Elster's World

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Lost Boys (Part II)

My buddy Raanan sent me this today. Sadly, I cannot say I’m shocked by this article. There was a time in my life when my initial response to something like this would be shock and outrage, followed by a healthy dose of denial and disbelief.

Unfortunately, I know too much now. Maybe I haven’t witnessed the personal horrors associated with sexual abuse or any of the topics I discussed in The Lost Boys (and Girls) but that doesn’t mean that I can even pretend that they are not prominent problems facing Orthodox Judaism.

Don’t get me wrong, after reading Robert Kolker’s article, On Bended Knee in New York Magazine, all I know is that Yehuda Kolko is probably guilty as sin. I also believe that Kolko is not an isolated incident. However, Mr. Kolker sets forth that the problem of sexual abuse in the ultra-orthodox community is rampant. To sum up, he brings the following proofs – (i) a lot of people told him this is true and (ii) there’s some Jewish blogger who writes about this and gets a lot of anonymous responses from people who have been abused. Not exactly rock solid evidence. And in fact, I believe that New York Magazine jumped all over Kolko’s case and used it as a pretext to smear the orthodox-Jewish community as a whole. Kolker’s whole article has a nice healthy dose of self-hating quality that it left an extremely bad taste in my mouth.

That being said, I still believe that the problem of sexual abuse is extremely prevalent in society as a whole and in the orthodox Jewish world as well. The article makes certain points about a “look the other way” society that I know to be true in other instances and I firmly believe exists here as well.

Honestly, I read that article and I felt sick. Sick for abused kids, sick for a society that let it happen (and worse, covers it up) and sick for our world. Every time a child is molested, another soul is destroyed. Yes corny, but true nonetheless. Every battered woman is a weakened spirit. Every Lost Boy (or Girl) is contributing to the destruction of the Jewish community, a weakening of the links in the chain.

But anger fades and a feeling of emptiness enters in its place. Can this problem be solved? Not if it never sees the light of day. Not if community leaders, blinded by a fear of how the outside world may react, decide that the best policy is one of deception - of lies and cover ups - of forcing people into submission with threats and strong-arm tactics.

Who will step forward into the shadow world and take a stand? Who has the ability? Only the community leader rabbis. The onus is on them. No one else has the power and influence to break the cycle. And they should be called out by community leaders - and damned if they then turn their backs.

What is worse – the breaking of the cone of silence or the destruction of the innocent? Is the corruption so deep that by opening Pandora’s Box, the floodgates will burst forth? Is the problem really that bad? Is the wellspring of evil so deep that it has no end?

I hope that the answer to these questions is a resounding no. But it scares me to think otherwise. It hurts me to think that right now – at this very moment – somewhere a young boy is the object of improper affection, that a man is beating his wife, that a mother is emotionally crippling her daughter. Blink – another second – another instance of abuse. Another of the walking dead created by someone in a position of trust - A father, a mother, a shrink, a teacher a rebbe. How much worse when the damage is done by such a godly figure.

There’s nothing left to say. The rest of this post is a fictional account of what this horror might be. Please feel free to stop reading now:

“Adam, it’s four o’clock,” his mother shouted from the kitchen. “Don’t keep Mr. Parker waiting.” The dreaded words. Uttered by Adam’s mother twice weekly. Mr. Parker. Tutor and big buddy. Soul killer.

Adam takes the muted gray elevator to the lobby, dread a living hand wrapped around his scorched heart. Through glass doors, Mr. Parker’s gleaming silver Audi. Tears burn red-rimmed eyes. “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. I’m just twelve.” The shout doesn’t come but the throat burns as though the scream was long and raw for all of Sixteenth Avenue to hear. “I don’t want to go.” That does come, but only in a whisper. Mrs. Murphy looks at the boy oddly as he passes (“he looks like a damn ghost” she thinks to herself), but collects her mail and disappears back into her corner of the world.

Parker’s car is immaculate. It smells of polish and leather. Parker smiles and makes small talk, but the boy hears only the beating of his small, broken heart – the thudding in his ears like the ticking of a clock winding down to zero hour.

The progression is the same, so rote that Adam no longer can discern truth from reality. Books on the dinette table, then a walk to the bedroom. The boy stands motionless and Parker whispers in his ear – clothes are discarded – unspeakable acts occur. Adam is not there. He is in the place where he goes every Monday and Wednesday at this time. He is staring out the window and a distant point in the horizon. The world is a tiny dot, a point on the cell tower in the city far away. The whole world has shrunk down to this point. In this point there is no shame, no pain, no vulgar hands and whispers in the ear. No shudders and moans from a man to a boy.

And just like that a final convulsion, the ordeal is over - the point recedes and the older man smiles. “Ok, let’s hit the books Adam. You need to get your grades up, your mom is worried about you.” Though the cause of the worry sits across from Adam and tutors him in math and social studies. The cause of worry tells him that he’ll study better if they just take care of the other thing first. The cause of worry tells him that if he ever says anything, the cause will kill his mother.

Another day, another Lost Boy.


  • I've known a few Lost Children (mostly girls). A friend who suffers from severe anorexia (she's fighting it, but right now she's not doing so great), friends who cut, friends who were abused by parents or other authority figures, friends who drifted (or were pushed) off the derech because no one who could help them would.

    My heart breaks for every one of them. And my heart screams in fury at every parent, every educator, that directly or indirectly perpetrated these crimes against the future of the Jewish people--either directly, by pushing their children or students over the edge ("You know, Shprintze, you'll never get a shidduch if you're FAT!" "You're an apikores for asking that, I should kick you out of class!" "You're a bad child, you deserve to get hurt." etc) or indirectly, by not intervening when it was in their power to change the situation.

    By Blogger Scraps, at 11:07 AM  

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