One morning several years after my conversion had been completed, a pal emailed with a brief reports item that my rabbi – whose name was still on my holiday cards list – have been arrested. In an instant, all of the strangest moments of my conversion encounter made sense.
I was among only four women to come forwards and tell their tales, and as a result of my public role as a writer, I became his most well-known victim. I drove from my house in New Jersey with my toddler and newborn to speak at his sentencing hearing in 2015 in Washington, where he was delivered to more than six years in prison.
It’s hard to spell it out the depth of my feeling of betrayal. As a convert, I wasn’t yet another scholar of Rabbi Freundel. My faith and practice – my Judaism – was shaped by his words, deeds and thought. For those folks victimized by trusted spiritual leaders, each day is a struggle to disentangle our harmful associations of exquisite rituals from the ugly abusers who educated us about their meaning.
An Orthodox Jew, Rabbi Freundel was fixated about the minutiae of Jewish law. He drilled his converts in the proper blessings to say over a banana or a pretzel, and the buy in which they should be recited should we happen to eat both at the same meals. This kind of expertise was the bedrock of my conversion experience. But how may i continue steadily to make myself care about such details when it became clear that the man who taught them if you ask me valued being aware of the ing for a particular food group over behaving just like a decent human being?
Despite having developed as a Jew (my dad was Jewish, but according to Orthodox regulation only the children of Jewish mothers are Jewish), there have been many aspects of observant Jewish life that were brand-new to me before year I spent converting. The foundation of so much of my spiritual practice is inextricably tied to that period of my entire life, and therefore, to Rabbi Freundel. I’ve not been to services in years for the reason that tunes sung on Shabbat remind me therefore much of him.
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Every public victim of a famous sexual predator must endure uneasy conversations with strangers and, because of the internet, never knowing if the person you’ve just met previously knows your story. However when you accuse a spiritual figure, there’s a complete other kind of discomfort, one that comes from the friends, members of the family and other spiritual leaders who consider speaking out in regards to a religious crime as airing dirty laundry for the complete world to see.
While Rabbi Freundel had few defenders in the Jewish network after his fall, there have been plenty of individuals – fellow rabbis included – who rapidly made light of him, made him into a punch series, along the way minimizing his crime. Others thought his prison sentence was overkill – in the end, we hadn’t been physically assaulted.
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A substantial number of friends, relatives and religious leaders have never once mentioned the case if you ask me, despite my role as its most public victim. Orthodox Jews previously face an uphill fight in today’s world, they say, and drawing focus on these sordid stories causes that hill that very much steeper. These persons also prefer certainly not acknowledging what happened to me and therefore many other women because it’s convenient to pretend it never happened.
I also once felt that approach. I desired not to see the abuses locally I had voluntarily joined as a grown-up because witnessing my community’s willful blindness to those abuses could give me over the advantage. Becoming the victim of a sexual crime stripped me of that luxury.
In a unusual way, having the crime committed against me captured on tape was a blessing: Prosecutors noted that Rabbi Freundel could plainly be seen establishing the camera and taking it down. No one could attach the qualifier “if accurate” to my charges. The evidence unearthed by the authorities was irrefutable.
For Roy Moore’s accusers, who say these were preyed upon 40 years ago when they were 14 to 18 years old, hard evidence like this will not exist, and they also face the soreness not merely of coming forward, but also to be disbelieved and disparaged. Mr. Moore says he doesn’t even know Beverly Young Nelson, who accused him on Monday of assaulting her when she was 16, never mind the fact that it appears he signed her yearbook.
For the time being, Mr. Moore’s wife offers submitted a letter signed by 50 pastors, written during the primary season. (While some of those pastors say that they don’t, actually, support Mr. Moore.) “We will be ready to be a part of the battle and send a bold message to Washington: dishonesty, concern with man and immorality are an affront to your convictions and our Savior and we won’t endure it any more,” the letter says. “We urge you to join us at the polls to cast your vote for Roy Moore.”
For these believers, losing Mr. Moore means getting rid of an outspoken tone of voice for traditional Christian values. He rose to prominence in the evangelical universe for quitting his bench as a judge certainly not once, but twice, for inserting his religious beliefs ahead of his judicial duties. Last month The Washington Content reported on a poem Mr. Moore recited at a rally at a Baptist Church: “You feel that God’s certainly not angry that this territory is a moral slum? Just how much longer will it be before his judgment comes?”
His defenders argue that not voting for Mr. Moore, and for that reason getting rid of a Republican Senate seat and perhaps control of the Senate, could result in worse outcomes for Christians than holding their noses and electing him to office.
They could not become more mistaken. The destruction that will be carried out to the Republican manufacturer and the ones Christians who watch their religious leaders stand by Mr. Moore will become irreversible. If he wins, the Republicans may have a reliably conservative vote in the Senate, but a very important factor is guaranteed: Spiritual leaders who defend him risk their flock becoming infected with the same disenchantment I was after the arrest of my rabbi.
Spiritual leaders often fret that such creeping faithlessness puts society at risk more than any political ideology. As prominent evangelical put it in a 2006 Washington Times column: “Our peace and contentment together with our prosperity rely certainly not on any political party or any great head, but rather after our come back as a country to faith in Almighty God.”
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It’s a pleasant message, but one that’s too often discredited by its messengers. The man who wrote that column? Roy Moore.