On August 6, 2016 I wrote a post for the Lost Messiah blog in response to some very inappropriate comments there, directed to me by Australian Chabad rabbi Yosef Feldman.
In it I cited two examples of instances when Chabad rabbis have revealed their true character or beliefs, contrary to the image they try to project.
One of those instances is a video by Chabad rabbi Manis Friedman in which he trivializes the effects of child sexual abuse (CSA) and mocks CSA victims. At one point in the video Friedman compared the effects of CSA to having a case of diarrhea, and his comments received nearly universal condemnation over the Internet.
However, at the time I wrote my response to Feldman, I was not aware that the video I cited was edited to exclude comments that were especially embarrassing to the Chabad organization. Chabad attempted to distance themselves from Friedman after his comments received waves of negative publicity.
Yeracmiel Lopin of Frum Follies notified me that the video (8 minutes and 11 seconds) is incomplete, and directed me to a link where he provides a full transcript that he transcribed from an unedited audio recording (13 minutes and 25 seconds). Below is a video that includes the missing comments not included in my original video citation. Though the quality is not especially good, it is still possible to catch the missing segment of Friedman’s shameful comments on child sexual abuse. They begin at the 180 second (3 minute) mark and are easily followed in the transcript provided by Lopin, which is included below for readers to follow. I have added bold to text where I felt the comment deserves special attention. Text in parentheses was added by Yerachmiel Lopin for translation of Hebrew or Yiddish terminology.
Video taken with my cell phone and optimized as best I could… original video, “Rabbi Manis Friedman @midnightrabbi learning to teach and kindle a soul 2013!” was changed to “private” by its publisher, “rabbi eli goldsmith” just as I was watching. Nice try!
Rabbi Manis Friedman on Sex Abuse
- The fear of an aveira (sin), the rejection of an aveira, is a very potent medicine and it has to be administered very carefully.
- I don’t know what the percentage is, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but, uh, there’s hardly a kid who comes to a yeshiva, to a program, that hasn’t been molested, sexually molested.
- And all the children who have been sexually molested, have serious emotional imbalances. And the question is – why? Why?
- Just to make it dramatic, I was talking to this girl who was very, very, off the derech (off the orthodox religious path), not off the derech, I mean, that’s putting it mildly.
- She decided she hates men, she’s going to be a lesbian.
- Why? Because she was molested. And she has been going for therapy and she’s been talking about it. Been close to 20 years that she was.
- So I said to her, “You’re not the only one who was molested.” “Well I was molested! Eeeehhhhhh.” [imitation of whining sound]. “You’re not the only one though.”
- “And let me ask you a question, do you sometimes forget to say Al Hamichya?” Because she’s not keeping shabbos (Jewish Sabbath laws). I said, “Do you sometimes forget to say al hamichya (obligatory Jewish blessing after certain snacks) ? Because, that’s much,” I said, “That’s much worse than being molested.”
- She was very upset, [MF laughs] until she finally calmed down. I said, “Look, you were 9 years old, and you didn’t do it. So what aveira (sin) are you guilty of? You forget to say Al Hamichya (after-snack blessing) that’s your aveira (sin), that’s much more serious. So it doesn’t bother you that you forgot to say Al Hamichya, but you can’t get over the fact that somebody else did an aveira?!”
- In other words, what happened is that we stopped being Jewish in our responses. We’ve all become psychiatrists. A kid tells you he’s been molested, right away you’re thinking “Oooohh, emotional damage.” What do you know about emotional damage?
- If a kid comes to you and says “I was molested” you open up a shulchan aruch (Code of Jewish law) and okay, let’s see, what’s the aveira (sin)?
- What does it say in Torah if you are inappropriately touched? You know what it says? It says, [pause] Eh, it doesn’t. Throw him out. If a kid would come and say, “This uncle or this camp counselor is touching me” “Really? Don’t go in. Not nice, not tznius (modest).”
- That’s all! There would be no damage, there would be no trauma, there would be no dropout. The problem is we tell children how bad certain things are, and then we don’t tell them how to handle bad.
- The Alter Rebbe (Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad, 1745-1812) had to write a whole Tanya (a foundational work of Hasidism) to convince people if you have a machshava zarah (untoward thought), don’t freak out, you’re not a tzaddik (saint), it’s okay, you’re going to have a machshava zarah. You have a nefesh Elokis (a soul with aspects of the divine), you have ten kochos Eloki (powers with some divine features), what, and you’re freaking out over a machshava zarah (untoward thought)? What is it? You’re giving a zach (a thing) too much credit.
- I could open an office and be busy full time just telling people who have been molested, “So? Nobody’s allowed to touch you; are you, holy? So you were touched? That’s it.”
- So I said to this girl, her family comes from Russia, I said
- “What do you think, you’re the only one who was molested? You think your mother and grandmother back in Russia made it through their teenage years without being molested by a sheiygitz (disgusting gentile)?
- So what? They stopped life? They wouldn’t get married? They wouldn’t raise a family?
- What, are you so fragile? What happened to you?”
- It’s shocking, but you can actually hear this breath of relief after all those years.
The continuation of the video can be viewed below. The full transcript of both videos is available at Frum Follies: Full Transcript of Manis Friedman Trivializing Sex Abuse
The widely publicized and condemned version of Friedman’s video trivializing the effects of child sexual abuse was very offensive to many. But even that was edited to exclude some of Friedman’s perspective and was not representative of the entire truth. It demonstrates the importance of investigating many of the statements and claims made by Chabad organization representatives/associates to insure the information we receive from them is accurate and complete. And it reminds us of the necessity of scrutinizing the moral character of those who position themselves as our religious or community leaders.