral counseling business, which he started after resigning from the temple where he abused me. This meant that he had complete, unsupervised access to troubled, vulnerable women in closed-door pastoral counseling sessions. I was abused during pastoral counseling sessions, where I asked the rabbi for help with some marital problems I was having. I knew that his new business venture made about as much sense as an alcoholic owning a liquor store - with far more disastrous consequences. His resignation from the temple in Feb. 2003 occurred just as the CCAR's fact finding team began to ask very uncomfortable questions about a sexual harassment lawsuit in his past, where he was named as a defendant. He resigned from his post as religious leader after thirteen years on the Bimah, at the Board of Trustees meeting, a few days after being questioned by the CCAR fact finding team - yet he says his resignation had nothing to do with the investigation of my complaint against him. This rabbi is a skilled liar and has an uncanny knack of being able to perform damage control, talking his way out of trouble. He is also frighteningly good at the grooming and gradual seduction of his chosen victims. This is why I went to the press and opened myself up to ridicule and shunning.

I will close for now. In future posts I will allow my story to unfold and hopefully it will be helpful to at least one victim/survivor.



  • At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am amazed at your courage to speak out publicaly against your abuser. I am living in an orthodox community in Israel and I know women here whose lives have been threatened as a way to silence them. In my case I have been ostrisized from more than one community for speaking my truth and trying to help future victims of my father. It's scary and emotionally draining.

  • At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Shofar Shy said…

    Your story sounds familar to mine.

    But my rapist was orthodox and is today a big shot rabbi.

    He heads a major organization and no one will say anything to him.

    He is too powerful.

  • At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    have you ever heard from your abuser that to say anything about them would be Lashon Hara? Mine did that - and included some texts about "even if its true!" from ohr.edu. I almost fainted. I quoted Leviticus back to him though.

    I am going to tell this group about your site:



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