Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NAJC reflections/Response to JTS Investigation

From The Awareness Center's daily newsletter

NAJC reflections/Response to JTS Investigation
By Bonnie

January 15, 2007

In a room of Rabbis, cantors and chaplains, I shared that I’m doing my thesis on Healing from Incest in the Jewish Community. In the group, there was no response. When meeting one on one at meals, no one ask about my studies. Not a word of encouragement. As soon as I began to share about incest stories I had received from men and women around the world, the subject was changed to another, less painful subject. No one wanted to hear.

This weeks Jewish Journal of Los Angeles is displayed on the registration table. With the headline “Reining in Abuse” I felt an opening into uncovering what has been hidden. Eugene L. Meyer and Richard Greenberg presented the JTA investigation on clergy abuse in Judaism. I felt this was an idea whose time had finally come out in the open.
I was so moved by the writings and revelations of clergy abuse within the Jewish community. Someone was finally telling the truth. Someone had managed to put into print what has been taboo for so long. This article brings to light that Rabbis, Cantors and Jewish religious educators are just as capable of committing this horrendous sin of abuse. However, the darkness is still there for those of us who have survived incest within our own Jewish family, our own Jewish home.

I am attending my first conference of the National Association of Jewish Chaplain, held here in Redondo Beach. One of the first days session was entitled “Responding to Trauma”. The wording for the session stated, “this session will take a deeper look at trauma and its relation to providing pastoral care and pastoral education. Issues of context, methods and challenges will be explored”. I approached the presenter and ask if they would be addressing different types of trauma, specifically the trauma of incest and sexual abuse in the Jewish Community. The presenter took a step back, sighed and then responded, “that is not the approach for this session”.

I understand that there is trauma with the war in Israel or war anywhere. . I understand that there is trauma when dealing with any crisis or disaster. Hurricanes, tsunamis, and 9/11 brought traumas to individuals and communities that we had never seen so public before. Yet, there is another trauma within our Jewish community. There is the silent trauma that Jewish children, now adults survivors, who have had to live with the trauma of incest hidden within their souls.

I feel it is important that the Jewish community realized that one in three women, and one in seven men, have been sexually abused as some time during their childhood. Just as Jewish clergy are not immune from clergy abuse, the Jewish community as a whole is not immune to incest. Rabbis, Cantors and Chaplains need to confront their own feelings and fears about incest in order to provide pastoral care to their congregants in need of being heard.. This can not be pushed aside any longer.

Thirty years ago, I remember telling my Rabbi of my childhood abuse. He looked at me and said, “Your father must have been a very sick man”. That was the response. He offered an excuse for my father, the perpetrator, the pedophile, the abuser, and no words of comfort for me.

In fulfilling my requirements for graduation from The Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles I began my thesis project this past summer. Since that time I have received emails and phone calls from women and men in the Jewish community who are grateful, yes grateful, that I am giving them a place for their voice. When sharing their stories in the past, no one would believe them. I know this happens. I too am an incest survivor. I have been in the darkness. I have questioned where God was when the abuse was happening. I have struggled with fear, trust, love, and anger. I have immersed myself into many spiritual paths to healing, and found a way back to prayer in Judaism. I created healing rituals for myself, which I plan on sharing with others. Here at the age of 56, it has been a long and hard path, yet so worth it. Not long ago I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know there is possibility for others in healing from this trauma.

I see this article as the beginning of truth telling in the Jewish community. There is much more of this story to still be revealed.

Maybe next year, the NAJC will include “Healing from the Trauma of Incest in the Jewish family” as a topic of concern for discussion.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse/incest in a Jewish family, please share your story. Together our voices will become one. You are not alone.

Email: Bonny


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