Punished for speak­ing out

Howard Cooper on a de­tailed ac­count of abuse. Anne Garvey on a lively, fa­tally flawed tale Who Gave You Per­mis­sion?

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - By Manny Waks with Michael Vison­tay

Scribe, £14.99

Re­viewed by Howard Cooper

MANNY WAKS, the el­dest son among 17 chil­dren of a bul­ly­ing, beltwield­ing Chabad fa­ther, has writ­ten a mem­oir of out­rage in which the com­plex­ity of his emo­tions, the shame, guilt and anger, are still raw more than 25 years later.

Be­tween the ages of 11 and 14, the au­thor was sex­u­ally abused, first by the son of one of the rab­bis teach­ing at the Chabad Yeshivah Centre in Mel­bourne, where Manny was at school, and then by the se­cu­rity guard em­ployed there.

But it is not these in­ci­dents (which Waks graph­i­cally de­scribes) that are in them­selves shock­ing, or trau­ma­tise the vic­tim. Aber­rant sex­u­al­ity is not news. It’s what hap­pened to him and his fam­ily af­ter the abuse stopped that leaves the deeper scars.

Ru­mours at school, af­ter his best friend be­trayed his se­cret, led to in­ces­sant bul­ly­ing about him be­ing gay: the au­thor (or his co-writer) speaks elo­quently about the closed, in­su­lar world of Lubav­itch ul­tra-Or­tho­doxy in the late 1980s, which con­flated male-on-male pae­dophilia with ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

Af­ter he told his fa­ther about these in­ci­dents, and his fa­ther con­fronted the centre’s rab­binic direc­tor, and then told the po­lice, years of per­sonal vil­i­fi­ca­tion and smears fol­lowed.

Os­tracism is a fa­mil­iar re­sponse to whistle­blow­ers. Or­gan­i­sa­tions don’t like their lives dis­turbed by un­com­fort- Manny Waks: years of vil­i­fi­ca­tion di­rected at him and his fam­ily for re­veal­ing child sex abuse in Chabad in­sti­tu­tion

able truths. Much of the au­thor’s an­i­mus is di­rected at the fail­ure of Chabad and the Yeshivah Centre to take these al­le­ga­tions se­ri­ously and he is zeal­ous in in­dict­ing their au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, lack of in­ter­nal ac­count­abil­ity, and in­tol­er­ance of dis­sent. The ha­lachic con­cept of mesirah — the so-called “sin” of re­port­ing on an­other Jew to the sec­u­lar au­thor­i­ties — was in­voked, as it tends to be in the many sit­u­a­tions in

which parts of the tra­di­tion­al­ist Jewish community don’t want to ex­pose their darker se­crets to the pub­lic gaze.

Waks names and shames sev­eral Aus­tralian Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­ual per­pe­tra­tors. Along the way, even in­ci­den­tal asides can be gen­uinely shock­ing. The ed­u­ca­tion he re­ceived was so un­worldly, he re­veals, that, un­til his early twen­ties, “I didn’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween Je­sus and Hitler — I thought

they were the same per­son”. He has now left Chabad and a reli­gious life­style and runs a global ad­vo­cacy ser­vice for Jewish vic­tims of child sex­ual abuse.

Yet such was the mys­tique around the late Lubav­itcher Rebbe that his “rev­er­ence for the Rebbe re­mains in­tact”. Good fa­thers, it seems, can be hard to find.

Rabbi Howard Cooper is a writer and prac­tis­ing psy­chother­a­pist

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.