Friday, October 26, 2007
From The UOJ Archives, published twice, the first time was October 2005! The Rabbis Mocked Her...Called Her Names...Figuratively Tossed Her In The Wastebasket....THE BALTIMORE RABBIS MUST APOLOGIZE.... AND GET RID OF ELIEZER EISGRAU!
I was asked by Ms. Eisgrau to post her story for the world to see.
In fact, there are parts of this story I was indeed able to verify, and as to the entire letter, I have independent sources that I trust, that are able to vouch for her credibility.
Republished with permission and authorization of The Awareness Ctr.
A Story of Survival - Surviving Incest
By Survivor of Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau
You have all turned your backs and walked away from me. My father, my mother, and eleven siblings. All gone.
This reality is very sad. It is disturbing, and incomprehensible all at the same time.
What is the terrible crime I committed that warranted the loss of my entire family? What could cause parents to abandon a child? Siblings to abandon a sister? And a community to collectively turn its back in silence?
I committed a terrible crime.
My unforgivable crime is that I spoke the truth about my childhood.
I could no longer keep secret the years of fear and pain. The molestation by my father, and the emotional abuse and neglect of both my parents. ..
I did try hard to keep it in the family as I had been taught to. I tried so hard to be the daughter and sister you wanted me to be. To be "good" To let it go, and just forget, and somehow be OK... But I was in too much pain. I knew I couldn't continue without help.
I came to you first, remember? But you made it clear that you did not believe that I was really hurt. You made it clear that you would not, and could not, believe me that Tatty molested me nor could you support me. You denied that I had a reason to be in so much pain. I had to go elsewhere for help.
Going outside the family for help is a major sin. The louder you shouted that it just wasn't true, that Tatty could never do such a thing, that nothing really happened to me, the louder I had to shout to hear myself over the clamor of your thirteen desperate voices.
Unfortunately It is true that I was sexually molested and abused in our family. If I am real than this did happen. I am a product of OUR family.
...Thankfully, there were others who heard and I got the help I needed. I survived and I am doing well!
Oh, if only It were true, as you say, that a therapist somehow convinced me that the memories are true!!! I would sue the therapist and have my family back!
If only it were true, as you say, that the books I read on the subject of abuse are what put these horrible ideas into my head!! I would burn the books and have my family back!!
If only I were truly sick, or truly mental!! I would then pose no threat and I could have my family back!! Oh, if only I were truly evil and out to "get" my father! But I still love my father in spite of myself. I don't believe that my father is an evil monster. He has caused a lot of pain and refuses to take any responsibility for his actions. He is a human being who has done much good and also much bad. He has a serious problem and I wish he would get help.
To my siblings, and to my fathers supporters, I say I am none of the things you accuse me of. I am just a women. I have my strengths and limitations just like you. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, a friend, and neighbor just like you. I play with my children, hug them, kiss them and love them, just like you do. I laugh and cry and feel as deeply as you do. I have a life that is rich and joyful and completely separate from my past, as I hope that you do too. And I have many close friends who truly know and appreciate me for who I am...and know nothing of my past.
But there is no substitute for my family. I miss you. In spite of your denial of my experiences. In spite of your blame and accusations. In spite of you saying that your childhood was idyllic and wonderful...and therefore mine was too. I am truly happy for you that this was your experience and I can not take it away from you. I can only envy you. My childhood also had wonderful moments and happy memories, yet the good memories are overshadowed by pain, sadness, and fear. I wish there was a way you could accept our different experiences, and reconcile.
Perhaps there are those of you who would like to be in touch with me and believe that you can't because Rabbi Hopfer advised you to cut me out of the family. It would be going against "Daas Torah" to speak with me. I am so sorry for your pain. I am so sorry for us that you have chosen a rav who apparently has more to gain by breaking up our family than by encouraging its healing.
Any thinking, intelligent person can see that Rabbi Hopfer's cruel advice, which hides behind the guise of "Daas Torah," sadly, has nothing to do with either.
Tatty, I miss you too.
You have hurt me terribly and I can't fully comprehend what you did to me. I understand why the people who have trusted you do not want to believe me. It is just too overwhelming. I also do not want to believe...I still want to believe that I am wrong. I still want to believe that I have a father who is safe. You loved me and hurt me. You gave me life, and you almost killed me. You will always be the only father I have. I will always need you.
Mommy, I think I do understand why you walked away... You made it clear from the time I was young that Tatty was much more important to you than I was. I believe that on some level you know that my memories of him are true. I believe that you needed him, and still need him more than you ever needed me. You have not been able to let yourself truly see me from the time I was very little. And that hurts. Because I needed you desperately. You are my mother and I needed your protection and love. I will always need you.
I am a woman who was terribly abused as a child. I deal with this reality every day of my life. And because I did not keep the secret, I am a woman without parents or siblings.
With tears and always... hope for the future,
Eisgrau's Daughter ****
The reason I am telling my story is because I want people, especially rabbis, to realize that when allegations of child abuse are made by a child against a parent, (regardless of whether the allegations are true or not) it is an indication of a serious problem in the family. When abuse is covered up and denied it is usually handed down to the next generation. Cutting off the family member who dares to expose the family's pain and shame does not make the problem go away. My family and I needed help and the rabbi's failed us. My family and I still need help and the rabbi's are still failing us. If I had a child who said I had sexually abused them, whether I thought I had or not, I would realize that there was a serious problem in my relationship with that child. I would do all I could to help my child understand what had happened. I would get my whole family help.
When most people in the orthodox community look at my family they see a normal family. Everyone is religious, married with kids, seems happy, and appears not only to be functioning well but also contributing to their community.
I come from a very large orthodox family. Most of my early childhood was spent in a small town on the east coast. My father met and married my mother there while he was a student at her father's yeshiva. My grandfather's yeshiva was in a remote area jewishly and otherwise, and we were very isolated. We did not go to school and had no contact with children outside of the family.
My father was physically abusive and sexually molested me repeatedly while we were living near my grandfather's yeshiva. I was also molested by some of the students in the yeshiva. I don't remember their names. My father stopped abusing me when we moved to Baltimore and he started teaching.
My grandfather was also inappropriate with me. He exposed himself to me once when I was three. When I was seven he had a serious discussion with me. He told me how lonely he was and ask me if I thought he should get remarried. At that age he told my sister and I that he loved one of us more than the other. I was sure it was she who he loved more than me.
I know that my grandfather physically abused my mother, (although she will insist that her experience was not abuse). She would get hit, for example, if she couldn't keep the baby from crying. My mother is the oldest of ten children. Her mother died of an illness when she was fifteen. She said that my grandfather always hit his children too much, but after her mother died it got worse. She told me that her brothers would try to protect her. My mother's brothers are the only safe men who I remember having close contact with in my childhood.
My father was physically abused by his mother. She would hold his nose to force him to swallow foods that he d. She would beat him with a broomstick. He was a troubled teen and was kicked out of more than one yeshiva. He told me that my grandfather rescued him, "pulled him from the garbage can." He shared with me his first encounter with my grandfather. He said that when my grandfather was speaking to him he raised his hand to make a point, and my father instinctively ducked under the table. He thought he was going to be hit.
My grandfather also rescued Aaron Goldberger. He had been expelled from a yeshiva for "homosexual behavior." Knowing his background, and despite many warnings, my grandfather allowed Goldberger to marry his daughter. Years later Goldberger was convicted of molesting his own children and lost custody of them as a result.
I was a troubled child and an angry teen for obvious reasons. I was also extremely depressed. My mother would tell me repeatedly that I had nothing to be sad or angry about and that I should put a smile on my face.
When I was in the fourth grade I discovered by that I needed glasses. A classmate had a pair and I tried them on just for fun. When the room jumped into focus I realized that I needed glasses. I told my mother who said, "No you don't need glasses, you see well enough." Her response was typical.
When my fifth grade teacher sent a note home asking my parents to get my eyes checked they finally took me to an eye doctor. The doctor assured my mother that he could see by the shape of my pupil that I was nearsighted but she was still unconvinced. She told me that I was getting glasses not because I needed them but to get the teacher off her back. My sister taunted me "you don't really need glasses you just want attention."
As a child I often wondered what I could possibly do to become real in my parent's eyes. I remember watching other children in school and wondering what it was about them that I was missing that allowed them to exist, and have real needs and feelings. I thought there was something inherently wrong with me.
When I was sixteen I left home to go to school in Israel. When the Gulf War broke out my parents forced me to come back home and refused to let me return to Israel. When I was eighteen I ran away from home and went back to Israel. My father came after me. He told me that the only reason he could think of that I could possibly have run away was that I had lesbian relationship with a friend whom I had met and become close to while in school there.
My father said that he wanted to help me and would take me to see a psychologist if I came home with him. He took me to his friend, Dr. Aviva Weisbord, who agreed to see me as a favor to him. (Apparently he had helped her with one of her children who had been having problems.)
Dr. Weisbord should never have taken me on as a client due to her obvious conflict of interest. She allowed me to come to her house during the course of therapy and sleep over. She violated confidentiality by meeting with my parents against my wishes. She violated confidentiality by telling people that I had been a client of hers and that in her "professional" opinion my father had not abused me.
During the course of my treatment with Dr. Weisbord she and I both realized that I had been sexually abused. She kept asking me about my uncle, Goldberger, whom I had contact with as a young child. I did not remember any specific instances of him abusing me. I did not tell her about my father. She was very willing to believe that my uncle, a convicted offender, abused me. But I knew she would not believe me about my father. She made it clear that she trusted and respected him. At some point she realized that I was hiding something. She told me that there were serious boundary issues in my family. That there were things that I wasn't sharing with her, and that she did not want to hear. She told me that she was ending our relationship and sending me to someone else.
My next therapist would not speak with my parents at all, and when my father found out that I was talking about the abuse he told me that I had to stop seeing her. He threatened to take her to a bais din for "convincing me of things that never happened." He told me that I was heading down a dangerous path. That reading books on the subject of abuse was putting ideas into my head. He told me that he was the only one who really loved that and me if I wasn't paying my therapist she would throw me out onto the street. That was the day I left my parents home.
I had nowhere to go. In desperation, I called a woman whom I had met only once, Hinda Goliger, and she invited me to come live with her. Many people including my parents, tried to pressure the Goligers to throw me out so I would be forced to go back home. The Goligers refused to bow to pressure. They promised me that their home would always be a safe place for me and it was. They were truly there for me when no one else was. They believed in me, and I will always be grateful.
The abuse by my father and others left me with many issues. But even worse than the actual and abuse was the revictimization that I encountered from my family, and community, when I tried to reach out for help.
No one would believe me that my father or my grandfather had done these things. My siblings were very angry with me and treated me like I had some horrible disease. My mother told me that she knew that nothing happened to me and that basically I was saying these things to get attention. One of my uncles told me that saying that my grandfather abused me meant that I d the Torah. Another Rabbi who I spoke with, after asking me for my grandfathers name, told me that it was my imagination that I had been sexually abused and that I should just forget about it and get married and everything would be fine. Once again I was being given the message that I was not real. My memories were not real. My feelings and experiences were not real.
During this time one of my brothers, then in his teens, forced a six-year-old in the neighborhood to expose herself to him. He threatened to hurt her if she didn't comply. The child's mother told me about the incident. She told my mother about it too. My mother's response was that she needed to talk to my brother about staying away from s, and that my father needed to learn with him more often.
I told my therapist about the incident. She informed me that what my brother had done was considered sexual abuse and that she was mandated to report it. I begged her not to. I knew that my family, who were already very upset with me for saying that my father abused me, would think that I had reported it. She finally agreed to ask her Rabbi, R' Menachem Goldberger, what to do. Rabbi Goldberger. told her to make the report which she did.
Another Rabbi who I turned to for help was Rabbi Moshe Heinemann. I did not know how to approach him. I decided to ask him a halachic question that had been bothering me for a while. It was a question that one of my aunts had asked me when I told her what my father had done to me. I asked him if I was allowed to marry a kohen if my father abused me. I was hoping that he would hear the inherent pain in my question and offer to help me. He asked if it happened before or after age three. I said after. He then told me that if I decided to say that it never happened then I could marry a kohen but if I said that it did happen then I couldn't. End of conversation. That was the only time that I spoke with Rabbi Heinemann about this, or anything else. Some years later parents of a child in the Torah Institute went to ask Rabbi Heinemann about the allegations against my father. He told them to disregard what I said as I was, "crazy and not frum."
I went to other Rabbi's for help and I was told, "we know sexual abusers exists in our community but we know that your father is not one of them."
I already felt inherently damaged, and traumatized, as a result of the sexual abuse but the way my family and the rabbi's were treating me made the pain unbearable. Like all survivors of trauma I needed to talk about what happened to me in order to process it and heal. I needed (and still need) my truth to be heard. My family did not understand this and accused me of trying to hurt them by telling people about it.
I thought that because no one believed me I must be crazy. I wanted to believe that my family was right and I was sick or evil but deep down I knew that I wasn't and that I was remembering these things because they had happened to me.
I was in a tremendous amount of psychological pain. I often begged God to remove me from this world. I wanted to die to find out the truth. And I wanted to escape the pain. I attempted and was hospitalized. During my hospitalization I was diagnosed with a dissociative disorder (that I have since recovered from) whose only known cause is severe and repeated trauma in early childhood. I was also diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.)
While all this was going on I was teaching preschool at the Torah Institute. The preschool director was shocked when I told her that I was quitting because I was suicidal and needed to be hospitalized. She simply couldn't believe it. She said that I was doing a great job teaching and that she thought I was the most `together' of all my sisters. I told her that my family specialized in seeming `normal' and `together' and that I was good at it, but I was tired of pretending to be ok. I needed help.
At first the director said that she believed me that my father had sexually abused me. She told me that she knew more than one rebbe at the Torah Institute with sexual issues. She wanted to be supportive but at the same time she begged me to consider the damage that speaking about my experience would cause my siblings. She told me I could ruin my sister's chances of getting a shidduch if I didn't keep quiet.
She offered to let me stay with her for a couple of weeks while I waited for a bed to open up on the dissociative disorders unit. During this stay she changed her mind and told me that although it was obvious to her that my parents had caused me severe emotional damage, she just couldn't believe that my father had physically molested me.
During one of my many hospitalizations Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer came to visit me. I told him about the memories that I had of my father molesting me. I told him that I hoped my family and everyone else was right about me and that somehow my mind was playing cruel tricks on me. It was easier for me to believe that I was crazy then to believe that my father did these things to me. I wanted my family back.
Eventually, I rented my own apartment and applied for another job in a new preschool that was opening up in the community. I was hired as a teacher for the three-year-old class. A few weeks before the start of the school year the director informed me that some people in the community threatened not to send their children to her school if I was going to be teaching there. They told her that there must be something wrong with me because I had moved out of my parents home. This woman, not knowing that there was a connection between us, asked Dr. Aviva Weisbord for advice. Dr. Aviva Weisbord told her not to let me teach but to give me a job in a back office so that no one would know I was there.
I became completely disillusioned with yidishkeit because of the way I was being treated by the community and my family. People who should have been helping me were calling me crazy and evil. I wanted nothing to do with any of it anymore. I stopped keeping shabbos and kosher. I had to find a new way to relate to God. I also had to find a new God. One who had not allowed me to be abused in a yeshiva and by people who were supposed to be frum and uphold the Torah. A God who was all knowing and all loving and believed in me and wanted me to heal. I had to leave yidishkeit to find this.
I explored other religions. I spoke to priests, ministers. I came back to Judaism, mostly because I missed shabbos. I had to come to the realization that my parents and the Rabbi's who hurt me did not own God or Judaism and that their behavior had nothing to do with Torah. Although I am now shomer mitzvoth, to this day I can never completely trust a rabbi. And I doubt I will never feel completely safe or comfortable in the frum world.
About eight years after my conversation with Rabbi Hopfer my father became the principal of the Torah Institute. I had received excellent help in the trauma disorders day hospital at Sheppard Pratt and had with much effort pulled my shattered life back together. The chronic depression and psychological pain that I had carried around with me for as long as I could remember slowly dissipated as I worked through the traumatic memories. I was in school. I was working. I met and married a wonderful man. I gave birth to a baby. I was very happy. Every day felt like a miracle.
I was very concerned when I heard that a former student had accused my father of child abuse. I had thought/hoped that his abuse had stopped with me. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe the reason the abuse stopped when we moved to Baltimore was because my father had access to other children.
I told a parent of a child in the school that I was concerned that my father was not safe around children. It got back to my siblings and they went to Rabbi Hopfer for advice. Rabbi Hopfer told my siblings to give me an ultimatum. I was to promise never to talk about what my father did to me, or they would cut me out of the family. I told them there was no way I could ethically promise that.
I wrote Rabbi Hopfer a letter asking him why he had not contacted me before he gave my family this advice. He did not respond. Some months later I called him up several times, and finally he called back. I asked him why he had not contacted me before telling my family to cut me off. He became very defensive and angrily asked me why I believed that my fathers other accuser was credible? Why had I not bothered to check it out?
I told Rabbi Hopfer that I had checked it out and that although I was not in the room and could never know what really happened to this student, that based on my own experiences with my father I believed that it was possible that he had abused again.
I told Rabbi Hopfer that I wished that he and my family would also admit that they were not in the room when my father was abusing me and could never be completely sure what my father had done to me.
I asked him again why he had not contacted me. He said he had already spoken to me eight years earlier when he had visited me in the hospital.
Me: I am a different person now, in a totally different place then I was eight years ago. I was going through a serious crisis then. A lot has changed. I think you should have realized that and called me. Do you remember our conversation in the hospital?
Me: So you made the decision to break up a family based on a conversation you had eight years ago that you don't remember?
Hopfer: I made my decision then that you were not credible and I stuck with it.
Me: I think you should have contacted me. Why don't you believe me about my father? Do you think I am crazy or evil?
Hopfer: No, but your siblings say that your story is inconsistent. First you said your uncle abused you, then your grandfather, then your father.
Me: When I first started dealing with this, I did not want to believe that my father abused me. Like you, I would rather have believed just about anything else. My therapist at the time wanted me to think it was my uncle.
Hopfer: Your own therapist doesn't believe you.
Me: The only therapist I worked with who is unethical enough to break confidentiality and speak to you about what she believes and doesn't believe about me, is Dr. Weisbord and she is also a friend of my father.
I'm trying to understand why you would advise my family to do such a terrible thing? What good could this possibly accomplish?
Hopfer: They have too choose between you and your father. They can't be loyal to both of you. They can't stand seeing the pain you are causing him.
Me: I wonder why you and my family are so focused on my fathers pain, which I didn't cause, yet no one seems to worry about my pain. I have lost my entire family because of this. And you have ruined any chances of my family taking any responsibility in dealing with this. Any chance of healing our relationship. If they want to cut me out let them at least own their own decision. Don't you realize that they take your advise as a psak, as da'as torah?
Hopfer: Yes. I realized that.
Me: would you consider changing your ruling.
Hopfer: No, I still think they have to choose.
Me: Is it because you don't believe me, that my father sexually abused me?
Hopfer: Yes, I don't believe that he did that.
Me: How can you be objective about this considering that you trust my father so much? He has taken over your shiurim for you when you are out of town. He has taught your children. Don't you think it would have been more responsible to send my family to someone else for advice about this? Someone who is not so close to the situation?
Hopfer: I believe that I made the correct decision.
In the end my father is still the principal of an elementary school. If the Rabbi's in Baltimore care at all about the safety of the children in their community they would insist that my father be evaluated by a professional who is trained to evaluate potential offenders. If they continue to try to "protect" him and demonize, discredit, and isolate me, they are continuing to perpetuate a tremendous evil for themselves and their community. They share some of the responsibility for the horrors I went through and they will be responsible for any new victims of abuse by my father.
I am still treated like I do not exist by my family. I don't know which of my siblings are married, and I have not been told of any births or simchas that have occurred.
I am still looking for a rabbi who is willing to stand up for me and challenge Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer to take a second look at what he is doing to me and to my family. Whatever the outcome, it would help me heal my relationship with Judaism to know that there is someone representing Torah who is willing to stand up for what is right.