Abuse in the Yeshiva System

This story Surviving Bais Mikroh happened in a yeshiva in Monsey, where I live. I personally cannot vouch for the veracity of this story, but having heard many similar stories about this and other yeshivot – nothing in it surprised me. None of my children attend or have attended Bais Mikroh.

When my children were younger it was brought to my attention that one of the Kindergarden rebbeim was hitting the kids at the yeshiva my boys attended. One of my kids had made an offhand remark “Chaim Yankel didn’t sing the tune right so Rebbe hit him, and then he cried, and then the bell rang for recess….”

I stopped him, and asked if Rebbe often hit the kids. He told me yes, that’s what happens in big boy school. I was floored. I tried to explain to my 6 year old that NO REBBE has the right to hit a child – and he hit these kids across the face!!

I knew what I had to do, and I suffered for doing the right thing. I called the school social worker, letting him know what was going on, and telling him I was headed up to the school to take them to task. The social worker did not work for the school, but answered to a local agency. Getting them involved was paramount – if it had been just me, one parent, lodging a complaint at the school, the problem would have been swept under the rug.

Oh did I forget to tell you? NONE of the other parents in the class, including the parents of the boys that had been hit, were willing to stand with me. No one was willing to stand up for their kids. My kid had not been hit, and I was willing to stand up. I was disgusted. I had parents calling me, thanking me for doing this, because their kid had been hit too – but when I asked to put their name forward, for them to make a phonecall to the social worker, they refused.

I spoke with the principal and the social worker at length. I was not willing to be brushed off. Soon after I received threatening phonecalls, that I need to stop my personal vendetta (!!) against the rebbe and drop my complaint. He has mouths to feed, responsibilities – how dare I try to take that away from him?

How dare he hit our kids? How dare they blame ME for complaining?

“We’ll chase you out of town, your name will be mud here” – if it saves one kid, it would have been worth it. They were full of BS anyway – push came to shove they had to shut up because it was all TRUE.

Because it wasn’t MY kid that was hit, and none of the other parents came forward, there was little that I could push to be done. It was frustrating. They got the teacher into anger management classes, and upon my insistence, never left the rebbe alone with the kids. There was always another adult present. They never, not for one moment, denied that he hit the kids.

My kid was transferred to a parallel class, and my younger kid(s) were not assigned to his kindergarten class.

What horrified me the most were the parents. Your child was hit. Across the face. Some more than once. And you are willing to sit there and take it? And you are willing to allow him to continue to hit other children? Because you are afraid of making waves?

Our children are worth everything – if we do not protect them, who will?


15 responses to “Abuse in the Yeshiva System

  1. My mom recounted that as a young girl in the Former Soviet Union, if they didn’t answer quick enough they would be hit. The beis mikroh story is more than just regular hitting, but my mom said it truly built character and pushed all the kids to their great limits. It might be different in a math class than in a chumash shiur though…

    • It might be different in a math class than in a chumash shiur though…

      But it shouldn’t be different. We want our children to associate learning chumash (and math) with something they love … hitting them while learning it creates just the opposite association.

  2. That is truly horrifying. We are supposed to be teaching our children to have good middos, to be kind, peaceful, emphathetic people. How can they possibly learn that when the Rebbeim who are often important role models are teaching them to react with anger, rage, and violence? Kudos to you for speaking out and advocating for the children in your son’s yeshiva. As my friend Dena says about cases like that “The rug just isn’t big enough!”

  3. An excellent point indeed. I have found, in my 30+ years experience as a Jewish educator and rabbi, that many Orthodox day school parents too often willing to accept everything from mediocrity to, on the most extreme end, abuse in schools. I always warn parents: your children are your greatest asset. Make sure they are getting the education they deserve. And to protect them, well, I would have thought that goes without saying. But apparently it does need to be said.

  4. MANY issues get brushed under the rug at Orthodox day schools because no one wants to “make waves.” It is much easier for them to keep the status quo because of reputation, tuition and donation money, community influence, etc. The only way I could solve a “brushed under the rug” issue at my daughter’s school, (which was not abuse) after meetings with top administrators, was to pull my child out of the school. Parents have to stand up for their kids, no matter what the consequence may be.

  5. let me just thank you for being sane and STRONG enough to stand up for what is right. I wish more parents would stand up for their children (literally their own and in the community). Without parents like you, standing up and protecting the children, living in a community like ours seems so meaningless.

  6. Shame on those parents!! Hitting is NOT allowed in my own house, how could I be tolerant of allowing someone else to do that to my child. Rabbi, teacher,WHOEVER they are…they have NO right to touch a child.

  7. Good for you for standing up to this! This is absolutely disgusting and should never be tolerated!

  8. I bow to your sense of justice and unwavering action!

  9. Hadassah, I feel with you and all the kids that have been hit.
    I had a similar experience when I suspected that a family was making money with human trafficking and prostitution. He and his wife adopted cute teenagers from Ukraine and went through the process of permanent residency, which is very expensive, because the adopted kids would have performed in extreme sex movies and been prostitutes given away to strangers found on the Internet. One of the girls turned to me for help and my first move was to alert the school psychologist, because they were attending school, and the “smart” answer was that she had to alert the parents that the girl was wanting to talk with the psychologist about her nightmarish family!! I turned to the Social Services who were so slow that when they came the adoptive father had already raped his three adoptive daughters. Now they are living with their mother who always knew what was going on, but there was no solid evidence against her. The bastard is out waiting for the trial because his friends paid his high bail .. The reaction of the school system was intolerable – they don’t want to take initiative for anything!

  10. Hadassah, your boys are so very lucky to have you as their ima. I find it incomprehensible and appalling each time I read a story or hear the “outrage” over someone who’s been accused or known to be hurting children in any way. Why is it that this happens over, and over, and over again? Since when have mafia-style intimidation tactics become remotely acceptable or preferable, even, to defending children? And people wonder why kids grow up to feel disillusioned with the system. It’s because they are failed time and time again when things like this happen. It’s a disgrace.

  11. Hadassa, my youngest was once suspended for making a disturbance in class, maybe in the 2nd grade. When I asked him what and why, he said that the teacher was pulling a boy by (or hitting) the ear as punishment, so since I had always told the kids how dangerous that was he stopped the teacher by disturbing the class. I confronted the principal who said something like:
    “I though he (the teacher) had stopped that.”
    So the teacher was known to be violent and it took another couple of years for him to leave teaching. After that we all met up again and he showed my son a lot of respect; they got along. Yes, my son and the former teacher. Some people should never be in the classroom.
    It’s our job as parents to be the watchmen of our kids.

  12. Heartbreaking story and good on you for having the courage to stand up to the school like that. I was hit several times in school by a so called ‘Rabbi’ when I was a young girl. It certainly had an effect and knocked my self confidence for a long while.

  13. While I absolutely think you did the correct thing, my big question is, why did you continue to send your children to this school? The administrators absolutely refused to get rid of a teacher that routinely HIT CHILDREN, which you know is wrong, and you still trusted your kids to those administrators? Yes, you put up a fight, but you kept giving them their tuition money. My guess is if people started pulling their children out of schools where rebbes abused the students, and those yeshivas saw the hit to their bottom line, they would make some changes.

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