Can This Number Be Credible? Jewish Anti-Abuse Activists Say Half of Hasidic Boys Are Raped By Elders

Back in July, I wrote:

In the world of Judaism alone, news reports of child abuse are so numerous that the admirably tenacious and prolific writer Shmarya Rosenberg, who runs the Failed Messiah blog, has a hard time keeping up.

There’s actually another Rosenberg who has made it his laser-focused mission to expose this evil — and who’s suffered the consequences. Vice has an interview with Nuchem Rosenberg, a rabbi who throws out an eye-popping guesstimate:

Nuchem Rosenberg (Paul Martinka – via New York Post)

The alleged abusers are schoolteachers, rabbis, fathers, uncles — figures of male authority. The victims, like those of Catholic priests, are mostly boys. Rabbi Rosenberg believes around half of young males in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community — the largest in the United States and one of the largest in the world — have been victims of sexual assault perpetrated by their elders. Ben Hirsch, director of Survivors for Justice, a Brooklyn organization that advocates for Orthodox sex abuse victims, thinks the real number is higher. “From anecdotal evidence, we’re looking at over 50 percent.”

I had to read that twice. The number surely exceeds even the bleakest calculations of how widespread this crime is. In the absence of factual stats — impossible to come by — it’s hard to know what to make of it all. Take a walk through Brooklyn’s conservative-Jewish neighborhoods. Do you believe that every second orthodox boy you see is a victim of sexual assault? Can the iceberg be that huge?

Nuchem Rosenberg and Ben Hirsch have presumably studied the issue longer and more carefully than any of us here, and should be given a modicum of authority on the subject. On the other hand, due to possible factors like confirmation bias and/or an activist’s zeal, it could be that they’re wolf-criers — that they see abuse everywhere, even where none occurred.

With that caveat, here’s what Rosenberg found, and how he became perhaps the most hated man in Brooklyn.

On a visit to Jerusalem in 2005, Rabbi Rosenberg entered into a mikvah [sacred ritual bath] in one of the holiest neighborhoods in the city, Mea She’arim. “I opened a door that entered into a schvitz,” he told me. “Vapors everywhere, I can barely see. My eyes adjust, and I see an old man, my age, long white beard, a holy-looking man, sitting in the vapors. On his lap, facing away from him, is a boy, maybe seven years old. And the old man is having anal sex with this boy.” …

“This boy was speared on the man like an animal, like a pig, and the boy was saying nothing. But on his face — fear. The old man [looked at me] without any fear, as if this was common practice. He didn’t stop. I was so angry, I confronted him. He removed the boy from his penis, and I took the boy aside. I told this man, ‘It’s a sin before God, a mishkovzucher. What are you doing to this boy’s soul? You’re destroying this boy!’ He had a sponge on a stick to clean his back, and he hit me across the face with it. ‘How dare you interrupt me!’ he said.”

After that, Rosenberg started blogging about Hasidic sex assaults. He also opened a hotline and became a source for local and national media covering sex-abuse trials. That “betrayal” made him a pariah in his own community.

Leaflets distributed in Williamsburg and Borough Park, the centers of ultra-Orthodoxy in Brooklyn, display his bearded face over the body of a writhing snake. “Corrupt Informer,” reads one of the leaflets, followed by the declaration that Rabbi Rosenberg’s “name should rot in hell forever. They should cut him off from all four corners of the earth.”

When Rabbi Rosenberg wants to bathe at a mikvah in Brooklyn to purify himself, none will have him. When he wants to go to synagogue, none will have him. “He is finished in the community, butchered,” said a fellow rabbi who would only talk anonymously. “No one will look at him, and those who will talk to him, they can’t let it be known.”

And then, almost a year ago, there was the bleach attack. An orthodox assailant ran up to him in the street and threw a cup of bleach at Rosenberg, burning his face and blinding him. The rabbi quickly regained his eyesight, but not his sense of security. He’s forced to look over his shoulder everywhere he goes, anticipating the worst.

The same goes for some of the victims who seek justice, and for witnesses who break the forced silence. During the trial of rape fiend Nechemya Weberman,

… victim Boorey Deutsch testified about being abused from the ages of 12 through 17, despite threats of retaliation. [S]he and her husband Hershy Deutsch [were soon] receiving death threats. “I know my Jewish rights…I am allowed to kill you and that [is] what I am going to do,” the Post reports one person wrote on Deutsch’s Facebook. “I AM GOING TO KILL YOU WITH IN THE NEXT THREE YEARS you may be stronger than one thousand satmar people but not stronger than a gun bullet.”

Rosenberg, Hirsch, Sam Kellner, and other Jewish anti-abuse campaigners such as Michael Lesher have their work cut out for them.

“This isn’t a problem about a few aberrant cases or an old-fashioned community reluctant to talk to police about sexual matters,” said Michael Lesher, a practicing Jew who has investigated Orthodox sex abuse and represented abuse victims. “This is about a political economy that links Orthodox Judaism with other fundamentalist creeds and with aspects of right-wing ideologies generally. It’s an economy in which genuine religious values will never really rise to the top, so long as they’re tied to the poisonous priorities that elevate status and power over the basic human needs of the most vulnerable among us.”

The problem is compounded by the fact that Hasidic families tend to be large (every child born to a Hasid is seen as “a finger in the eye of Hitler,” says Hirsch), of modest means, and under tight rabbinical control. Plus,

[T]here is limited general education, to the point that most men in the community are educated only to the third grade, and receive absolutely no sexual education. No secular newspapers are allowed, and internet access is forbidden. “The men in the community are undereducated by design,” [Hirsch] said. “You have a community that has been infantilized. They have been trained not to think. It’s a sort of totalitarian control.”

A rare ray of hope for the child victims is that longtime District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, whose disinclination to prosecute these kinds of cases is legendary, was finally ousted from his job in last week’s elections. He is the first DA in the city to be unseated in almost 60 years. His successor, Kenneth Thompson, is expected to show less favoritism to Hasidic leaders, and less reluctance in going after the evildoers in their midst.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • busterggi

    Looks like the RCC is simply carrying on Judeo-Christian tradition .

  • dandaman

    Time to start letting go of the fear of being antisemitic merely for pointing out the truth.

  • LesterBallard

    Yeah, I just read this article I feel like I’m gonna explode.

  • DougI

    Considering anyone who reports child rape is shunned by the Hasidic community we shouldn’t be surprised about the rampant abuse. Enclosed fundamentalist communities act like a cult. They aren’t that different than the Fundamentalist Mormon cult that molests girls on a regular basis.

  • Gus

    In a cult where the leaders have absolute power and no ill can be said of them, where people entrust their children to those leaders routinely and are kept ignorant of the wider world, it is inevitable that some of those leaders will end up committing the most vile of crimes and their followers will simply ignore it or choose not to believe it. And it doesn’t take many rabbis assaulting children for a large number of children to be victims. But 50% still seems very high. What I would say is that no, the number is not credible, coming as it does from an interested party and without real evidence or any kind of statistical methods. But that abuse is far too widespread? That’s well enough within the realm of prior probability to accept. So the number doesn’t matter much. There’s a huge problem, children are being hurt, and all because of the power of religion, particularly when it unequivocally reaches the definition of a cult.

    Another problem in this case is that many Americans have romanticized some of these old-fashioned fundamentalists, whether ultra-orthodox Jews or the Amish, and in the case of the Jews are also willing to be especially forgiving and delicate around freedom of religion issues because of the history of anti-semitism.

  • Crazy Russian

    If you put adults in charge of children, there will be abuse, just like with any power. I don’t care if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, straight, gay, or whatever. The problem is not that there are religious abusers, but that their organizations are covering them up, and claiming moral superiority while at it. We must shine light on this, even if we are called anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, or what have you. This is everybody’s problem.

  • KMR

    I don’t know if 50% is accurate but I do know that the story illustrating the seven year old’s abuse made me want to vomit. And I’m spitballing here but how are the Hasidic jews different form other jews? Or are they not? Do Jews have different sects like Christianity? The reason I’m asking is because I’ve been told during Biblical times that child sexual abuse was a common occurrence in the temples as a form of worship. Are the Hasidic Jews harking from that era? If so perhaps 50% is accurate although the number really does horrify me to think of it.

  • Dixie Atheist

    Pointing out and prosecuting crimes, no matter what faith group, is entirely different from preaching hate against a group of people.

  • cyb pauli

    How dare you interrupt me?

    Ain’t religious privilege wonderful? By all means finish raping a child before we have a polite conversation about the halakha.

    Is the number too high? Who cares as long as someone does something about it!

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    So a 7 year old has been fucked in the ass so many times that he can remain quiet during the act or he is so full of fear he cannot cry out.

  • The Other Weirdo

    As a Jew, I second that sentiment. And then third it to the power of infinity.

  • allein

    Yes, there are different sects just like Christianity (though not nearly as many). They range from ultra-strict Orthodox to secular atheists who only identify as Jewish in a cultural/historical sense. Wikipedia has a decent overview..

    I don’t know about abuse statistics or anything, but I live not too far from Lakewood, NJ, which has a large Hasidic population; they used to frequent the store I worked at (until they opened another store closer to Lakewood). They were known for fairly young moms with 5-6 identically dressed, well-behaved children shopping for kids’ books; courting couples on “dates” who never bought anything, and older guys shopping alone who seemed to think closing announcements didn’t apply to them.

  • Verimius

    I think we may safely assume that sexual abuse is condoned in, or even the very point of, a hermetic community.

  • The Other Weirdo

    But that’s how some deal with outside criticism, cry insensitive and let loose the claims of racism/antisemitism/islamophobia/etcphobia.

  • islandbrewer

    Is the number too high? Who cares as long as someone does something about it!

    This. 50% sounds incredible to me, put I’m pretty certain that whatever the percentage, it needs to be stopped, and community thrown wide open in investigation.

  • Dixie Atheist

    The drama queens will always try that sort of red herring, you’re correct. But as a Southern and a Jew, these stories make me nervous and sad. Sad for those children abused and nervous the typical biggots will use it as an excuse for violence against innocent Jews. But if we know in our hearts we harbor no such hate, the hyperbole of such accusations shouldn’t phase us.

  • Terry Firma

    You know, that fear truly is ridiculously powerful, to the point where I was asking myself when I was writing this post whether I’d be writing it at all if the multiple anti-abuse activists I mentioned, especially Rosenberg, weren’t Jewish themselves. It shouldn’t matter in the slightest, but unfortunately, it does.

  • Octoberfurst

    True but the perpetrators will cry anti-Semitism to avoid the truth from getting out—even though exposing child sex abuse in the Hasidic community has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Unfortunately that charge will scare some investigators & prosecutors off.

  • closetatheist

    Am I the only one who wonders why the hell this man didn’t call the police when he witnessed a man raping a child? THAT would have set a precedent. THAT would have accomplished something and made the community question its invincibility.

    Also, I want to spit in the face of those who deny education to their followers. It really, really, really gets under my fucking skin. I lose sleep over it.

  • Terry Firma

    How do you reckon atheist organizations would cover up abuse? It’s not like we have any type of institutional hierarchy in place that would make that even possible.

    My guess is that child sexual abuse is especially prevalent within organized religion due to a confluence of factors that are wrapped up in the nature of clergydom. For instance:

    - A patriarchal worldview.
    - A feeling of divine empowerment (“I can do anything; God is with me”).
    - Sexual repression.
    - The belief that forgiveness is but a confession or a prayer away.
    - Access to children who accept authority and expect instruction.
    - The illogical nature of faith, which, to a child, perhaps makes sexual requests no more bizarre or suspect than baptisms or religious circumcisions, or any number of other out-there rituals.
    - The unquestioning trust of the flock in its clergy.
    - Congregants’ aversion to learning the distasteful truth about a religious figurehead.
    - The attendant reluctance to go to the police / press charges / start a scandal (“Our church also does so much good”).

    Only two or three of these possibly apply to the non-religious. Put them all together and you have a toxic environment in which pedophiles will strike over and over.

  • Terry Firma

    No argument here.

    Well, one: The percentage is highly relevant because if well-meaning wolf-criers exaggerate it greatly, then in the eyes of many, all their allegation become suspect — and the activists / accusers become dismissible. Which would be to the detriment of their cause and the victims.

  • Octoberfurst

    I find it fascinating that very conservative religious groups/sects have such an incredibly high rate of rape and child sexual abuse. It is rampant among Catholic priests, fundamentalist Protestants, fundamentalist Mormons, Hasidic Jews, etc.

    I think one of the reasons is that all of them are so sexually repressive. Growing up a fundie I was told not to even THINK about sex because that would cause lust and lust is a sin. I was also told that masturbation was evil. Yes indeed the ONLY time sexual activity was permissible was after I got married. So naturally I had sexual fantasies all the time and masturbated like a horny rabbit. I think it is just a natural reaction to the religious obsession with “purity.” It is like someone constantly saying “Don’t think about a pink elephant.” What do you do? You think about a pink elephant. So these people are so repressed that they act out whenever they can. It is just one of the many harms that religion does.

  • Gus

    I’m not sure about this notion that child rape was a form of worship in Biblical times. I feel like I’d need a citation for that. When we’re living in a world in which the most heinous false allegations have been leveled against the Jews intentionally to smear them, that’s not the kind of thing I’m inclined to accept on hearsay. The person saying may not be the least bit antisemitic, but it doesn’t mean the idea itself didn’t originate in antisemitic sources, rather than actual historical documents. So I have no reason to even provisionally accept that, given that what I know of the Torah (that is, the old testament) says nothing of the sort.

    Meanwhile, yes, there are a variety of sects, and Hasidic and other ultra-orthodox sects are very different form most Jews. They’re a small minority, very much akin to comparing Amish to Christians. They might claim to hark back to the Biblical era, but they do not. They’re actually a fairly recent development, and what they really hark back to is nineteenth century Eastern European Jewish enclaves. Someone better informed than me may expound on this or correct me where I’m wrong, but I think that’s close enough to get the general idea.

  • islandbrewer

    Blech: I wrote a long reply arguing about your caveat, but deleted it because I didn’t think it moved the conversation.

  • Artor

    I’m sure the slymepitters wouldn’t have any problem covering up for abusers, but I can’t see any of this going very far in an actual humanist organization.

  • Conuly

    Jews do have different groups.

    Speaking just of Rabbinic Judaism, which most people are familiar with (there are other sorts of Jews, like Karaites, just not that many) you have divisions based on ethnic lines, and by far the largest group of Jews, ethnically, is the Ashkenazim. That’s the group everybody thinks of when eating latkes.

    You can further subdivide by, well, level of observance, with some groups of Jews following The Rules more strictly than others. Hassidim are fairly religious Jews, tend to prefer to live more isolated (less chance of assimilation there), and there are further subdivisions within that large groûp.

    Of course, putting aside silly jokes about two Jews and three synagogues (which even all us non-Jews seem to have heard!), whenever you have a large enough group of people you can expect some splits and divisions, especially when they’ve been around as long as the Jews have.

  • John_in_Vegas

    As long as we are willing accept that religious ideology should not be confined by empirical data, we will continue to witness atrocities like this. Our failure to point out every absurdity inherent in religious doctrine and to require to see the evidence to support it serves to protect the system from its natural decay. Child-rape is intolerable under any circumstances, and we will surely hold the individuals accountable; however, the system that controlled the people and encouraged them to silently and repeatedly witness these heinous crimes will not be scrutinized.

  • Conuly

    That’s also how they manage to keep members of their sects quiet, by saying you don’t go to outsiders because, well, they just can’t be trusted.

    There are valid reasons within recent history for this feeling. That doesn’t mean it is a helpful attitude now with regards to things like child rape, which as a community they plainly aren’t dealing with adequately.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Here is a proposed response to such accusations: “You may think I hate Jews because I want to protect your children from yourself, but at least I am not trying to hide the rape of children.”

  • The Other Weirdo

    The irony is that the forced not-thinking-about-sex is what leads to sicko urges. The problem would go away within a generation if they’d just stop doing that.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Well, there was that case at a University, but that had to do with football and football’s like a religion anyway, so I guess it all works.

  • Terry Firma

    He was in a foreign country, and he may have figured that it would be his word against the abuser’s, who probably knew people who knew people. That’d be my guess.

  • islandbrewer

    I think your last point is likely the most important, but you left off an important variation:

    -The ‘outside’ world is bad and corrupting, and isolating ourselves and suffering is preferable to opening our community to unbelievers.

    Within isolationist communities, whether religious (Hasidim, Amish, etc.), or ethnically based, the distrust of outsiders goes a long long way in hiding crime.

    Edit: Yes, I realize that some groups, like the RCC, aren’t actually isolationist.

  • Redorblack Nigelbottom

    Knowing the history of blood libels used against Jews, I do have to take this with a grain of salt. The kicker being that I have never heard of such an allegation before, ever… if a full half of all the males are being raped as children, it is really hard to believe in this day and age that it isn’t making the news. Where are the convictions? It isn’t like people in these neighborhoods go “Oops, they caught Rabbi Cohen again… we need to move him to…” There is no place to move them, it isn’t like the church where they could just move the bad guy to a place where no one had heard of him and his horrendous acts. But the guy reporting this has been a personal witness to the acts in their version of public, not just in Brooklyn, but in Israel. Also never heard of this practice of a steam room as a cleansing ritual in Judaism… but I was raised in a Jewish community with a conservative based Synagogue, so it is possible.

    Without some victims’ testimony, I’ve got red flags and warning sirens going off in my head that it is made up to create hate through the accusation. We had something similar here in the PNW with the supposed satanic rituals going on in daycares… people did hard time for something that was all in the head of an untrained investigator implanting testimony into children through her interrogation techniques.

    Anyone have any links to actual cases against any of the rabbis in this community?

  • baal

    That fear is not necessarily an irrational one. Especially in journalism, you can get blacklisted or worse.

  • Redorblack Nigelbottom

    But is it truth or is it libel?

  • somanynouns

    Is 50% too high an estimate? As long as the number is more that 0%, it doesn’t matter – something needs to be done about it.

  • Feminerd

    It’s also part and parcel of the teaching that sexual sin is sexual sin and it’s all bad. So if you lump premarital sex, masturbation, and rape all in the “sexual sin” category, people don’t get the sense that rape is any different from the other two.

    Libby Anne wrote an awesome post about the two boxes (acceptable sex vs. not acceptable sex) that people have. Religious people like this put things into God says okay and God doesn’t like, while other people put sex into consensual and nonconsensual. If consent doesn’t even enter your worldview as a thing at all, or you actually impose nonconsensual relationships on people (arranged marriages, God doesn’t ask permission just does as he likes, etc), you don’t understand why rape and sexual abuse are so problematic. You know they’re bad, but not exactly why, or why they’re so much worse than consensual extramarital sex.

  • Feminerd

    Consider Hasidic Judaism our equivalent of Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy for Christianity or Wahhabi for Islam. They are the extreme fringe the rest of us are ashamed of and don’t want to talk about, while some people who don’t know much about them think how great it is they follow all the rules like that but wouldn’t want to live like that themselves. Even in Israel, the Hasidim are a minority (though a fast-growing one due to their large families), and their political party is a major impediment to peace and growth in Israel. Note that that means there are lots of other, non-Hasidic Jews in Israel, though.

    The main sects of Judaism are Orthodox (fairly observant), Conservative (medium observant) and Reform (mildly observant). There’s a bunch of other sects like Reconstructionist (mildly observant, very liberal) and Renewal (New Age mystical, mildly observant). Among the extreme Hasidim, there are also several sects such as Satmar and Chabad-Lubavitch; it depends which rabbi they take as their founder or main thinker.

    So yeah, the Hasidim are very different from most Jews. We don’t usually walk around with the curly hair, fringes in our clothes, covered hair for both men and women, etc. I’m sure you’ve met Jews but never known it because, hey, we’re people who look like people and assimilate in society. I know you didn’t mean it, but that’s actually a really rude question.

  • Feminerd

    People just don’t report in Hasidic communities.

    50% seems high. It seems really, really absurdly, viciously high. But then again, a man raping a boy in a public place and being sure that he wouldn’t be stopped seems absurdly, viciously impossible, and it happened. That means there is a norm of child abuse in that community- that’s bad. That’s really, really bad. And the former DA did, in fact, decline to bring child rape charges against people in that community in the past in exchange for their support in elections (I’ve read about this in other places like the New York Times), so we don’t know how many people did manage to make it past their religious conditioning to report to the police, only to be shunned and see no changes in the community. With that going on, would you report such a thing to police? I wouldn’t. I’d lose my community and nothing would change, so why bother?

    So, from outside sources, I know that the Hasidic community in New York City has a child abuse problem. I know that the DA declined to prosecute. The only new news here to me is how many children have (possibly) been abused. Does that alleviate your salt issue?

    If it matters, I grew up Jewish and consider myself a Jewish atheist now. Conservative and Reconstructionist shuls. I don’t want this to be true either (it’s so much easier if it’s only those people who rape children), but no closing your eyes on this one. It’s real.

  • Nikita

    Trigger warnings before the worst parts might be good.

  • Stuff

    Screw your obnoxious trigger warnings.

  • Little_Magpie

    As a “cultural Jew” (ie my family is historically Jewish, I don’t practice), me too. There’s also that whole “we can’t say anything in criticism of Israel” thing. Drives me nuts.

  • Little_Magpie

    i agree. I suspect the number is wrong, and whatever the percentage is, it needs to be stopped, but there is the issue making sure those who are fighting the abuse have credibility. It shouldn’t matter but it does.

  • Eli

    As an ex-member of a “mild” Hassidic group (there’s shades as to how Hassidic you are), and with close cousins being “ultra” Hassidic, unless I’m really clueless, it’s way over exaggerated. It doesn’t take away from the fact that indoctrinating children into fundamentalist religions is abusive in and of itself.

  • Terry Firma

    I find that such an annoying response, I may have to get you slapped with an IPNA. :-)

    This outrage needs to be publicized, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it, or swaddle it in useless cautionary verbiage.

    Besides, it’s a well-known phenomenon that when a newsreader on TV says “This segment may contain images that are upsetting, viewer discretion advised,” the easily titillated will prick up their ears and really glue themselves to the screen. I suspect that’s part of the reason why the news team even uses those lines to begin with.

    Sorry, not playing that game. My post carried sufficient advance warning. The headline and the first few paragraphs make it perfectly clear what the article is about. Can’t handle it, don’t read it.

  • Terry Firma

    The website Failed Messiah, to which I linked, should provide more links to documented Hasidic sex-abuse cases than you can read without getting queasy.

  • LadyAtheist

    I used to work in Crown Heights and I’m not surprised. The culture is very insulated, which gives them cover to do whatever they want. When I worked there I heard that there’s also a lot of spousal abuse but it was just a rumor. I wouldn’t doubt it though. The woman is subservient to her husband, and the girls are given even less education than the boys (In Crown Heights, the boys got 8 years of general education and then had to study the Torah. The girls switched from general education to homemaking training at that age)

  • KMR

    Thank you for prompting me to check my sources since upon doing so I realized I must be remembering wrong. I had done a lot of research on the pro-gay Christian movement years ago and in reading this article seemed to remember an argument in regards to Paul. Anyway I remembered it wrong since the argument referred to homosexual acts in temple worship not child sexual abuse. I’m glad you gave me an opportunity to correct myself.

  • KMR

    Thank you for the information. Considering my ignorance, it’s good to know what questions are considered rude.

  • Feminerd

    I should clarify. Asking about different sects isn’t rude. It’s a good way of rectifying ignorance, in fact!

    Asking if all Jews are like Hasidim in the context of a sexual abuse scandal is … awkward, to say the least. And somewhat rude, given that you’re basically asking if all Jews condone and cover up child rape. The question itself was fine, the way it was worded was not so good.

  • Stev84

    It’s a very closed community and they severely punish anyone who speaks out. Massive threats and of course shunning.

    In NY (I think) there was a trial about it and his followers constantly tried to intimidate the victim and her family. They also wouldn’t hesitate to get violent.

  • Dave

    I’ll bite.

    A nihilist view of the universe would seem to provide a parallel to the first four reasons for why you argue that abuse is likely to be especially prevalent within communities of theists.

    Would something like vaccination provide the illogical (from the perspective of a 5 or 6 year old) parallel to baptism. At that age it would seem that vaccination having positive results would be something that you’d need to have the child take on the basis of faith / authority. You could later discuss more the underlying biology, but I’m not sure that that’s something a young child can really grasp.

    The last also seems to apply to the atheist community. Here’s a quote from P.Z. Myers on sexual harassment in the skeptical community: “Something strange happened after I posted this. People started emailing me. They all said the same thing: they knew exactly who the harasser was, and they named him, and eerily, they all named exactly the same name, and they were all 100% on the money.”

    There may be some room for free-though / logic to counteract some of these things – but it seems to me that the same or parallel arguments could apply to atheists in many of the cases outlined above.

  • tyler

    what game

  • wmdkitty

    Time to make religious “exemptions” and closed-off “communities” obsolete…

  • KMR

    It was hastily worded question. I should have read before I posted.

  • smrnda

    The difference, I guess, is that football at least doesn’t make supernatural claims, it’s just a case of bad priorities much of the time and turning humans into demigods. World ‘football’ (soccer) can even inspire violence and riots.

  • smrnda

    First, let’s not give anti-vaxxers any more ammunition to put kids at risk. Kids aren’t going to *get* vaccines, but how many adults can actually explain how/why they work? Yes, we’re taking it *kind of* on faith, but at least the medical community does research which is peer reviewed and can be empirically tested.

    Kids get asked to do all sorts of things, and I think we do kids a disservice to imagine they don’t get why until when, adulthood? A 2 year old might not understand why we don’t eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I’d say by 7 or 8, kids at least can get the basics of nutrition.

    Also, I’m not going to say that atheist and secular communities can’t have problems. Sexism and racism are problems, though I suspect the reasons are more that certain people don’t see them as a problem – the people experiencing sexism and racism know what’s happening, they just can’t always get enough people to listen.

    I think the problem unique to religion is that rather than simply having inadequate answers for kids (like vaccines) they have NO answers, and at no stage is questioning allowed.

  • Lurker111

    I have no doubt that insular communities like this have a high rate of abuse of all kinds, but at a 50% figure I would think more than a few of the abused would begin exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.

  • Feral Dog

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the number was correct or only mildly exaggerated; surveys of other isolationist religious enclaves have similar statistics (I believe there was an article on here earlier about the rampant rapacious incest in some Amish communities).

    That said there needs to be some serious investigation into this.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Trigger warnings are for abuse survivors. Some have PTSD. Triggers really do mess them up severely. I’m surprised by the callousness of the response. No, the headline was not sufficient warning that there would be a very graphic description of child rape.

  • cyb pauli

    A sick metaphor for fundamentalist society, a twisted allusion to our indifference.

  • Crazy Russian

    I never claimed that Humanist (edit: or atheist, for that matter) organizations covered up child abuse. The point I was trying to make was that all organizations are susceptible to such problem: schools, daycares, sports teams, parishes, etc. What is important is how they deal with it: you bring up very valid and important points that contribute to the problem. I wish more people recognized them for what they are: risk factors that endanger their children, before enrolling the latter in any kind of care. You know, just like insurance agents look at your credit history, age, marital status, etc., except more obvious in this case.

  • Joey Tranchina

    I don’t want to minimize the horror of it but exaggerating the percentage of boys who are victimized is a way to minimize the impact of the effort to expose it.

    When someone begins a sentence “From anecdotal evidence…” they should not append a percentage at the end. As I wrote in grad school: “The plural of anecdote is not data.”

    Why use weak numbers then the individuals can speak for themselves, of the pain of violation, without fake statistics. As a Jew who spent 13 years in Catholic schools, I find this even more of a horror, but just tell this story let the victims and the numbers speak for themselves.

  • RedOnTheGreg

    If the subject of this post wasn’t an obvious enough trigger warning, I don’t know what is.

  • closetatheist

    You’re right, since the quote was preceded by a reference to NY and much of the story was set in Brooklyn I totally missed that this incident was set in Jerusalem. Under those circumstances I’d probably be unsure of what to do as well, but I’d like to think that I’d make an attempt at contacting the authorities.

  • Redorblack Nigelbottom

    No it doesn’t alleviate my salt issue… HOW do you know? I’m also a Jewish Atheist, in that I was raised in the Jewish faith (Conservative). I’ve encountered enough people who sounded perfectly sane and on a mission to right a wrong… who if you questioned them or corrected something you knew to be untrue, suddenly you were part of the conspiracy and an infiltrator/agent/whatever and they’d add you to their list of those who must be rooted out and destroyed by any means necessary while claiming you were threatening/stalking/attacking them… as they posted made up emails, pictures of themselves ‘gathering evidence’ as they post pictures of you, your house, your kids going off to school… that sort of thing… while claiming YOU are stalking THEM. Sort of the standard Christian persecution complex… only this time, it’s a Jew. I truly am not sure what to think… I have a tough time believing this group really is that politically important. Unlike the Hasidic Jews working the diamond district, this group apparently is mostly on welfare? They shun education, so they aren’t the powerful Jewish lawyers, bankers, etc… they are a bunch of ignorant hicks having to many kids in a big city that all live in a few blocks. Powerbrokers? What power?

  • Feminerd

    Have you actually looked into it? At all? They vote as a bloc and there are more than enough of them to swing local elections. They have taken over the local school board, even though their kids mostly go to private schools, in order to ensure that they get things like school buses and some other privileges usually only accorded to public school students. Just having lots of people who all vote together makes them a local power bloc.

    As I said, nothing in this article is new to me except for the possible number of abused children. The huge percentage of abused children is unfortunately about what we expect from other isolationist, suspicious, religiously extremist communities. Go to the New York Times, they’ve had a few articles about this recently. I trust you don’t think their reporters got suckered by seemingly sane people who are really conspiracy nuts.

    The DA finally prosecutes child sexual abuse! But he didn’t for a long time
    A man was accused of extortion after he told police about the man who abused him.
    Those charges were false; the accuser took financial aid from friends and family of the abuser.
    People who report child sexual abuse are shunned in the community.
    Hasidim tried to silence a witness by offering her money and threatening her boyfriend’s business.
    A different ultra-Orthodox community, but when they control the school board, bad things happen.

  • Redorblack Nigelbottom

    Just from what I could dig up in a quick search relating to what was in the story. Huge number of places/blogs quoting him verbatim, didn’t see anything with actual quotes from anyone else. I thought most of their kids were home schooled. I haven’t lived in NY for about 30 years. Thank you for posting the links.

  • Hat Stealer

    I am completely equal in my hate and contempt of religion. I hate Christianity. I hate Islam. And I hate Judaism as well. I am completely comfortable with saying so, especially when I hear of abuses such as this.

  • Joshua Zelinsky

    The number is almost certainly too high. Most of Rosenberg’s attention has been to the Satmar sect, which is one of the more extreme and dysfunctional of the Chasidic sects. All of the Chassidic sects have a highly authoritatarian attitude and a dislike of “mosers” (the Yiddish word for infomers- people who talk to secular authorities), and these attitudes exist in the broader ultra-Orthodox/Charedi world.

    However, many of the other sects are more closely connected to the rest of the world. For example, the Lubavitch sect of Chassidim run “Chabad Houses” where they have free Friday night meals, and provide classes on Jewish topics for their local communities. They come in constant contact with other Jews of a wide variety of background levels, and are much more willing to use the internet and other modern technologies (partially because they see it them as effective missionizing tools). While, there have been similar scandals with the Lubavitch, they’ve generally done a better job of dealing with these situations (although by no mean a great one). Thus, the ratio for them is likely much smaller.

    This percentage seems too high even for the Satmars, but given the nature of the other Chassidic sects, the percentage is simply not credible at all.

  • The Other Weirdo

    But… didn’t you know that God watches football and takes a hand in to make his favourite team win?

  • Feminerd

    You’re welcome for the links.

    I think they usually send their kids to yeshiva, which are private religious schools. Homeschooling isn’t so much a thing, I don’t think, but it’s not like the yeshivas offer a good modern education anyways.

  • Terry Firma

    Please. People need to take responsibility for what they do, including for what they read.

    If I have a severe allergy to shellfish, I’m probably going to stay away from seafood restaurants. If hearing about sexual abuse gives me panic attacks, or worse, I’d avoid reading stories that have the words “abuse” and “rape IN THE HEADLINE.

    And can you even imagine how our media diet would change if writers and editors were suddenly forced to insert actual trigger warnings into every text and program that talked about something that somebody somewhere might find terribly upsetting? Accounts of every shooting, every bad car accident, every act of war, every sexual assault, every workplace death would, in the aggregate, become unreadable.

    Because religious people do many shitty, unconscionable things that we write about on this site as our partial raison d’être, regular visiitors should be prepared to see this kind of content. No one’s putting a gun to your head.

    (Oh, sorry, how thoughtless of me — I realize now I should have preceded that last line with a trigger warning!) ;-)

  • rg57

    “… speared on the man like an animal, like a pig…”

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen any of our four-legged friends, even a pig, speared on a man. Is that what Hasidic Jews do in Jerusalem? The statement seems to have been made with an understanding that we’d all just understand this pig reference. I don’t.

  • tyler

    most mainstream media does use trigger warnings

    “The following program contains scenes of graphic violence. Viewer discretion is advised.”

    “This footage from the incident contains graphic images.”

    heck rosenberg himself used a trigger warning in the article you linked

    “I’m going to be graphic.”

    not to be too blunt but this attitude you have against trigger warnings is incredibly dismissive. the internet has cheapened the word “trigger” but ptsd and other illnesses are real things that affect real people. it is common courtesy to have a warning before describing, in graphic detail, scenes that could cause panic attacks, anxiety attacks, or even seizures in rare cases, and this attitude that the whole thing is just a matter of people being offended over minor things is dehumanizing in the extreme.

    further you suggest that you are refusing to put in a warning because it will somehow cheapen the victims’ stories but i submit that this does the opposite. you are essentially saying that you do not care about the psychological state of anybody who has suffered similar experiences, people that are the most likely to respond to such a story. reading statistics or about the extent of the problem is one thing, but watching an assault on film or reading a passage that is very specifically meant to evoke such a trauma can cause actual harm to people who have had those experiences. so, way to tell the very people you claim to be concerned about that they don’t even matter enough to warrant a line of text.

    i know you probably don’t care but my respect for you as a journalist has just plummeted like a rock after this display of not just blatant anti-humanism but a complete inability to handle an entirely benign comment with any sort of grace.

  • wmdkitty

    Imagine a whole pig, on a spit, ready to roast…

  • skeptical_inquirer

    I think in the case of football, the money involved is a major factor in the silence. Sad but college coaches often get paid more than professors.

  • Terry Firma

    Oh, two can play that game:

    “My respect for you as a reader has just plummeted like a rock due to your complete inability to understand what sort of article you will encounter under a headline explicitly mentioning rape and abuse.”

    See what I did there?

  • Randay

    There are too many links to be cited about Islamic pedophilia which, like Catholicism, is not a rather small isolated group. A quick search didn’t find references to it in the U.S., but it is common elsewhere. In addition, there are Islamic “honor” killings of young girls. Furthermore on Google images I found a photo of Muslims with the banner “Islamic Pedophilia for the UK”.

    As for the Jews, the Bible doesn’t mention the age of the virgin daughters of Lot, those that he would give up to be raped. Then when they and Lot escaped, the daughters are alleged to have gotten him drunk and fucked him. A clear example of blaming the victims and exonerating the perpetrator. Genesis 19:30.

  • Brian Geary

    Read the paragraph again where it says that adherents are undereducated and infantilized by design; kept from the internet and newspapers, etc. That’s classic cult behavior. As much as people don’t want to admit it bc of political correctness, this orthodox form of Judaism is a CULT. Members have to dress alike, think alike, act alike, are ordered to shun family members who go against the sect’s edicts, and have to cede total control over every aspect of their lives to their rabbis. (Down to and including what night(s) they are allowed to have sex. )

  • Brian Geary

    Until Hasidim start allowing victims to come forth, however, these numbers will have to stand. If Hasidim don’t like the nmbers, they need to stop with the thuggish, gang-style “no snitch” rules. Let victims come forward so we can get a good handle on it and STOP the perpetrators, instead of protecting them.

  • Brian Geary

    That’s just the problem; victims are not allowed to speak for themselves – they are threatened, beaten, shunned, kicked out of schools and the community for coming forward. So until these no-snitch rules are gone, all we have are Rosenberg’s and other advocates’ best guesstimates. Protecting the perps and threatening the victims only makes the numbers seem more credible…certainly these sects are terrified of SOMETHING to make them issue orders against victims coming out.

  • Brian Geary

    So you admit he left in Rosenberg’s trigger warning, and still attack him?

  • Brian Geary

    Wow. So a Rabbi and a Jewish victims’ advocacy group speak out against abuse and you somehow find a way to scream “anti-Semitism”? That word is really losing its meaning at this point. If you have never heard of the abuse before, it’s b/c the internet age has made it easier to share these stories now. Are you saying that b/c child abuse by priests wasn’t talked about in the 1950s (or 1450s or 950s) the accusations are a “blood libel” against Catholics? No…it means the problems were swept under the rug. And yes, Jewish molesters who are teachers are moved around, if rabbis and schools don’t just kick out the victim/snitch from the school/community. If the perp is a Rabbi, he often gets away with it b/c victims are told “who will believe you over a Rabbi?” In many sects, rabbis are thought of as God on earth, so people are reluctant to go against them.

  • Brian Geary

    They did get violent; the same Rabbi Rosenberg from this story was attacked for advocating for the victim; he had bleach thrown in his eyes and was nearly blinded.

  • Brian Geary

    Their power is in the bloc vote. Politicians are terrified of going against the Hasidic community, which is why, by the way, they all fall all over themselves trying to be the loudest to support and defend the practice of metzitzah b’peh, which, let’s face it – if it was practiced by Christians, muslims, or any other group, would result in jail time and a law against the practice. But the bloc vote must be courted…..

  • Brian Geary

    The other problem is that in radical Islam and ultra orthodox Judaism, boys are raised to think girls are dirty, inferior, and only for procreation and staying home to cook, clean and raise the family. If you are raised to say a prayer every day thanking god you weren’t made a woman, and being taught that women on their period are filthy (untouchables), how on earth are you then going to ever be able to be turned on by one? It screws with the psyche.

  • Brian Geary

    In Israel, ,the moser (no-snitch laws) are probably much stricter. He was probably literally too afraid for his life to go to authorities.

  • Brian Geary

    Probably both.

  • Joey Tranchina

    I completely agree. I just think the use of imaginary numbers weakens the credibility of the case. Investigate to get essential evidence and develop real numbers. It doesn’t take a stat like 50% to make this awful.

    The charge has been made. Allow NOTHING to interfere with an investigation. Keep the pressure on , but do nothing that might allow people to dismiss you as a fantasist.

  • Joey Tranchina

    Anti-semitism isn’t a canard — it’s a fact.
    So is the abuse of children by authority figures.
    One should not be allowed to pollute the other.

    No matter what the number is, whether it’s 1% or 50%
    some anti-semite will make use of it to attack all Jews.
    That reality should do nothing to slow this investigation
    or to impede the prosecution of every person
    against whom credible evidence can be found.

    There is no national or global corporate structure in Judaism parallel to that of the Catholic Church which could work to shield these creeps. Any attempts to do so will accomplish nothing other than disgrace organizations with the crimes of despicable individuals. No cover up will work and none should be attempted.

  • Scott McElhiney (redorblack)

    Interesting reply considering I never said anti-Semitism, nor screamed anything. I just don’t take people’s word because they said something in a blog, that is why I asked for more information since a quick search brought up only variations of this same story with the same couple of people being quoted. When I see an entire group of people being accused of something horrible, I don’t grab my pitchfork and torches without a bit more information. Thus the grain of salt comment. I’ve seen too many times where “The seriousness of the accusation is more important than verifying it’s truthfulness” as people’s lives are destroyed over false allegations… or countries are bombed.

    In conservative Judaism a Rabbi is a teacher… has no special powers or deference required. I see that in this group they put special significance in a specific lineage of Rabbis… sound more like taking on the role of priests in those sects of Christianity where you have to go through the priesthood to get your pleas heard, sins absolved etc… In mainstream Judaism there is no priesthood because “The Temple” was destroyed and everyone is responsible for their own actions. A rabbi is there for most Jews as a counselor, to lead the discussion, guide services (but doesn’t even need to actually be there for many of them), answer religious questions.

    Looks like there are some issues with some of the leaders of these sects (didn’t realize they had expanded beyond the one neighborhood in NYC since I was a kid) playing fast and loose with laws, mostly zoning laws since they are into having as many kids as possible. Not drawing a permit for an addition doesn’t mean everyone is a pedophile either… if someone is accused of committing these sorts of horrendous crimes, the secular authorities should be doing everything in their power to investigate it. If they are hiding things for the political power these people hold by their numbers in that area, that needs to be investigated as well. Much the same as claims of the hundreds of people killed by the Clintons, or the mass murders in daycares in Washington… horrifying claims, also not true, just a couple of people on a vendetta over something else. This case could be because the group wouldn’t back the author’s mission to get recognition for Ethiopian Jews. All very strange. Could all be true, could be partially true, could be a case of bias conformation (I think these people are evil,nuts and crazy so this must be true because it ‘proves’ it.)

  • Joshua Zelinsky

    This doe snot follow. Yes, this needs to be dealt with. No, we shouldn’t make bad assumptions about reality simply because we don’t have good data. The failure of Chassidic communities here does not justify bad epistemology or deliberately believing things that are unlikely to be true.

  • Redorblack Nigelbottom

    That was by the son of someone he had accused, not necessarily for advocating for the victim. The guy turned himself in, didn’t manage to dig up the outcome of the case against the fishmonger that hit him with the liquid. The case was described as them having issues with each other, don’t know if that means cover up by the police or if the Rabbi was getting in the man’s face at his business and he splashed him with whatever liquid he was holding. The photo above with him showing his eye doesn’t actually look unusual. Do you see any signs of chemical burns or any damage at all? Maybe the image wasn’t actually of that… but looked like he was pointing to his eye, so they used it for the article because they didn’t have one. I know this group has a mob mentality from some cycling incidents in their NYC neighborhood with videos. Maybe it is because they use walkie talkies rather than cell phones that makes it harder to find hard evidence. Maybe the Rabbi with the hotline should invest in some small cameras to give to ongoing victims to gather some solid evidence that couldn’t be explained away. I’m sure if it’s all real, they’ll still explain it away like the NYPD and others “But you didn’t see what happened before the video came on with him anally raping the child!”, but it would be obvious to any prosecutor/jury/general public that it’s really happening, not just outcasts making things up for their own reasons.

  • Pseudonym

    It’s true that Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg said what he said. As long as it’s reported as “researcher X said” then it’s not libel (unless, of course, researcher X never said it).

  • Pseudonym

    How do you reckon atheist organizations would cover up abuse?

    If by “atheist” you mean “secular” or “non-sectarian”, then there is plenty of precedent.

    Look at the American Boychoir School. Look at government institutions, like the Home Children programme. Look at Jimmy Saville’s time at the BBC. Hell, look at what’s happening to men in prisons all over the world today.

    There are exactly two things that you need for sexual predators to run rampant: an institution which takes care of vulnerable people, and insufficient oversight. That’s it. Everything else helps, but those are the only two things you need.


    The Jimmy Savile case also has a further parallel with religious abuse cases: people involved in the cover-up believing that the harmful abuse is outweighed by the good that is done in the name of the institution (The “Our church also does so much good” clause above)

    It wasn’t just at the BBC of course, that Savile did his thing – Stoke Mandeville, Broadmoor, Leeds General, Haute Le Garenne, his night club / dance hall days.

    I don’t think religious organisations have a monopoly, but they would seem to make it a damn sight easier.

  • Sapphire Possible

    Well said….I agree wholeheartedly. The community I “fled” is rife with this no snitch mentality, and it needs to be dealt with…even if it means being ostracized.

  • Sapphire Possible

    How can oppressed people advance and become victorious over discrimination when they abuse, torture, hold hostage, and disfigure their own? (this question applies to all who have been oppressed) If you want others to respect you, you must always respect yourself…down to the very core…from the strongest among you to the weakest.

    One of many tragedies in religious organization is that it surrounds itself in too much shame and secrecy when dealing with matters of sexuality.

  • Sapphire Possible


  • Sapphire Possible

    Systematic abuse and rejection of women is what drove me away from the religion of my upbringing..and it’s supposed to be a religion of peace. Give me a break.

  • Sapphire Possible

    This sounds just like the FLDS

  • Pseudonym

    I do wonder if it seems like religious organisations “make it a damn sight easier” simply because there were more religious organisations around before the public became aware of institutional abuse. It’d be interesting to see what happened if you controlled for that.

    These days, most of the institutional abuse stories I’m hearing out of the UK are about aged care facilities.

  • Pseudonym

    Hell, it’s a metaphor for NSA spying. It’s a metaphor for whatever you want, really.

    It hurts less to think of this boy as a metaphor than an actual human being.


    That’s probably part of it too.

    I think that there’s also a factor that larger organisations have more scope for dealing with things internally than smaller ones.

    An independent care home, for example, doesn’t have the option of shuffling an abusive employee off to work at another facility, away from the victims.

    Larger organisations – outside of the religious space – would tend to have more regulation though.

  • wmdkitty

    I want to take that child and hide him away where they can’t get to him again.

  • Guest



    The numbers are probably low.

  • Nikita

    I wasn’t concerned about how I could handle it, only how rape victims would handle it. I new the topic but I wasn’t expecting a detailed description.

    I agree that it needs to be publicized and I didn’t expect you to exclude it or sugarcoat it. It was simply a suggestion.

  • Nikita

    No need to be rude.