Marvin Schick’s son Joe writes about abuse he suffered at the hands of a hasidic teacher in grade school. Most interesting is Marvin Schick’s knowledge of that abuse and his apparent public silence about it:
When I was in sixth grade [in Toras Emes], in 1984, we had a chasidic rebbe, probably in his mid-30’s, for the 12-1 chumash session. One Friday toward the end of the school year, he demanded that a number of kids stay after school. I ignored him, and walked out the door, when, presumably infuriated by the affront to his honor, he grabbed me, slammed my head and body against the wall and punched me repeatedly. This went on for quite a while. When he was done, he warned me not to tell my parents, or he would have me thrown out of the yeshiva.
I did not tell my parents, however, on Saturday night, my mother noticed that my back was badly bruised. I reluctantly told her what happened.
The next morning, my parents went to the yeshiva principal, a man who was principal of the yeshiva for more than 40 years, to demand that the rebbi be fired. It is worth noting that my family had a fairly good relationship with the principal, and that my father was fairly well known in the community.
The principal finished his meeting with my parents, and asked me and the rebbi to come to his office. My parents quietly told me not to worry, to tell the principal exactly what happened and not be scared of the rebbi. I told the truth. The principal asked the rebbi to respond. The rebbi’s response was that I was a liar, and had banged my own head against the wall when he demanded that I stayed late, and that he did not lay a hand on me except to restrain me from hurting myself further.
The principal’s response was to berate me for making false accusations against a rebbi, and he actually forced me to apologize to the rebbi. The rebbi was not fired and I went back to his classroom.
On the last day of school, the rebbi asked me in front of the entire class to forgive him. I responded sarcastically that there was no reason for me to forgive him, since I had thrown myself against the wall, and he never touched me. He then asked me privately for forgiveness, and I ignored him.
On erev Yom Kippur, I was walking home from mincha in Boro Park when I met the rebbi. He stopped me, told me that he was no longer teaching at the yeshiva (I assume the principal conveniently decided to terminate him at the end of the school year, and berated me only for some stupid purpose of protecting the authority of the rebbis) and that he had been thinking about what he did all summer, that he was very wrong, and since it is erev Yom Kippur, G-d clearly decided to have me meet him for a reason, and he hoped I would grant him forgiveness. I muttered okay, I forgive you, and walked away. Given that I don’t recall ever seeing him again (and I lived in Boro Park for 13 more years), perhaps there really was a divine reason for that chance meeting.
Ultimately, I think the principal’s actions are as reprehensible as the rebbi’s. The rebbi did a terrible thing, and then refused to accept responsibility instead blaming his victim, but at least in the end he seemed to have understood the wrongfulness of his conduct. The principal, a school educator, berated a kid who had been badly beaten by his own rebbi two days earlier for no reason other than some archaic notion of supporting authority figures.
This happened to Marvin "Mr. Day School – Yeshiva Expert" Schick. Imagine what happens to kids whose parents don’t come from prominent families and don’t have protectzia.
[Hat tip: Dr. R-F.]