By Ellen Tumposky (The Jewish Chronicle)
November 19, 2009
A report that a Brooklyn man who committed suicide two days after his wedding was a victim of sex abuse has riled the Orthodox community.
Mordechai (Motty) Borger, 24, jumped from the seventh-floor terrace of his hotel on November 5. His bride, Mali Gutman, whom he married on Nov 3 after they met through a matchmaker, was asleep in the room.
A spokeswoman for the NYC medical examiner's office said the death has been ruled a suicide.
Activists working to expose sex-abuse scandals in Orthodox yeshivot said that a report in the New York Post that Mr Borger had been molested as a yeshivah student was accurate - despite angry comments posted from Mr Borger's acquaintances. The Post, quoting an unnamed source, said that Mr Borger had told his wife about the abuse after the wedding. He was seen on security video footage in the hotel lift appearing agitated.
On the internet, the story prompted a huge number of comments asking questions about Mr Borger's private life.
"He is a survivor" of sex abuse, said Vicki Polin, founder of the Awareness Centre, a Baltimore-based coalition. She said that Mr Borger had told his parents about the abuse, but they had not sent him to therapy or gone to the police.
Mr Borger's father, Shmuel, the founder of Amudei Shaish Boys' Choir, has posted an audio message on the web lamenting his son's death after a "magnificent wedding" and noting that "a chosson's week of sheva broches" turned into seven days of mourning.
He urges people to reach out to friends and family. "Don't be ashamed to say I'm sorry," he advises.
Ben Hirsch of the group Survivors for Justice said that while he does not know the truth of Mr Borger's death, he does know of several suicides as a result of sexual abuse.
"The community's protection of the abuser can sometimes do more damage than the abuse itself."
Asher Lipner, vice-president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, said that sex-abuse victims can develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
"A young man who is newly married... it could trigger flashbacks to a time when he last experienced sexual contact, which was abuse," he said.
He said there was growing pressure on the Orthodox community to publicise sex abuse in yeshivot, adding: "There is an incredible amount of pressure put on someone not to talk about what happened. For over 40 years we've had in our community 100 per cent denial that the problem exists. When you have a dirty secret and you cover it up, it grows like a cancer."