Books on Abuse in the Religious Community

A listing of some of the books that focus on the issue of sexual abuse in
the Ultra-Orthodox community.


Who Gave You Permission? the memoir of a child sexual-abuse survivor who fought back

By Michael Visontay, Manny Waks

'Who gave you permission to speak to anybody?' Rabbi Telsner, the leader of the Yeshivah Centre, thundered during his regular weekly sermon. It was a question directed to Manny Waks's father, after Manny had finally gone public with his accusations of sexual abuse and its cover-up within the centre. Manny Waks was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family, the second oldest of 17 children. As an adolescent he was sexually abused at the religious school across the road from where he lived. Betrayed by those he trusted, Manny rebelled against his way of life, though he later went on to become a prominent Jewish community leader. In mid-2011 Manny went public about his experiences to bring justice to the abusers, and those who covered up their crimes. For his courage in speaking out, Manny and his family were intimidated and shunned by their community. Although he has been forced to leave Australia, Manny continues to advocate for survivors and hold those in power to account.

This is the story of a man who shattered a powerful code of silence, the battles he has fought, the vindication he has earned, and the extraordinary toll it has taken on his personal life and that of his loved ones. It is also the raw self-portrait of a man on a mission, trying to live his life. Manny's journey reminds us of the difference one man can make, and the price he has to pay.


Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community

by Rachel Lev

An extraordinary journey into the stories, minds, and hearts of adult Jewish survivors of sexual abuse and incest. Rachel Lev, a therapist and an incest survivor herself, blends her own experiences with those of other survivors, and reflects upon their personal relationships to the Jewish community—a community that can either encourage denial or be a place of healing. Shine the Light emphasizes healing, which Lev believes can come about through self-expression, creativity, and, above all, feeling connected, not isolated. The book offers the rare opportunity for the survivors to speak for themselves through first-hand accounts, poetry, and evocative artwork, some reproduced in color.

The twenty-two contributing authors and artists identify themselves along the spectrum from "just Jewish" to "Hasidic" and represent a wide range of professions and ethnic backgrounds.


Tempest in the Temple - Jewish Communities & Child Sex Abuse

by Amy Neustein, Ph.D.

Tempest in the Temple offers an open discussion of some of the most deeply rooted fears in the Jewish community. Its purpose is not to blame or shame Jews but to examine this horrific problem of sexual abuse with as much clarity and precision as possible so that the best remedies can be offered to the community as a whole. Amy Neustein brings together fifteen practicing rabbis, educators, pastoral counselors, sociologists, mental health professionals, and legal advocates for abuse victims, each of whom offer insights into different facets of the problem. 

This book is divided into three sections. The first section, "When the Vow Breaks," describes rabbis who break their "vows" through active pedophilia. The second section, "Sacrificing Victims," illuminates the community dynamics surrounding abuse: how a community unwittingly contributes to the cover-up of abuse; why victims of abuse are all too often ignored or cast off by their religious communities; and the mechanisms by which powerful religious institutions protect their own. The third section, "Let Me Know the Way," addresses how Jewish communities can overcome the ignorance, bias, and corruption associated with clergy sexual abuse. Solutions--some already successful, others yet to be tried--are explored here. 



by Aishes Chayil

Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail—and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.

A richly detailed and nuanced book, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story explains a complex world that remains an echo of its past, and illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality.


Child and Domestic Abuse - Torah, Psychological & Legal Perspectives

by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn

A view of the dynamics of child and domestic abuse in general and in the Orthodox Jewish community in particular. This material is the result of discussions and guidance I have had from Rav Moshe Sternbuch of the Eidah Chareids as well as psychologists, lawyers and other experts. The nature of abuse as well as long term psychological damage are discussed in detail.

A series of 25 articles written by experts in abuse provide a 3 dimensional understanding of this difficult issue. Thus the dynamics of psychology are connected with Jewish law (halacha) as well as the sociological and secular legal concerns. The book contains practical advice as well as a 6 pages summary of the issues that I wrote that was reviewed and commented on by Rav Sternbuch.


Breaking the Silence - Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community

by David Mandel and Dr. David Pelcovitz, Ph.D.

The reality of sexual abuse in the Jewish community has necessitated a guide for parents, mental health professionals and community leaders outlining practical approaches to prevention and intervention. The focus of this book is on helping parents and professionals understand the distinctive ways that Orthodox Jewish culture, beliefs and practices can result in a unique presentation in child and adolescent sexual abuse victims. Practical approaches to prevention and protection that are culturally sensitive to the unique needs of the Orthodox community include chapters which will serve as a guide to parents, teachers, and community leaders on how to effectively implement prevention efforts in homes, schools and communities.

The book also contains sections describing the impact of abuse in the voices of survivors, a summary of how traditional Jewish law views the responsibility of the community in dealing with sexual abuse, and a section for mental health professionals that details psychotherapeutic approaches in work with victims and perpetrators. This volume should serve as an essential resource for parents, educators, professionals and community leaders interested in learning how to better fulfill our responsibility to protect and nurture the next generation.


Abuse in the Jewish Community - Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims

by Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D.

''Dr. Michael Salamon raises some very important questions about the role of spiritual leaders giving guidance on matters of abuse in the Jewish community. One need not agree with Dr. Salamon on every case he cites to recognize that the issues he addresses must be confronted by the Jewish community and its leadership.'' --Rabbi Hershel Billet

 ''Dr. Michael Salamon combines years of experience in treating victims of sexual abuse and an intimate knowledge of Orthodox Judaism. In his valuable new book he clarifies the trauma resulting from abuse and the particular impact of religious values in creating difficulties in confronting predators and in therapy. Reading this work will help the community make the changes needed to effectively reduce the present threat to many of our youth.'' --Rabbi Yosef Blau


 Let's Stay Safe

by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Tova Leff (Illustrator)

With its delightful pictures and child-friendly rhyming text, Let's Stay Safe helps us give our children essential life lessons in safe and unsafe behavior. 

In language that will empower and educate, we can give our children the tools to stay safe and secure in our increasingly difficult world. Over two years in the making and developed by Project Y.E.S. as part of its Karasick Child Safety Initiative. Let's Stay Safe is a must for all concerned parents - and all of our beautiful children. 


The Shame Borne in Silence: Spouse Abuse in the Jewish Community

by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The myth that Jews do not abuse their spouses must be shattered! Now for the first time, a direct address to the problem of spouse abuse in the Jewish community! We can no longer permit ourselves to deny the existence of this terrible crime. The time has come to confront the truth and to take definitive steps to end this violation of all that judaism stands for. A leading Rabbi and Psychiatrist, with striking candor, firmness and compassion, reveals what may have been closely kept dark secrets in many Jewish families, and offers urgently needed advice and direction.


Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment

by Janet Heimlich

High-profile cases such as the child sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and "faith healing" deaths in certain fundamentalist Christian congregations have made the public aware that religion can sometimes mask deviant and harmful behavior. But the extent of the problem is far greater than most people realize. In this revealing, disturbing, and thoroughly researched book, award-winning journalist Janet Heimlich exposes a dark side of faith that most Americans do not know exists or have ignored for a long time—religious child maltreatment.

After speaking with dozens of victims, perpetrators, and experts, and reviewing a myriad of court cases and studies, Heimlich explains how religious child maltreatment happens. She then takes an in-depth look at the many forms of child maltreatment found in religious contexts, including biblically-prescribed corporal punishment and beliefs about the necessity of "breaking the wills" of children; scaring kids into faith and other types of emotional maltreatment such as spurning, isolating, and exploiting; pedophilic abuse by religious authorities and the failure of religious organizations to support the victims and punish the perpetrators; and religiously-motivated medical neglect in cases of serious health problems. 


Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children

By Marci A. Hamilton

Recent events such as the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church have brought the once-taboo subject of childhood sexual abuse to the forefront. But despite increasing awareness of the problem, the United States has not succeeded in establishing effective means of deterring and preventing it, leaving the children of today and tomorrow vulnerable. Hamilton proposes a comprehensive yet simple solution: eliminate the arbitrary statutes of limitation for childhood sexual abuse so that survivors past and present can get into court. Removing this merely procedural barrier permits the millions of survivors to make public the identities of their perpetrators and to receive justice and much-deserved compensation. Standing in the way, however, are formidable opponents such as the insurance industry and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. In Justice Denied, Hamilton predicts a coming civil rights movement for children and explains why it is in the interest of all Americans to allow victims of childhood sexual abuse this chance to seek justice when they are ready.


Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse

By Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D.

Providing empowering action steps and written specifically for survivors of male sexual abuse as well as their spouses, partners, and loved ones, Beyond Betrayal is based on Richard Gartner's decades of experience as a psychologist, psychoanalyst, and advocate for sexually abused men. Covering both male and female abuse of boys and young men, Dr. Gartner explores the different types of abuse, from sexual abuse with and without touch to covert abuse to trauma, revealing the profound impact of sexual betrayal by such caretakers as clergy, family, teachers, babysitters, and health professionals. Gartner explains how as a child one trusts out of necessity—and how the betrayal of that trust ravages one's self-concept as a man while also wreaking havoc on one's relationships.

better safe

A Better Safe Than Sorry Book: A Family Guide for Sexual Assault Prevention

By Sol and Judith Gordon

Written for children as well as for parents and professionals, a traditionally uncomfortable topic is discussed in a manner designed to help children feel good about themselves.