Thursday, May 03, 2007


Rabbi Also Molested Girls

Phil Jacobs Executive Editor

MAY 04, 2007

Part of a continuing series on sexual molestation in the Jewish community. Warning: This article contains graphic sexual descriptions that may be offensive to some readers.

It wasn't only boys. Since the Baltimore Jewish Times' April 13 account that the deceased Rabbi Ephraim F. Shapiro—former principal of the Talmudical Academy and spiritual leader of the old Agudas Achim Synagogue—molested young boys hundreds of times, at least three women have come forward to share their molestation stories.

Pedophiles, according to Lisa Ferentz, a Pikesville-based clinical social worker and creator of a certificate program in Advanced Trauma Treatment, are not necessarily attracted to one gender over the other.

"What matters the most to many pedophiles," she said, "is the age of the victim. They are attracted to, and interested in controlling and maintaining power, over a child—it can either be a boy or a girl. This is important for parents to understand as they work to protect their children from potential predators.

"If they have information about a pedophile molesting boys, they shouldn't assume that their daughters are any safer in the company of that person," said Ms. Ferentz. "All kids need to be educated about inappropriate touch, and they should be empowered to fight back whenever possible, and to immediately tell a safe adult."

The following are accounts of three women now ranging in age from 58-69. When molested by Rabbi Shapiro, their age range was 7-12. (One of the women contacted the newspaper anonymously.)

Annette Stadd-Wilson

She was 7 and in second grade when she was molested after a Sunday school class by her teacher, Rabbi Ephraim F. Shapiro. He would go on to molest her countless number of times.

Annette Stadd-Wilson is now 58 and living in Phoenix, Ariz. She is a yoga instructor.

"This was a married man with children," she said with anger in her voice. "This was a man of God. He got away with this his entire life, and nobody came forward to make him stop."

Rabbi Shapiro would call her into his office, she recounted. He would then unzip his pants and ask her to caress him, she said. "This happened many times, and he would press me against his private parts," she said.

For Mrs. Wilson, there was even a deeper double meaning. The two shared the same birthday.

"As a girl, I always thought that something was wrong with me, for this to happen to me. When you are a young child and this happens, you think it is OK because you are the child and he is the adult—and a rabbi as well."

Rabbi Shapiro also officiated at her late father's funeral. She remembered the rabbi giving her some advice about the grieving process. Ms. Stadd chose to ignore him.

"I chose to leave the Jewish religion and found Eastern religion and yoga," she said. "I thank God that I did. It gave me an understanding of life and religion that made sense. I have thought that what happened to me does affect my lack of trust and feeling good about myself. Human beings all have a right to grow up feeling happy and healthy about themselves, and molestation destroys this."

Mrs. Wilson said she rarely speaks about her experiences.

"It's so devastating," she said, "you can't even talk about it. We have to ask ourselves, ‘How do we stop this?' I would like for Jewish people to stand up and come forward and face this. ... And I'm not sure I left Judaism because of this or not, but it probably had something to do with it. There's just way too much hypocrisy here."

E.J. Dopkin

Ellen Jane Dopkin was the only girl in her Agudas Achim Synagogue class.

She was post-bat mitzvah age, but her Hebrew school classroom achievements gave her the rare opportunity as a girl to be part of a special class studying the works of the Jewish sage Rashi.

She was the only girl in a class of about 15 young teens. One day, her teacher, the late Rabbi Shapiro, asked her to stay after class. They were alone. He placed his hands all over her body. He forced a kiss on her lips.

It happened over and over, she said.

Known to friends as "E.J.," Mrs. Dopkin sits in her beautiful Pikesville home with her husband, Michael. The events described above happened decades ago. Yet, they remain fresh for Mrs. Dopkin.

She was told about the April 13 Jewish Times story on Rabbi Shapiro and boys. She wanted to make sure that the community understood that girls were involved, too.

"Sometimes it happened in his office in the downstairs part of the school," she said. "Sometimes he had me come to his house. I never told anybody. I was a young girl. I didn't know what to do.

"It impacted me," she said. "It kept a block in front of me and my life. I felt that I wasn't able to accomplish as much as I could have because of what he did to me."

Mrs. Dopkin said she thinks of herself as a survivor. She said she's working to do what she can to get past her memories.

"Having an experience such as this makes you feel as if you don't want to trust people of authority, and then you don't want to trust anyone else, and then you don't even want to trust yourself," she said. "Then, the healing process is to say to yourself, ‘I can try to get past this.'"

What would Mrs. Dopkin ask Rabbi Shapiro today if she could?

"How could you use religion as an entering point to your terrible behavior?"

An Anonymous Caller

The Jewish Times received a call on Wednesday, April 25, from another woman who claimed she was molested by the late Ephraim Shapiro.

She was 111/2 and taking private bat mitzvah lessons with the rabbi at Agudas Achim.

"He would cop a feel," said the 68-year-old woman, who asked for anonymity. "He'd try to get underneath my sweaters. I was a little skinny minnie. I didn't know from this stuff. We didn't talk about these things."

"I never thought about it all of these years, I never told anybody," she said. "That's the trouble with the Jewish people. We sweep everything under the rug.

"It's a shame this wasn't told while he was living."

The impact stayed with her for years. "I didn't want to have any more with Jewish learning," she said. "I was sick of the whole damn thing. I knew he should not touch me, but he did.

"I remember his grubby hands. But Agudas Achim was a second home to my grandfather. I hated it, but I had to go."

For tips on future stories for this series, contact Phil Jacobs at pjacobs@jewishtimes.com . The next story in this series will be on the efforts by local groups and rabbis to offer resources for healing for sexual abuse survivors.

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