Friday, April 18, 2008

Passover and Jewish Survivors of Child Abuse

Surviving Passover:
Jewish Survivors of Child Abuse (Incest, Emotional, Physical and Sexual Abuse)
© (2003, Revised 2006) by Na'ama Yehuda, MSC, SLP, TSHH and Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC
(Download PDF)

There are many issues surrounding holidays and childhood sexual abuse that have rarely, if ever been addressed in our communities. One of those issues pertains directly to surviving Jewish holidays.

It's not too surprising that many adult survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) have difficult times during Passover (Pesach), as this time of the year can bring up painful memories of families get together and that routines are changed. Plus there is the added stress of cleaning your home top to bottom, preparing, and "doing it right." These issues alone can be extremely stress producing; yet in a home where violence occurred, would most likely lead to an increase of abuse.

Parents who are already inclined to use their children as an outlet for emotions and urges, are even more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety.

Many survivors of childhood abuse report that they were abused more around and over a holiday period then any other time of the year. Remember Passover brings with it--on top of cooking and cleaning--an added financial burden.

This is written as a reminder to all survivors of child abuse -- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to emerge this time of year, even after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling.

It is not unusual for Survivors to experience an increase in disturbing thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of self-harm, even suicide, may be an issue. The important thing to remember is these feelings are about the past, the abuse is over, and that it is of utmost importance for you to be kind to and gentle with yourself.

Over the years we have spoken to many adult survivors who find it very painful to even consider going to a seder. This is OK. Someday you may feel different, but if the pain is too intense, it is important that you do things that can be healing. Set healthy boundaries for yourself and do what feels safe for you. If you have a rabbi that is sensitive to child abuse issues, discuss these issues with him or her.

One survivor shared that she felt uncomfortable not doing anything for Pesach, so she'd rent the "Ten Commandments" each year on Seder nights and watch it, forming her own ritual of remembering the events that lead to the Seder night. Another survivor would invite other Jewish Survivors over to her home and they would use "The Survivors Haggadah" for their services. Another person used the time before Pesach for "spring cleaning" her relationships--reconnecting with friends with whom she feels safe, airing out the achievements of the last year and making resolutions for added liberation from her past for the coming year. The survivors above found a way to celebrate a "modified" Pesach, but there are many others for who just try to survive this time of year by pretending that there is no such thing as Pesach.

The goal is for you to do things that are healing and brings about an emotional freedom. Remember you are not alone, not wrong, not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and if to celebrate the holiday.

Look into yourself and see what you need, then do what you can to do it. Be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments. And remember, when Bney-Israel left Egypt to walk toward a new era--they were walking from a place they knew, but was of pain, to a place unknown, but free. The essence of the Seder night is to remember, and ask why, and be expected to understand and participate only to the extent one can.

Have a gentle, safe holiday!

Passover Prayer On Behalf of Abused and Neglected Children
(Pesach, 2007) Author Unknown
(Download pdf)

The prayer below was written for protective parents and their loved ones, child abuse advocates, and all who care about children to recite at their passover seder. A spring onion is added to the seder plate, or placed on the table as a symbol.

The Passover Seder is a time to celebrate our freedom and remember those who still struggle for the freedoms they deserve. Freedom from tyranny, violence, and oppression is a core value for us as our ancestors have known slavery, and our heart goes out to the enslaved and the imprisoned of any race, culture or creed. Tonight we remember a group of individuals often forgotten, trapped by a kind of slavery so cruel, that society often looks the other way---children (including adult survivors of child abuse) enslaved in lives of abuse.

Today I remember ____________ (fill in name of a child or children you know trapped in lives of abuse. or substitute... "these children.") Though many of us have tried to free them, the Pharaohs in our generation have blocked our efforts or looked the other way. Our hearts ache knowing the pain these children live with day after day. They are not forgotten. With this prayer we share our commitment to find a way to liberate them from their lives of exploitation and tyranny.

This spring onion on the Seder plate is our symbol for these children and their plight. The shape of the onion reminds us of the whips used on slaves to keep them subjugated. The tears we shed from the onion remind us of the silent tears of these children waiting for rescue. The newness of the onion reminds us of the promise of hope, that one day these children can grow healthy and free from the tyranny they are living with today.

We pray for the wisdom to find an effective path to liberate these children. We pray for the courage to stand up to the Pharaoh's of our generation and speak the truth of what we know. We pray for the strength and fortitude to keep on fighting for their freedom.

May these children (including adult survivors) soon know the sweetness of freedom from violence and oppression and share Passover Seders and other celebrations of freedom, safely, with loved ones next year!


Blogger Michael said...


My name's Michael Schulman. As some of you know - from seeing a trailer - I'm currently filming a documentary on sexual abuse in the Jewish community entitled Without A Voice.

I started this film at the end of 2005. It's taken almost three years to get the film to the development stage with a production company with the hopes of getting funding for the feature. However, the one concern is - will we be able to get survivors who are willing to show their face and talk on camera? That's only a question you (the survivors) can answer.

Out of all the people who come to this blog and others who are victims, lawyers, or supporters there must be at least a few who would be willing to show their face and get their story out there. I'm looking for those few. Please anyone who knows anyone - let them know about this project.

Of-course if you are a survivor and would like to talk without your face being seen whether shadowed or blurred out - that is also needed and will be considered.

This project is what we all need. It will have the power to create awareness and change that is so desperately needed in the community. I hope it will not take another three years to see this film to fruition. With your help we can speed up the process.

So, if you are interested or you know anyone who might be please email me ASAP at (subject - Without A Voice).

You can be from NY,LA, ISRAEL,CANADA - it doesn't matter the producers need to know you survivors exist - and once they do we can get the funding to get to you and get your story out.

Also, questions and concerns about the project will be answered promptly and available will be - resume/bio, trailers, written proposals, production company bio etc. for you to read and be comfortable with who you're talking and possibly working with in the future.

Sincerely and respectively,
Michael Schulman

Also note-other noted figures within the "inner circle" have already been interviewed including Rabbi Blau, Rabbi Dratch, Elliot Pasik, and Robert Kolker.

Please forward to every relevant outlet.

April 19, 2008 1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

April 19, 2008

Man, 33, accused of sex with teen

Jane Lerner and Steve Lieberman
The Journal News

SPRING VALLEY - A wrong number brought Oscar Garcia together with a 15-year-old girl from a Hasidic Jewish community in Orange County, police said yesterday.

And their relationship became illegal soon after they met, police said.

Officers arrested the 33-year-old Garcia on Thursday night at his village home on a felony statutory rape charge accusing him of having sex with the underage girl.

Details of their relationship and how long they knew each other were not released by the police. Police said the girl hails from the Hasidic enclave of Kiryas Joel, whose members live separately from secular society.

Garcia and the child first met during a telephone conversation, Sgt. Louis Scorziello said.

"They met through an erroneous phone call," Scorziello said. "I don't know who dialed the wrong number - him or her."

Police were told about the relationship by the Rockland Sheriff's Department, which had received a tip, Scorziello said.

Officer Kim Grey handled the initial report, did interviews and located Garcia and the girl, Scorziello said.

"Officer Grey did an excellent job," he said. "She turned the details over to the detective bureau and an arrest was made."

Police arrested Garcia on Thursday at 17 Washington St. Yesterday he told a village justice that he lived there with his two in-laws.

Garcia was accused of having sex with the girl on Tuesday at the Washington Street house, according to criminal complaint read yesterday in Village Court.

Justice Susan Smith set Garcia's bail at $35,000 on a charge of third-degree rape. The District Attorney's Office recommend the bail figure. Garcia was being held in the county jail in New City.

Smith scheduled a preliminary felony hearing on the rape charge for Wednesday afternoon. The prosecution will have to provide evidence to warrant holding Garcia on bail.

If a grand jury indicts Garcia before Wednesday, the hearing would be adjourned and the case transferred to County Court in New City.

Garcia, handcuffed behind his back and wearing a white-T-shirt, blue jogging pants and sandals, didn't enter a plea.

He listen to the complaint and answered questions through a Spanish-speaking interpreter.

Garcia told the court he had been living in Spring Valley for three years and works for a landscaping company. He didn't identify the company.

Police said he was born and raised in Guatemala and his status in the United States was under investigation. If Garcia does not have legal status, conviction on the statutory rape charge could lead to deportation after a prison sentence or jail term is completed.

April 22, 2008 4:56 PM  

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