In the Jewish chasidic world it is very common for individuals to be self professed “counselors” even though they have no education or training in the mental health field –– let alone not being licensed to practice.
Over the last several months the case against Nechemya Weberman made it into international news after he was accused, convicted and sentenced to spend 103 years in prison for sexually assaulting a teenage girl who was under his care as a “counselor” –– even though he was unlicensed.
This week, a youtube clip of a presentation given by Rabbi Manis Friedman in Saint Paul, MN was posted. Like Nechemya Weberman, Manis Friedman is another unlicensed hasidic “counselor”.
Unfortunately, providing misinformation about sex crimes in the ultra-orthodox world is common place by chasidic leaders. The same type of workshop was recorded and placed on YouTube several years ago, when David Mandel, who is the CEO of Ohel Children Home and Family Services, when he gave a workshop on sexual abuse in Baltimore, MD.
Many are concerned with Rabbi Manis Friedman words, because he is a highly respected Torah scholar and the dean of Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies based in Saint Paul, MN.
According to Chabad, Rabbi Friedman is also a world renowned counselor –– even though Friedman has no clinical degree nor is a licensed mental health professional.
Friedman’s words on the YouTube video has not only outraged Jewish survivors of sex crimes, he has also been able to create a great deal of uproar from several experts in both the anti-rape and mental health fields.
After viewing Manis Friedman’s presentation, Dr. Michael Salamon, the founder and director of the Adult Development Center in Hewlett, NY stated: “Anyone who implies that abuse does not have a lasting impact on the victim simply has not professionally worked with a victim. “
At one point in the film clip, Rabbi Friedman talks about a factious man who was molested as a child asking if he had to tell a woman he was dating that he was molested as a child. Rabbi Friedman’s response was to say: “Do you have to tell her you once had diarrhea? –– It’s embarrassing but it’s nobodies business.” Needless to say, disclosing that someone was either sexually abused as a child or assaulted as an adult is no more then sharing that one had diarrhea.
Mary Jo Barrett, who is a world renown expert in the child abuse field stated that:
“Rabbi Manis Friedman was accurate about the idea of balance, we must find a balance for our healing from sexual violations. Yet he is so sadly misinformed about the impact of sexual abuse on the brain, the body, and the soul. A person is changed and impacted in very significant ways from sexual abuse, they are not changed molecular or neurologically from diarrhea. He is confusing stress and trauma.
The biggest problem I experience when I watch this video – Rabbi Friedman is a person of power and influence and he is speaking about something he really does not know or understand. It is as if I would do an interview about Talmud. Or try to teach fellow Jews about Halacha (Jewish Law) and Torah. His attitude and his minimization is hurtful and painful. He really has no business speaking about something that he does not understand or know about.
Friedman is right we can’t get through the world without pain, stress, confusion, anxiety, etc…..We can not live unscathed. Yet the impact of violent abuse can not minimized and the impact changes someone significantly. They are not damaged, they are survivors, and they are changed in many ways. We do not have to go any further than our own tradition to understand the impact of violence on an individual or a civilization.
Manny Waks, an activist, advisory board member of The Awareness Center (international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Assault), and survivor of child sexual abuse. stated:
“I am appalled and disgusted by Rabbi Friedman’s ignorant and insensitive comments about the issue of child sexual abuse.
As a prominent Chabad Rabbi, I am not sure if he can fully appreciate the negative impact his comments are having in the broader community—at the very least, they reflect poorly on him, Chabad, the ultra-Orthodox community and the Jewish community more broadly.
The fact is that in many cases child sexual abuse is a life and death issue—there is sufficient evidence that links this form of abuse to self-harm. It should therefore be treated with utmost seriousness and sensitivity, which would seem consistent with his religious beliefs.
I urge Rabbi Friedman to rectify this issue immediately by issuing an unreserved public apology for the profound offense and hurt he has caused so many—both victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and others within the Jewish community.
Manny Walks also calls upon others within the Orthodox rabbinate to condemn Rabbi Friedman’s shocking comments and to distance themselves and their organizations from him and his views.”
The Awareness Center, believes that Rabbi Friedman needs to be appropriately educated in dealing with issues relating to sex crimes, and is asking that everyone to call or write to Rabbi Friedman, demanding that he go through the rape victim advocacy training conducted by the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA), and also go back to school to get appropriate education and training prior to speaking out about healing form sex crimes.
You can contact Rabbi Friedman at: 970-316-2647 or via E-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org