Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Rabbi Manis Friedman, a prominent rabbi from the Hasidic Chabad Lubavitch movement who appeared in a video recently posted on YouTube minimizing the harm caused by sexual molestation, has apologized for what he called his “completely inappropriate use of language.”
“I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives,” Friedman wrote in an email to The Journal. “In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.
The controversial video was first posted on YouTube on Jan. 29 and had been viewed over 4,500 times as of Jan. 31. In it, Friedman, the founder of an educational institute for Jewish women in Minnesota, appeared dismissive of victims of sexual abuse, at one point suggesting that the long-term effects of molestation were no worse than those of diarrhea.
“You’re not that damaged, cut it out,” Friedman said in the video, speaking of victims of sexual molestation.
“Zay a mensch,” the rabbi added, a Yiddish phrase that roughly translates to, “Act like a human being.”
[The Article Continues Below.]
At a time when some leaders in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities are beginning to speak out against sexual abuse and the covering up of molestation by rabbis and authority figures, Friedman’s videotaped remarks drew fierce criticism from around the world.
“Rabbi Friedman's remarks in this instance betray a long-standing, serious problem within Orthodox communities, a minimization sexual abuse and insensitive, dismissive treatment of survivors,” wrote Chaim Levin, a gay Jewish activist, in the Huffington Post.
Friedman founded Bais Chana, a Lubavitch educational institute for Jewish women in Twin Cities, Minn., in 1971. According to its Web site, Friedman still serves as the lead teacher at Bais Chana, which offers programs for women of all ages, including a summertime program for girls aged 15-18.
At one point during the eight-minute video, a man off-screen asks Freidman about a situation faced by one of his own students. The student was dumped by a girl he was seeing after revealing that he had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a family member for two years.
In his response, Friedman draws a parallel between having been molested and having diarrhea, suggesting that victims of sexual abuse would be better off if they kept quiet.
“What’s wrong with him is that he mentioned it,” Freidman said.
“Do you have to tell her that you once had diarrhea?” he added. “It’s embarrassing, but it’s nobody’s business.”
Manny Waks, an Australian Jewish survivor of abuse who founded a group for other Jewish survivors of abuse, also took offense at Friedman’s remarks, and has reportedly filed suits in rabbinic courts in New York and Sydney rabbinic court, aimed at removing Friedman from his leadership positions.
“He needs to be stripped of any leadership position he holds,” Waks told SBS, “he ultimately needs to apologi[z]e and retract those statements... and undertake some sort of educational session so he is aware of the impact of child sexual abuse.”
In the apology emailed to the Journal late on Jan. 31, Friedman said he was “deeply sorry,” and called molestation “a devastating crime.”
“Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately,” Friedman wrote. “Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.”
Waks welcomed Friedman's apology, calling it a "positive first step" in an email.
"I hope Rabbi Friedman contacts me so we can have a discussion about the impact of abuse, and for him to hear first-hand of the damage that he has caused," Waks wrote on Jan. 31.
Waks said that in light of Friedman's apology, his organization would "reconsider [its] position" before pursuing legal action in rabbinic court.
The full text of Friedman’s apology is below:
I want to apologize for my completely inappropriate use of language when discussing sexual abuse. I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.
For that I am deeply sorry.
Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenseless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which they live. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.
From now on, I will make sure to make those points absolutely clear. This is about more than regret. The subject can't be neglected.
I hope over time to earn the forgiveness of those who were hurt by my words.
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December 21, 2012 | 3:17 pm
Posted by JewishJournal
Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld revisit Abbott & Costello's classic "Who's On First?" routine, where we finally get to meet the team's first-baseman "Who," second-baseman "What," and third-baseman "I Don't Know."
December 20, 2012 | 12:33 pm
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
Former Chicago Cub Adam Greenberg has signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com reports.
Greenberg was infamously hit in the head by a pitch in his first major league at-bat and has been struggling to make it back to the Big Show for the last seven years.
The Miami Marlins made headlines last season by signing Greenberg to a one-day contract, giving the once bright prospect a second chance to hit in the majors. Although he struck out, he donated his one-day salary to the Marlins Foundation which donated to the Sports Legacy Institute, an organization that advances the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.
December 19, 2012 | 9:00 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
As chants of “Enough is enough” rang out, clergy from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities and members of faith-based congregations gathered on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall to remember the victims of the Newtown, Conn. attack and denounce gun violence. Taking place on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 19, the interfaith prayer vigil drew more than 60 residents of L.A. County and beyond.
“As we continue to deal with the incredible grief and the profound sense of vulnerability in the aftermath of this tragedy, we also remember that we are not powerless, that we can and we must work together to keep our streets and our schools safe," said Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of IKAR.
(To read the entirety of Brous’ statement click here).
Rabbis in attendance included Brous, Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center and Rabbi Jonathan Klein (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice).
Participants carried signs that read ”Love people not guns,” "Grief compassion action" and “stop gun violence." Others carried candles.
Twenty pairs of children shoes were lined up in a row, one for each of the children killed in the Dec. 14 massacre, when a gunman entered an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. and opened fire.
In addition to the children, all first-graders, the Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, killed six of the school’s staff members and his mother. After he attacked the school, Lanza killed himself.
During Wednesday’s event at City Hall, Rabbi Grater led the prayer, “el male rachamim,” which is recited during Jewish funerals, and he translated it into English. A moment of silence followed. Two women shared personal stories about losing loved ones – one a fiancé, the other her child - to gun violence.
The Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, which is comprised of social justice groups from all three major religions and LA Voice, a citywide coalition of faith leaders, families and communities, organized the vigil, which began at 5 p.m and lasted approximately 30 minutes,
Pastor Ryan Bell (Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church), Pastor Shane Scott (Macedonia Baptist Church in Watts) and Salam Al-Marayati , president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council also turned out, among other clergy members.
Woodland Hills resident Virginia Classick brought and passed out candles.
“People, families especially need to be educated about the risk of having a gun that’s accessible…and the other part is legislative, “ said Classick, a member of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, during an interview. “There is reasonable, sensible gun control legislation that does not infringe with the rights of people who are able, if they choose, to own a gun.”
December 19, 2012 | 8:43 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Appearing at an interfaith prayer vigil held at L.A. City Hall on Dec. 19, Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of progressive congregation IKAR, denounced gun violence. She also expressed the need for the nation to come together to prevent the type of incidents that took place on Dec. 14, when a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and took the lives of 20 first-graders. She spoke for nearly three minutes. Read her entire statement below.
This tragedy was not a natural disaster. This was not an inexplicable accident. This was an entirely predictable response to the terrifying and toxic mix, the combination of elements, the reckless and reprehensible proliferation of guns, which today are more easily accessible than Sudafed.
This is about the shameful and inadequate national treatment strategy around treatment of mental illness.
And this is about a culture that celebrates violence and brutality.
This is a toxic mix that erupted on Friday [Dec. 14] and is certain to erupt again—maybe this time in Los Angeles; maybe tomorrow; maybe in a couple of weeks.
But our tradition teaches in the Talmud that when a tragedy occurs, we are not allowed to shut our doors and our windows and eat and drink and say, ‘Well, all is well with me and my family.’
We are scared, we are in anguish, but we are part of a holy network of human beings – Jews and Christians and Muslims; African-Americans and Latinos; Democrats and Republicans – who care deeply about our children, who care deeply about our own safety and security and who are no longer willing to stand by and allow this to go unaddressed.
The President said on Sunday [Dec. 16] that our job is first and foremost caring for our children. ‘If we don’t get that right,’ he said, ‘then we don’t get anything right.’
And if we look honestly at what is going on in this country, we are not getting that right.
First and foremost, our obligation is to our children. The gun that was used in Newtown was a Bushmaster, a weapon whose ad slogan says ‘Consider your man-card reissued.’
We’re here today to fulfill the obligations we have to our children by saying that violence does not make you a man. Compassion does.
We are here to fulfill our obligations to our children by saying that access to magazine clips does not make us free, but working together to build a society that affirms the sanctity of all human life does.
We are here today to fulfill those obligations to our children by saying that we are unwilling to sit and wait for the next tragedy to occur, for the next time when the child-sized coffins need to be special ordered because there simply are not enough in stock.
As we continue to deal with the incredible grief and the profound sense of vulnerability in the aftermath of this tragedy, we also remember that we are not powerless, that we can and we must work together to keep our streets and our schools safe, to keep our malls and playgrounds safe from gun violence.
We do this for our children, we do this for all of us. This is what it means to be God’s partners in bringing about a world redeemed.
Let us say, ‘Amen.’
December 11, 2012 | 11:34 am
Are Israel's recent publicity problems finally over? Or did they just get worse?
In the wake of the vote granting the Palestinians upgraded status at the United Nations, and just days after "Sesame Street" actress Sonia Manzano called Israelis “bullies,” Honey Boo Boo of TLC reality show fame offered a respite.
Adi Segal, an Israeli fan of the "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" star, sent her a letter from a bomb shelter during the recent Gaza conflict.
"We watch your show every time we feel terrorized and threatened and you light up our faces," wrote Segal, a college student. "We watch it in our bomb shelters and panic room, and rejoice in the happiness and joy you spread. When you are playing redneck games, eating sketti or dumpster diving, we feel like we are dumpster diving along your side and forget the sad reality that is outside. Your family is a shining beautimous beacon of hope for the Middle East."
In response, the toddler in tiara took a photo of herself with the letter and an inflatable hammer emblazoned with the Israeli flag and posted it on her Facebook page. Is this the next step in Israeli hasbarah? Is it connected to the recent firing of the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon?
Maybe next year we'll be able to watch “Land of Milk and Honey Boo Boo.”
December 3, 2012 | 10:27 am
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson vowed to spend as much as $100 million to defeat President Barack Obama and help the GOP take control of Congress. According to two GOP fundraisers with close ties to the Las Vegas billionaire, he made good on that promise -- and then some. Adelson ultimately upped the ante, spending closer to a previously unreported $150 million, the fundraisers said.
Adelson, a fierce critic of Obama’s foreign and domestic policies, has said that his humongous spending was spurred chiefly by his fear that a second Obama term would bring "vilification of people that were against him." As that second term begins, Adelson's international casino empire faces a rough road, with two federal criminal investigations into his business.
Read more at HuffingtonPost.com.
November 28, 2012 | 9:24 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
The brilliance of Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent Bloomberg News column on Palestinian statehood is only matched by the idiocy of most of the hundreds of comments that follow it. One day a PhD student in Jewish studies will write her thesis on what Internet commenting reveals about the state of the modern Jewish psyche. In the meantime, here’s my hypothesis: We need help.
Goldberg makes the argument that the surest path to Palestinian statehood is for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to demand full citizenship, including voting rights in Israeli elections. If Israel accedes, it soon becomes another Arab state (the 23rd, he notes). If it resists, it ends up as apartheid South Africa. The rest of the world and American Jews—whose support for Israel, I've long believed, is absolutely contingent on it remaining a democracy—would all but abandon a so-called democratic country that denies basic rights to its citizens.
Goldberg is not saying this is a good thing, or that a Palestinian state would live in peace and harmony with Israel, or any of the other things the commentrons attributed to him. Trust me, the guy gets it.
His point is that Israel has to choose between controlling the Palestinians and remaining a Jewish state. In 1967 Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol foresaw the same dilemma. Read your Oren. Read your Goremberg. Read your Goldberg. The Israeli Left re-pointed out the obvious, then the Center, then, when Sharon detached Israel from inside Gaza and Olmert sought a deal with Abbas, the Right. Netanyahu gets it too, but he hasn’t been able to find a way out that he believes secures Israel and/or his coalition.
All Goldberg is saying is if the Palestinians have time and bodies on their side: Israel doesn’t really want a couple million new Palestinian citizens, and it can’t force them onto Jordan or into Jordan (note to some commentrons: forced population transfers look very bad on CNN). So the Palestinians could just call Israel’s bluff: If you don’t want to grant us statehood, make us Israelis.
Why won’t the Palestinians take Goldberg’s advice? Because they and their Arab so-called allies prefer scoring points against Israel.
What would Israel do with a unilateral declaration of Palestinian Zionism? Shed territory, unilaterally, and fast. Israel would cut off hunks of the West Bank like bad meat. It would shut down settlements like they were Circuit Citys. It wouldn't be pretty-- the Palestinians would get the least Israel could possibly give-- but it would be done.
Or maybe Israel would then negotiate—though I doubt the Palestinians, with world opinion at their back, would be as amenable to compromise.
Who knows what would happen? But the simple act of demanding citizenship would create a firestorm. Asking for an upgrade in UN status? Here today, yawn tomorrow.
When Rob Eshman isn't leaping to the defense of Jeffrey Goldberg, he is tweeting @foodaism. Follow him there. Recipes included.