Late at night when I think about how I am, I recognize the signs and symptoms.
- There is a sense of doom and foreboding.
- A raw, sarcastic humor. It bites.
- A harsh view of the world, combined with an odd kind of hope.
- Admiration for heroes. A view of heroes as individual, suffering crusaders.
- Deep emotion hidden behind a facade of indifference–or humor.
- Vigilance about “religious” sexual predators.
- Being “turned off” religiously, and yet somehow determined to talk about it.
- Pervasive disbelief in institutions and systems, and yet the desire to hold them accountable and make them better–possibly.
- Total disdain for hypocrites.
- Total disregard for authority that rests solely on formal authority.
- Looking for beacons of light in the crowd. A sign that others are real.
I believe I am part of a social cohort that thinks a certain way because of the times we lived in, and because of the things we have seen, and in many cases tragically experienced.
There is this term “OTD,” which stands for “Off the Derech,” meaning people who rejected religion, as if there is something wrong with them.
But I see the label OTD as a badge of suffering, suffering largely inflicted by the religious community itself, and it is for this reason that the label really disgusts me.
If you were not there, I can’t explain it to you adequately.
If you were not there, you did not go to the NCSY kumsitz, where we all sang songs of glory to God, hung out and ate pizza, and talked like kids do.
It was only decades later that I learned a noted NCSY rabbi and educator descended upon innocent kids, talking the spiritual talk in public while taking liberties that no adult should take with a child.
And he was only one of hundreds.
I look back on those times and remember them as somehow better, and more innocent.
And yet the crimes that were perpetrated are so heinous.
Before there was Jewish Community Watch, there was a book called Shonda, and an editor who supported victims named Gary Rosenblatt, and a researcher named Shmarya Rosenberg, whose blog Failed Messiah was sold but still available online, and The Awareness Center, with more than 500 names on a registry of “alleged and convicted offenders.”
Every single person who stood up to support victim of religious abusers is a hero. And many of them were bullied mercilessly by the community, stigmatized and blamed for having the gall to speak up.
Amid all the talk about which version of religion is superior–Ashkenazi or Sephardic, Chasidish or Litvak, Charedi or Yeshivish or Modern Orthodox, Orthodox or Reconstructionist or Conservative or Reform–I have to ask this question.
Why don’t we just go after the people who spend their lives groping kids? Prosecute them and put them in jail. Preferably for life.
The crime of child sexual abuse is more than just physical or emotional. It is the theft of a human soul.
I am grateful to HaShem every single day that I escaped the sexual and emotional torture that so many of my peers experienced, that they bore in tortured silence for so long.
And I pray, too, that He exacts a full measure of justice on behalf of them. That all of the perpetrators pay.
To make the victims whole again, to restore their innocence and capacity to have faith.
I am gratified to see that the Jewish religious community today is making strides–great strides–to recover from the sins of the past. Sins that rest on the shoulders of its leaders, and for which they should rightfully beg the victims for forgiveness.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal’s own. All rights reserved. Photo by Free-Photos via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)
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