Breaking Silence (Translated from Hebrew to English)
The Awareness Center wants to thank Na'ama Yehuda for the translation of the following article.
(Translated from Hebrew to English)
December, 28 2006
As a Charedi (ultra-orthodox) child he had been through a series of molestations and attempted rapes. Even after he left the religious life, he suffered from nightmares and sleepless nights. Now Menachem Lang decided to gather his courage, confront his attackers, and force the Charedi world to deal with its demons. Dressed as a Charedi, he infiltrated Bnei-Brak and followed them--until he managed to squeeze an detailed admission and request for forgiveness; all in front of the cameras.
Menachem Lang was born as a Charedi in Bnei-Brak. Already at a young age he was discovered as someone who possessed a unique voice for Chazanut (leading the community in religious song)and became the wonder child of the Charedi world. However, alongside the success, Lang was hiding a relentless dark secret.
"The first time was when I was 7 years old," tells Lang. "The attacker took me to the bathroom and spent five hours with me there. He rubbed against me and touched me, breathed like a drunkard. I just lowered my eyes and waited for it to be over." This week, almost 20 years later, Lang went back to the streets of Bnei-Brak--and this time as a non-religious Jew dressed as a Charedi--in order to confront the people who sexually assaulted him.
Menachem, 25 years old, is an actor in the Ensemble of Herzelia Theater, went on the shuddering trip into his past accompanied by Channel 10 reporter Guy Lerer. "I always wanted to do this," he says, "it hurt me that these people are walking free. It haunted me nights, but I didn't have the courage to do this because I didn't have anyone to do it with. I made the decision when Lerer came to me to prepare a report on the show I participate in. I told him about my dream and he immediately told me 'we're doing this!'. During the shooting we walked into the Satmar borough dressed as Charedis, the same Chassidic group that sent its people to meet with Ahmad Nigahd. It is a hard, violent place."
"I am regretful!"
About two weeks agog, Landg and Lerer, outfitted with a hidden camera, arrived in a neighborhood in Bnei-Brak. He waited under one of the houses, dressed as a Charedi. A few minutes later, a familiar figure approaches up the street. Menachem identifys "A", the man who attacked him violently and molested him when he was 13. He goes to him and calls him to stop. "A" turns and flees, Menachem runs after him. Several tens of meters later, he catches him, and the two begin to fight. When "A" understands that he has no place to run to, he stops, and after he calms down a bit an exchange develops between Menachem and him.
A: "I admit that I used to mess (with children) but three years already I hadn't messed with any one."
Menachem: "How old are you today?"
A: "I'm 37."
Menachem: "Until the time you were 34 you touched children?"
A: "I did to you what I did to you in the Synagogue. Since I did to you I hadn't touched anyone."
Menachem: "Why did you do (this)?"
A: "Folly. Everyone has a Yetzer-Ha'ra (an urge to do bad).
Menachem: "With how many children have you done this?"
A: "I didn't do a lot (of times/of kids), I did with two-three, not more than that. I repented and I don't do it and don't touch anyone."
Menachem: "You know why I don't believe you? Because I can see in your face that you are not sorry."
This is the moment when "A" loses his cool and yells in the middle of the street: "I am regretful! You want to murder my life?" At this point a large crowd gathers in the street. Menachem and the filming crew, afraid of being Lynched, leave the place. Later on, Menachem confronts another attacker, who offers to compensate for the molestation with payment, as is customary in the Charedi world. Menachem, surprisingly enough, accepts the offer.
That very day Menachem receives a threatening phone call from the Bnei-Brak Modesty Patrols. "I head people talking about it and they decided to go to the end," whispers the voice on the other end of the line, "if this stops, it'll stop. If this happens again, there will be a battle against battle here. You want this? Be our guest."
"Entering Satmar was when I felt that we might be crossing a line," tell Lerer, "there were factors in the Charedi world who told us that even they would be afraid to go in there. We were dressed as Charedis, but you can say that the costume wasn't all that credible. If they were to expose us, we wouldn't have left there alive."
"It is common in the Charedi world"
Five years ago Menachem left religious life. Now it is much easier for him to talk of the atrocities that he underwent in Bnei-Brak, this that repeated themselves over years, by the hands of a number of people.
"The second time it happened to me, at age 10, a man I didn't know tempted me and got me into a stairwell," he reconstructs the event, "there he undid my pants, touched me, and tried to enter me with his penis. I will not forget that in the midst of all this he was talking Gemara with me, probably to distract me while he was doing what he was doing. It was terrible. I told about it to an older and qualified man. He caught the attacker and took him to a very known rabbi, who takes care of such matters. Unfortunately, I saw him (the attacker) walking free the very next day. I found out that he was the son of a very known 'Admor' (congregation leader rabbi), which meant that nothing could be done to him."
According to Menachem, sexual assault of children isn't a rare thing in the Charedi world, and many cases are silenced within the community. It was the reason why he didn't tell anyone about other events that took place over the years. "I'm not alone," He says, "assaulting children is a common thing in the Charedi world, almost accepted. Everyone knows, but they try to take care of it internally. To go to the police? It is out of the question."
Since the brave journey back to the world that abused him, Menachem has been exposed to tens of additional phone threats. "Bnei-Brak is on fire," he says, "They feel that this is one of the hardest things that ever hit them. I'd already heard about organized plans to come and exact revenge upon me, but I'd also heard about those who support me. They say that no one ever stopped it from within. It is about time that someone brings an end to this from outside."
Even though he has filmed admissions from his attackers, Menachem decided not to place a complaint with the police. He doesn't deny that one of those reasons is the many threats he receives. "If a complaint is made with the police, I will need to leave the country (Israel) the next day," Menachem explains. "It is not something I want to do. Anyway, I think that the report will do far better service and maybe will result in tens of poor children not having to go through the same hell as I did."
The full story, Friday 12-29-06, on "Shee-Shee" with Raviv Droker and Ofer Shelach on Channel 10.