Overheard at the Asifa Protest: Quotes, Moments, & Vignettes
Yesterday, several hundred of us gathered outside Citifield to protest the misplaced priorities of the Charedi world. While sexual abuse cover-ups are rampant, mandatory educational guidelines are routinely ignored, and suppression of individuality and freedom of choice continues unabated, the Charedi world gathered to declare the evils of free and unhindered access to knowledge and information. We, in response, took a stand.
Reactions to our protest from the Charedi crowds were mixed, ranging from open hostility to curiosity to whispered messages of support. The following are some of the moments recounted by some of the protest participants. Some are funny, some are heartwarming, some are maddening. The worst are those highlighing the sheer amount of denial and misinformation reverberating through the Charedi echo chamber.
From “Pinny the Wooh”: On being molested, someone said: “Come on, admit it you enjoyed it.” Another said, “You left that community a long time ago. Why do you still care?”
From Sue D.: “You’re continuing what they did in Auschwitz.”
From Ari Mandel: “It’s not your kids, why do you care?” (Multiple people said that.)
From Rachel Horowitz: Negative moment: A man yelled at us, “Anti-semites! Hitler!”
Positive moment: A 12-year-old boy approached us alone, from the back fence, to tell us, “I support your cause. I support the victims.”
From Mo G.: The worst moment: A car full of Hasidim pulled up and told a girl she was too ugly to be molested.
The best moment: A Hasid who was sympathetic and told the group that he felt their pain and wished the community did more to help prevent child abuse.
From Eli Mandel: One group of Chasidim came up to me, and the bravest of the lot said, “These are all the losers you were able to get together? Nu, k’lal yisruel is still in good shape.”
From Chav L.: A car of men passing by yelled,”Hitler!”
From Izzy L.: I just had someone on the Monsey bus tell me that all those who attended the counter rally are drug users or drug dealers.
Name Withheld: “Dich hut men molestet?! Bist aflile nisht shein.” (You were molested?! You’re not even pretty.)
From David K.: A bochur from Long Beach said to me: “Abuse doesn’t happen in our yeshiva.”
STORIES AND MOMENTS
Sol F., 22, Brooklyn:
One guy said “I thought you were out there hocking a leben (living it up). This is what you’re doing?”
Another said, “There are places to go. Get help and then forget about it. Move on.”
A man who was so proud that he knew my last name insisted that it was impossible that I was molested because his boys went to cheder with me. When someone asked him how he knew, he said that he had discussed it with me and I had told him that I’d never been abused. I’ve never had a conversation with the man.
All of those assumptions and speculations about whether I was abused or not came because my poster said, “The Internet Never Molested Me”.
After the counter-rally had mostly ended, my friends and I walked towards the subway with some signs. We kept chanting: “Ask your parents what a molester means!” There were the usual Chasidish comebacks, “foy”, “shkutzim”, “chillul hashem”, etc. But then this one young boy, without pause, yelled back with just as much passion as us: “Ask your mother what gehenom [hell] means!”
A sweet moment was seeing a Chasid blow us a kiss from the other side.
Funniest, most classic moment: a Chasid passing in a van gave us the “thumb finger.” (Chasidim know this as a “fig” or a “feig.”)
Best moment: when I asked a modernish guy which way to Citifield from the train station, and he replied, “It’s not for women, it’s not for women, you’re in the wrong place…” He repeated it several times, and I was, like, “I know where I’m going, mister…”
“Pinnie the Wooh,” 35, The Shtetl:
Longing for denial:
With every abuse story I mentioned, this Lutvak kept on saying, “B.S. It never happened.”
Finally, I said: “You do realize the Holocaust is a myth, right?”
Lutvak: “What, are you crazy? Six million people died.”
Me: “B.S., it never happened.”
Lutvak: “There are pictures to prove it.”
Me: “It’s all PhotoShop-ed. B.S., it never happened.”
Lutvak: “But everyone knows the Holocaust happened.”
Me: “But everyone knows that child abuse happens and gets covered up in the community.”
Lutvak: “I’m willing to agree the Holocaust never happened as long as you agree that child abuse doesn’t happen in the Orthodox world.”
A passerby, whom I recognized, said to someone with him: “Nem nish kein tzetel fin dai goy.” (Don’t take a flyer from this non-Jew.)
Me: “Mendy, ich hub gelerent mit dir in yeshiva.” (Mendy, we went to yeshiva together.)
Mendy: Oy, antchuldigt. Chub gurnisht gemeint. (Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean anything.)
Here’s my most positive moment of the night…
As the crowd was leaving, some of us gathered at the subway entrance and displayed our signs. The crowds had no choice but to see and hear our message.
As we left, this Chasidic guy followed us and quietly approached Joel Engelman and said, “I need to talk to you” and asked for his phone number. Then he quickly left, obviously hoping that no one noticed the quick exchange.
(Note to those of you who are not aware: Joel Engelman is a survivor and advocate against child sexual abuse.)
While handing out pamphlets, I handed one to my first cousin from Williamsburg. He didn’t even recognize me. He just took it and said, “Thank You, Sir”.
Three Jews, Three Views:
While handing out pamphlets, I approached three Chassidim. They refused to take a flyer unless I first told them what it was about. I told them it’s an explanation for why this asifa is so vital to the community’s cover up of child sexual abuse.
The first Chasid started scolding me, to the point of almost jumping me: “How dare you fabricate lies? Stuff like that doesn’t happen in our community.”
The second Chasid, in a calmer tone, yet still quite unnerved, said, “I wouldn’t deny that it happens here and there… but this venue is not the place or time to make an issue about it.”
The third Chasid got quite upset at the other two and started yelling at them: “You guys are both in denial and choose to stick your heads in the sand. It’s a major problem our community. We should be the ones doing what this kid id doing. Right here right now! Be happy someone is doing it.”
It was then that a civil conversation between the four of us began. I was quite impressed at sudden willingness of all of them to approach the issue somewhat more open-mindedly.
Because You’re Satmar
This Chasid only wanted to know how I was raised. I finally told him Satmar.
“Ah, that explains it!”
I asked him, “What Chassidus are you?”
Proudly, he said, “Belz.”
I said, “We come from all Orthodox denominations. If you only walk with me to the end of the block, perhaps you can do some kiruv on your own people, just the Belz portion of the crowd.”
“Ahhm, it’s late. I gotta catch Mincha.” Suddenly he was in a hurry.
Hasidic guy comes over to the rally: “What are you protesting?”
Someone explains: “Almost 3 million dollars was spent on an internet rally while zero is being spent on child sex abuse.”
Hasidic guy comes up with the brain storm logic: “The community is very poor. The Rabbis need to raise funds and spend money to arrange an event for the community. Being that you guys all have money, there’s no need to spend money on your cause.”
Someone: “Where do we have money from?”
Hassidic guy: “You guys all rob anything and everything.”
Chanie Friedman, 34, Monsey; Protest Organizer:
Positive moment: two passersby, typical American teenage boys, stopped to ask what we were doing. We explained what we were protesting, they asked questions, thanked us and walked away only to turn around, ask for signs, and join us for a while. They obviously had zero connection to the community, they were shocked that this is going on in the communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews they have seen around New York City, and their desire to stand with us and support our cause was inspiring.
In conversation with a young Chasid [about the problems with the Internet], he asked me if I watch porn.
Me: “Sure, I do.”
Him: “It doesn’t make you happy, though.”
Me: “Happy? Maybe not, but I enjoy it.”
Him: “But do you enjoy it like a blatt gemara?”
Me: “I enjoy porn a lot more than I ever enjoyed gemara.”
Him: “But you don’t really enjoy it, do you? Do you feel good afterwards?”
Me: “Uh… I usually feel pretty satisfied when I’m done.”
Him: “Well, you’re different than most people.”
We had just finished an argument with a very rude Chasid, when a young man approached us. He looked like a typical frum guy from Williamsburg, probably in his late 20’s.
“What are you protesting?” he asked.
We told him we’re here to let people know that they need to protect their children, to spread the message about child abuse, and that this needs to be a priority.
He said, “I’m with you 100%.” Then he started talking about his brother-in-law, who was married with children but can’t cope with life because he was abused as a child. The words were just spilling out, it seemed like he had bottled it all up and was grateful to be able to share his story without being judged. Then he said that he’s curious to talk to people who have left and moved on with their lives.
I actually discouraged him and said that if he’s happily married and comfortable with his life, he might not want to delve into that world. If he’s interested though, I told him to call Footsteps. He had never heard of it. [My sister] said “Footstepsorg.org.”
“The internet?” he asked, shrugging his shoulders. No access to information, he’s a defeated man, the odds stacked way against him.
As we walked away, [my son] said “Mommy, you see, not all of them are bad.”
One frum man in a car was ogling an 11 year old girl in our rally. One of our members shouted to him, “What you’re doing is exactly the problem we are talking about.” The person in the car rolled up the window (tinted) after hearing this.
Also, a few Chasidim flipped their middle fingers at the same said girl.
Eli Mandel, 27, Cleveland, OH:
Many people asked, “Were you molested?” As if to say that if I wasn’t, what was I protesting about? I found that to be so callous.
When I told one person that I was, he said, “Tell me who did it, I’ll break his legs.”
Me: “I don’t want you to break his legs, I want the system to change, I want his menahel to stop protecting him, I don’t want him shuffled around to different yeshivos every time he’s caught.”
Him: “Why don’t you go to the police? It doesn’t look like you’re embarrassed or scared.”
At this point his friend jumped in and started defending me by saying that it’s not easy to face these things and that the statute of limitations might have passed.
I just find it sad that I had to say that I was molested before I could have a conversation with the guy. And then, his first reaction was that we should be taking care of this internally. Fact: we don’t break perpetrators’ legs. Instead, we bully victims. Breaking a child molester’s legs doesn’t cure him. Going to jail, receiving treatment, and being registered as a sex offender does [address the problem] somewhat.Printable Version