As a Charedi (ultra-orthodox) child he had been through a series of
molestations and attempted rapes. Even after he left the religious
life, he suffered from nightmares and sleepless nights. Now Menachem
Lang decided to gather his courage, confront his attackers, and force
the Charedi world to deal with its demons. Dressed as a Charedi, he
infiltrated Bnei-Brak and followed them–until he managed to squeeze a
detailed admission and request for forgiveness; all in front of the cameras.
Menachem Lang was born as a Charedi in Bnei-Brak. Already at a young
age he was discovered as someone who possessed a unique voice for
Chazanut (leading the community in religious song)and became the wonder
child of the Charedi world. However, alongside the success, Lang was
hiding a relentless dark secret.
"The first time was when I was 7 years old," tells Lang. "The
attacker took me to the bathroom and spent five hours with me there. He
rubbed against me and touched me, breathed like a drunkard. I just
lowered my eyes and waited for it to be over." This week, almost 20
years later, Lang went back to the streets of Bnei-Brak–and this time
as a non-religious Jew dressed as a Charedi–in order to confront the
people who sexually assaulted him.
Menachem, 25 years old, is an actor in the Ensemble of Herzelia
Theater, went on the shuddering trip into his past accompanied by
Channel 10 reporter Guy Lerer. "I always wanted to do this," he says,
"it hurt me that these people are walking free. It haunted me nights,
but I didn’t have the courage to do this because I didn’t have anyone
to do it with. I made the decision when Lerer came to me to prepare a
report on the show I participate in. I told him about my dream and he
immediately told me ‘we’re doing this!’. During the shooting we walked
into the Satmar borough dressed as Charedis, the same Chassidic group
that sent its people to meet with Ahmad Nigahd. It is a hard, violent
"I am regretful!"
About two weeks ago, Landg and Lerer, outfitted
with a hidden camera, arrived in a neighborhood in Bnei-Brak. He waited
under one of the houses, dressed as a Charedi. A few minutes later, a
familiar figure approaches up the street. Menachem identifys "A", the
man who attacked him violently and molested him when he was 13. He goes
to him and calls him to stop. "A" turns and flees, Menachem runs after
him. Several tens of meters later, he catches him, and the two begin to
fight. When "A" understands that he has no place to run to, he stops,
and after he calms down a bit an exchange develops between Menachem and
A: "I admit that I used to mess (with children) but three years already I hadn’t messed with any one."
Menachem: "How old are you today?"
A: "I’m 37."
Menachem: "Until the time you were 34 you touched children?"
A: "I did to you what I did to you in the Synagogue. Since I did to you I hadn’t touched anyone."
Menachem: "Why did you do (this)?"
A: "Folly. Everyone has a Yetzer-Ha’ra (an urge to do bad).
Menachem: "With how many children have you done this?"
"I didn’t do a lot (of times/of kids), I did with two-three, not more
than that. I repented and I don’t do it and don’t touch anyone."
Menachem: "You know why I don’t believe you? Because I can see in your face that you are not sorry."
This is the moment when "A" loses his cool and yells in the middle
of the street: "I am regretful! You want to murder my life?" At this
point a large crowd gathers in the street. Menachem and the filming
crew, afraid of being Lynched, leave the place. Later on, Menachem
confronts another attacker, who offers to compensate for the
molestation with payment, as is customary in the Charedi world.
Menachem, surprisingly enough, accepts the offer.
That very day Menachem receives a threatening phone call from the
Bnei-Brak Modesty Patrols. "I head people talking about it and they
decided to go to the end," whispers the voice on the other end of the
line, "if this stops, it’ll stop. If this happens again, there will be
a battle against battle here. You want this? Be our guest."
"Entering Satmar was when I felt that we might be crossing a line,"
tell Lerer, "there were factors in the Charedi world who told us that
even they would be afraid to go in there. We were dressed as Charedis,
but you can say that the costume wasn’t all that credible. If they were
to expose us, we wouldn’t have left there alive."
"It is common in the Charedi world"
Five years ago Menachem left
religious life. Now it is much easier for him to talk of the atrocities
that he underwent in Bnei-Brak, this that repeated themselves over
years, by the hands of a number of people.
"The second time it happened to me, at age 10, a man I didn’t know
tempted me and got me into a stairwell," he reconstructs the event,
"there he undid my pants, touched me, and tried to enter me with his
penis. I will not forget that in the midst of all this he was talking
Gemara with me, probably to distract me while he was doing what he was
doing. It was terrible. I told about it to an older and qualified man.
He caught the attacker and took him to a very known rabbi, who takes
care of such matters. Unfortunately, I saw him (the attacker) walking
free the very next day. I found out that he was the son of a very known
‘Admor’ (congregation leader rabbi), which meant that nothing could be
done to him."
According to Menachem, sexual assault of children isn’t a rare thing
in the Charedi world, and many cases are silenced within the community.
It was the reason why he didn’t tell anyone about other events that
took place over the years. "I’m not alone," He says, "assaulting
children is a common thing in the Charedi world, almost accepted.
Everyone knows, but they try to take care of it internally. To go to
the police? It is out of the question."
Since the brave journey back to the world that abused him, Menachem
has been exposed to tens of additional phone threats. "Bnei-Brak is on
fire," he says, "They feel that this is one of the hardest things that
ever hit them. I’d already heard about organized plans to come and
exact revenge upon me, but I’d also heard about those who support me.
They say that no one ever stopped it from within. It is about time that
someone brings an end to this from outside."
Even though he has filmed admissions from his attackers, Menachem
decided not to place a complaint with the police. He doesn’t deny that
one of those reasons is the many threats he receives. "If a complaint
is made with the police, I will need to leave the country (Israel) the
next day," Menachem explains. "It is not something I want to do.
Anyway, I think that the report will do far better service and maybe
will result in tens of poor children not having to go through the same
hell as I did."
The full story, Friday, on "Shee-Shee" with Raviv Droker and Ofer Shelach on Channel 10.
UPDATE: The video can be seen here