As long as sexual abuse takes place in our community spaces, nothing in our culture can be trusted. And no place is truly safe. This should alarm anyone who cares about Jewish life, not just those who have been abused.
Against the backdrop of the #MeToo/#GamAni movement, the news is flooded with shocking accounts of abuse. In her groundbreaking book, When Rabbis Abuse, veteran anthropologist Dr. Elana Sztokman chronicles what is happening in Jewish settings, answering the question on everyone’s mind: How is this happening?
With a portrait of high profile figures, including their personality types and tactics, Dr. Sztokman’s analysis is grounded in interviews with 84 abuse victims/survivors, Jewish communal professionals, and volunteers. "When Rabbis Abuse" also documents how communal settings are ripe for abuse and how abusers coopt Jewish values as a grooming tactic. Equally disturbing is the dysfunctional reporting process, how high-profile abusers often receive high-profile support, and how the search for support and accountability often doubly victimizes the abused.
Against the impulse to dismiss this as an isolated problem relegated to certain sections of the community, Dr. Sztokman shares stories from all streams and walks of Jewish life, detailing the negative impacts of a community-wide culture of impunity. Dr. Sztokman concludes with sweeping recommendations for social and cultural change, reminding us that we are not free to desist from action, especially not now.
This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about stopping the plague of sexual abuse in Jewish life.
Dr. Elana Sztokman is a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Council award, a celebrated Jewish feminist activist, anthropologist, and educator. Her writings have appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, The Independent, Everyday Feminism, Forward, Lilith, Jewish Week, Ha'aretz, Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Report, and more. She explores gender issues in Jewish culture, and has taught and spoken around the world on these subjects. She is the founder of the Jewish Feminist Academy that offers educational content and programs with Jewish feminist thought leaders. This is her sixth book.