Last month, Aharon Shlomo Lisson (Lyson), a Chabad teacher from Beitar Illit, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for sexually abusing three brothers. That evening, his oldest victim, Yankie Rainitz, released a powerful post on Facebook which quickly went viral. (You can read a translated version of his Facebook post HERE)
The following day, COL, the largest Chabad news site in Israel, published an unprecedented editorial which we’ve translated from its original Hebrew.
What you are about to read is not a standard article. It will not increase respect for Chabad Chassidim or the community. Many of you may believe that our dirty laundry should not be aired in public. But the city is burning. If there ever was a moment to put our honor aside, this seems to be the moment.
We were all shocked yesterday when we heard (again) the story of the teacher who abused his students in such a severe manner. We were all shocked when we read the cry of the abused. Everyone feels that he must do everything in order to eradicate this plague from our camp. To protect his children â€“ to protect our children! Everyone is thinking about the next step. How do you stop it? They promise themselves that this will never happen to their child.
Indeed, we hope that this will be so, and that no student nor parent will have to go through the hell that the young children and their parents have undergone.
In a moving post published by one of the victims, he described in a heartrending way the abuse he and his family underwent. By reading between the lines, one can detect his anger and hurt at the lack of support and belief by the community. From the moment the family followed the only possible course of action by reporting the abuse to police, they received a cold shoulder and were even ostracized by many good people. Not only that, but astonishingly, during the long trial (which included 59! terrible and intimidating court appearances by the victims) many avraichim, educators and lay leaders came to support the abuser and to testify as character witnesses. Of course, from the point of view of halacah and from a legal point of view, everyone has the presumption of innocence, but apparently, no real attempt was made to see if perhaps the person they had known since birth and who appeared to be the biggest chassid, actually hid a terrible secret.
It is of course difficult to imagine a man who appeared to be so nice and chassidish as a monster, but based on recent experiences, alarm bells should have gone off.
When educators and influential people stand in support of the abuser, what is a child who is being abused in school supposed to think? What can he conclude from this? His only conclusion will be that he has no one to report to. The assumption of trust will always be with the educator, the principle the mashpia â€“ but never with the victim.
This disturbing support should be of concern to every parent, not just the parents of the victim. Each and every parent who cares about their children must wake up and cry out, how!? How do you dare cause, G-d forbid, that when my child is in need, he will feel that the last person he can turn to is his teacher or mashpia???
The community members as well – not all of them but unfortunately too many â€“ at best were indifferent or in the worst cases revealed a skepticism and mistrust of the family. There was too much talk and gossip claiming that this was all a plot to extort money.
What would a child who held a terrible secret inside him think when he hears such talk at home or in the shul? What chance is there that heâ€™ll believe that he would get the adult support he will need to overcome the obstacles of reporting his abuser?
And worst of all, what do abuserâ€™s think – the one who might be sitting next to you in shul – hearing this distrust for the victim? Seeing the support for the abuser? Does it encourage him to continue his actions or will it make him try to stop? The answer is painfully clear.
Unfortunately, what is done is done, but there is one act that can rectify the injustice and even make a real statement. The avraichim, rabbis and educators must go and apologize to the family, and repent for their sin. Firstly, this is their halachic and moral obligation, but above all, this will be a real statement that what happened here will not happen again. Never again will an abused child have to fight against the whole world. Never again will an abuser feel wrapped in an embrace of support.
Dear chassidim, this is in your hands, put your honor aside.
Do not remain silent at this time.