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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Raffi Bilek

Why Do Orthodox Communities Still Cover Up Sexual Abuse?

I recently came across this article about Deborah Feldman, the formerly Orthodox woman who wrote a famously unflattering book about her departure from her community.  I know it’s old news, but there is a part in here that really supports the point I made in an earlier post, namely that Jewish identity in insular communities is often built on sand.  Here the author (who I am neither condemning nor condoning) remarks on the phenomenon of “irrational anger” that I highlighted in situations of abuse:

I didn’t think the book would get this much publicity, but I knew that I would get a lot of hate mail. When people do lash out at me, the funny thing that comes to mind is that five or six years ago, if someone had done what I’m doing now, I would have lashed out too. I would have felt such irrational anger if someone was out there making my life look that sad and pathetic, and making me feel that manipulated and powerless, I would be furious! And I’d do everything I could to justify my own life and why I was staying in it.

A similar idea was expressed by Judy Brown, author of Hush, who also left the Chassidic community, in a recent interview on NBC which is regrettably no longer available on YouTube.  In explaining the reaction and the dilemma of the frum community, she says, “If our way of life doesn’t prevent our men from turning into beasts, then what’s the point of our way of life?” I submit that it is this very kind of thinking that forces the less intellectually honest to annihilate victims rather than own up.

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