The name of the potcher is David SpitzerSeveral years ago I read a post by a blogger who goes by the name, Mystery Woman, that touched me deeply. She describes finding out from her 2nd grade son that his rebbe had repeatedly slapped him in the face. Her account is very sad, and unfortunately typical, of the disciplinary tactics used in some orthodox Jewish day schools. Some might call it old school, many of us call it abuse.
Mystery Woman was fortunate to have found out what happened from her son, and she went to speak to the principal. When the principal confronted the rebbe about the incident, he lied and said another child had hit her son. While the matter was dropped, the son and mother knew the rebbe had lied. However, the rebbe also knew that Mystery Woman was onto him, and he never hit her son again – although he continued to teach at the school with no repercussions.
Mystery Woman’s son developed a mistrust for rabbeim, and never forgave the teacher. He was haunted by the experience and the rebbe’s outright lie about what happened. Ten years later, her younger son was talking excitedly about starting yeshiva. The only thing he was nervous about was his rebbe. He heard that when the boys misbehaved “he hurts.” No longer a young and meek mother, Mystery Woman promised not to tolerate abuse from her child’s teacher. Her post ends in an unsent letter to her younger son’s new rebbe -
“To my little boy’s Rebbe:
Look at my son in the classroom when you teach him. Look into his eyes and see how hard he tries…how eager he is to please. See how your disappointment in him…your frustration…reaches into his soul and breaks his heart. See how it hardens into the foundation of his character.
I see it. I see it all. And I am angry every time I watch his self esteem crumbling.
Do you know how sweet he is…my son?
If you looked into his eyes, would you hurt him? If you loved him, would you?
Is it worth a life? A future?
I don’t ask you to love my son as I do. But please….look into his eyes. While your expectations may not change, the way you respond to him might.
Take care of my little boy.“
As the mother of a 2nd grade boy who is trusting, loving, and wanting to please the adults in his life, my heart and soul would be shattered into a million tiny shards if I ever found out he was being physically abused and humiliated in school. Although this is not my son, not my school, and not my community, my heart shattered into a million tiny shards upon seeing this video posted to an anti-abuse Facebook group today. This incident apparently happened 6 years ago in New Square.
To see a poor child cowering at the hands of his rebbe and his fellow classmates, who are horrified and helpless to intervene, is absolutely heartbreaking. This man should not be allowed to teach children. Sadly, abuse like this continues unreported every day. School should be a safe haven of learning and support, not a place of fear and trauma.
For those of you who wonder what becomes of a boy who suffers such pain and torment at the hands of a religious mentor and educator – this might help to answer that question:
What can we do to make sure that no Jewish child suffers as these poor children have? One possible solution is to arm our kids with cell phones that have video cameras. This New Square classroom abuse and the Camp Dora Golding abuse have one thing in common – in both instances kids took video footage of the violence as it was happening. The New Square video was recorded on a pen video recording device, a good option for those kids at schools that don’t permit cell phones.
Abusers who wouldn’t think to commit their crimes in front of other adults have no qualms about perpetrating abuse in front of other children. They either believe the kids will be too frightened to tell anyone, or if they do tell, they won’t be believed. I think we need to teach our kids to hit the record button if they or their classmates experience these kinds of assaults. Grown-ups aren’t saving them, so maybe video evidence is the weapon they can use to save themselves.
Posted by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg at 3/18/2014
[New Square Hits The (Fan) [BOY
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg