Saturday, March 10, 2012

Molly Resnick - how it went down

At the bris of my twin nephews, I had the great displeasure of coming face to face with true hatred and intolerance; I came face to face with a woman who shamelessly tried to publicly ridicule me at my own family event. I had greeted Molly Resnick, a woman I had known for years. When she realized who I was she laid into me. I didn’t initiate a conversation with her about my life nor her son’s scathing editorial about me and the work I had done to prevent LGBT teen suicides. I did not intend to create any commotion, and I’m deeply sorry for what happened. I did feel the need to respond though, and I hope my family and friends can understand this and appreciate how out of line and disrespectful Ms. Resnick was.

As a family member, I was talking to the many people who had come to celebrate this big event. I was chatting outside the main hall where people were gathered, when I came face to face with Molly Resnick. Her son, Elliot Resnick, had been a waiter at my childhood camp and a friend who I thought understood me because I was different.  But, he became one of my harshest critics. He authored the June op-ed in the Jewish Press castigating me as self-indulgent and shameful for participating the “It Gets Better” project. In increasing awareness of bullying and suicide of LGBT teens, these videos are intended to give hope to LGBT teens. The Jewish Press allowed me to respond to Mr Resnick this past January; my honest and sincere account of growing up gay in the Orthodox community was made public.

I had known Ms Resnick as a kind, charming and friendly woman with a fine background in journalism. She is the founder and director of a group called Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate (MATCKH) and is widely known as an activist against violence and hatred. However, I was disappointed to learn several months ago that the homophobic apple does not fall far from the hypocritically hateful tree. Nonetheless, I greeted and thanked her for sharing in my family’s joy and happiness, saying respectfully I hoped we could look past our differences as we celebrated my nephews’ happy moment.

“I think you’re atrocious and what you’re doing is disgusting and wrong,” her venom took me completely by surprise as she continued: “you’re self-indulgent, shameless, a disgrace to your family and to your community,” adding “you are causing great damage to many people and you are too careless to realize it.” She was lambasting me loudly in front  of many other people and was not stepping down. After the initial shock and horror, I wondered if she had any sensitivity to the fact that I actually lived through the harsh reality that  she would rather deny, that I spent almost two years trying to change myself and that I had attempted suicide. Overwhelmed, I was able to ask whether she cared about the teenagers and confused souls who might hear her hateful message and be pushed closer to suicide.

“No I don’t. It’s not my problem,” she deigned. I asked her how she could be so heartless and intolerant.

“I’m intolerant towards people like you just like I'm intolerant to Hitler, murderers and heroin addicts,” she spat, “and what you’re doing is  just as bad as all those things.”

I couldn’t believe what was happening in front of so many people at my nephews’ bris. She was heinous, merciless and wholly inappropriate. A woman of her stature and an activist against violence and hatred should know how to behave in public. And, yet somehow, she was still able to condescend further from the dirt to add, “Listen, I know way more about this than you do and have been reporting about this since before you were born.” She is apparently unaware biased reporting hardly compares to actual experience and represents propaganda not journalism and that her behavior undermined any pretense to professionalism she might have. She must be aware that her son’s own newspaper backed my experience over his vitriolic propaganda. Five women who had heard what she said to me came over to see whether I was okay and to tell me about her extremist and radical rap sheet and not to take her seriously.

I am really lucky to have a mother like mine. After leaving Resnick in utter disbelief, I told my mother what Ms Resnick had said. My mother immediately went to Resnick, “With all due respect, this is my son. I love him and accept him unconditionally. You have no right to call him such things and try and embarrass him the way that you did.” Ms. Resnick said, “As far as I know, you were ashamed of your son. That’s what I heard, and for good reason. How can you not be ashamed of him for being gay?! I know you really are. You’re just saying that you aren’t”. Politely and eloquently, my mother told her that she is not ashamed one bit of me in any way and that she loves me and accepts me no matter what. My mother also told Ms Resnick that her son was way out of line writing such a disgusting article about me and not having even the basic decency to actually call me once over the past ten years.

My mother’s bravery and respectfulness despite the Ms Resnick’s rude behavior and hurtful words at my family’s celebration was truly impressive. I wish I could have been as graceful as my mother. I had found myself at loss for words. I could have responded better. In reaction to being called an angry rebel who’s trying to destroy the Jewish community, I had called Ms Resnick a homophobe. That was unnecessary of me. I trust that she and everyone else was already fully aware of her hatred, and her behavior only demonstrated how deeply intolerance is rooted in some people’s minds, no matter how inconsistent it is with Judaism or simple compassion and decency.

I have developed a pretty think skin and do not require an apology. However, I believe Ms Resnick should apologize to those she offended by her behavior, if she is indeed a leader and advocate within the Jewish community.

Some people over the past 24 hours have discouraged me from acknowledging this incident to simply ignore Ms Resnick and not be dragged down by one person’s radical homophobic views. However, I don’t understand how such insensitive and despicable behavior could be ignored. It was wasn’t just directed at me, but at a community of people. While this incident honestly caused me much emotional strain, sitting silently would merely condone such people who believe that their views are in line with “Torah values” have the right to spew such hateful venom in public. This woman had audacity at my family’s celebration to try to shame and humiliate me and my mother who has come a long way to accept me. The words of people like Ms Resnick make their way to younger people and harm.

This morning, a 14 year old girl in Vancouver Washington committed suicide because she was bullied non stop for being gay. While she did not hear Ms Resnick’s words, I have no doubt that she heard similar ones and that similar attitudes contributed to and legitimated the bullying she experienced. This ultimately is the issue. It is not a matter of pride, honor or even having the last word. Unfortunately, there will always be radicals, and people like Ms Resnick will never have compassion for other human beings. We cannot however sit quietly and condone such tirades.

19 comments:

  1. Mrs. Resnicks' behavior is ...not to mention the Torah prohibition of embarrassing someone in public, a horrible example of how a Jewish woman, a Bas Yisroel, should conduct herself in public.
    As she shamed you in public, so should her REQUIRED apology be in public.
    I for one demand it!

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    1. Agree, she owes you an apology

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  2. I live in Portland, and our news about what happened just across the river has been horrifying. Her suicide has destroyed her parents, who loved her deeply and completely ... and reading about Mrs. Resnick only made me think of the remarks we were shown that had been posted on the poor girl's Facebook page and sent via twitter. We think that these things don't happen in the Northwest. But hate is everyone, Vancouver, Washington to a joyful family occasion. Chaim, I also believe that for the sake of all of us, who depend upon Judaism to set examples for us of respect, tolerance, forgiveness, good behavior, manners and thoughtfulness that Mrs. Resnick should apologize publicly, on television perhaps. She is a woman who needs to reflect, atone and apologize, before we have another suicide like the one I have been watching on our news here.

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  3. A similar incident happened to me at my brothers wedding in Crown Heights. I was verbally abused right in front of my mother. Unlike yours, mine simply watched on silently and speechless while I defended myself causing quite the spectacle. To this day she doesn't bring it up but that's what happens when you estrange yourself from your own child. You are very lucky to have such compassionate and caring family members who stand up for you under any circumstance.

    David Rosenberg

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  4. I'm sorry she did this to you. I don't understand feeling bad that you called her what she is: a homophobe.

    Perhaps some people in the room understood without your using the word, but for the kids in the room, and for the closeted adults, naming the evil in the room can be very important. I'm glad you did.

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  5. Sorry you had to go through that, Chaim. Her whole rant was crazy, but it is LUNATIC for her to compare you to Hitler. I'm sure Ms. Resnick is very familiar with the fact that many of Hitler's victims wore yellow stars. She should be reminded that many wore pink triangles.

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  6. You are completely right to call her out by name - if she says those things in public then her comments deserve to be made even more public, especially if she is part of a known group. To compare you to the people she compared you to is beyond hate.

    Give your mum (another) extra big hug for standing up for the son she loves. You have done a huge thing by speaking out, but she has done something just as big and deserves everything good that comes her way.

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  7. It really makes one wonder if such closeted hatred warrants public shaming, desecration of walls, disintegration of infrastructure, or exile. Such intolerance is unfortunate, sometimes deadly but, based on my novice understanding, should be a source of pride, albeit a badge of having been dishonored. Thick skin is putting it mildly. However, I wonder if greater vigilance is needed. To be totally blunt, it is no longer about civility, when a homosexual is treated disrespectfully, which is why I personally condone manifestations of pronounced quarantine for bigots: circumcise their mouths before they can ever spout another corruptible word.

    Mr. Levin, once you are thrust into a public limelight, you are obligated to "repair" a broken world and pave a path for generations. Sometimes that requires a total upheaval of paradigms and removal of wood or stone. And Cosmic Chutzpah. What courage. The process of shiva, from a Hindu standpoint, is oftentimes harsh and unpleasant, but worth it in the end. What I call, Inquisitory Karma.

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  8. Chaim,your mom rocks out loud. And if you're "self-indulgent and shameless" for doing all you can to SAVE LIVES, it is my ambition to be one small fraction as self-indulgent and shameless as you. Finally, attacking someone, anyone, for any reason at all at a family celebration is just downright RUDE. Not to mention self-indulgent and shameless.

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  9. Your family is incredibly gracious for not having kicked the bitch out.

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  10. Your family is incredibly gracious for not having kicked the bitch out.¨ agreed...I´m not certain that I wouldn´t have taken her by the backcollar and pushed her butt out...yammering or not...I would have thrown the bum out. Wow, that made me angry. Un abrazo fuerte,
    Leonardo

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  11. Chaim,
    What a terrible encounter to have at none other than your nephews' brissin. It's one thing to slander and embarass someone from afar, but on their own turf at their own Simcha is a whole other story.

    What's interesting to note about Molly's behavior is that she herself did not have a smooth sailing as a parent, so it fascinates me to see how she spoke to your mother. I once heard Molly share that when her son decided to shave his beard (I don't know which child it was, who knows maybe it was Eliot...eithey way, big sin in the Chabad community as you of course are well-aware), she asked a Rav if she should throw him out of the house because his action represented a shift that she wasn't sure she could endorse by allowing him to still live under roof. Thus, to see the way she could talk to another parent who also had to come to terms with a child not turning out exactly as you'd envisioned, but loving him all the same, astounds me.

    I found an article written by ELiot Resnick that was about Chasidim not acting very piously, and the context was about Chasidim lying. Anyway, the following quote is straight from it and I thought that the words were so apropo in addressing his own mother's behavior.

    "Unfortunately, some Jews, including — or perhaps especially — Chassidic Jews, will make sure never to shake a woman’s hand and to always faithfully wear a black hat but lie (stretching the truth is perhaps a more delicate term) with astonishing ease.

    When one witnesses such behavior one wonders what makes these people so religious after all. One also wonders what kind of impression these Jews make on other people who may be unobservant or non-Jewish but whose inner religious core and rectitude are stronger and more Godly than these “truth stretchers.” Surely this cavalier attitude towards truth does not inspire others to praise the God whom these Jews (especially those wearing black hats or beards)apparently represent.

    The impulse among many to come closer to God by becoming better Jews is laudable. However, these Jews and all Jews should attach greater importance to basic Biblical values and laws, such as the value of truth, than they do to ensuring that their tzitzis are clearly visible to all. "

    Chaim, you are so strong!

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  12. Despicable and classless. Keep writing and increasing awareness! Stay strong.

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  13. Molly Reznick is a baalas tshuva and considers herself a Chabad Chosid. I am shamed to be classed in the same group as her. She is not a Chossid of our Lubavitcher Rebbe who was the epitome of ahavas yisroel and taught his chassidim that this is our way of life. She tortured her husband about not wearing a yarmulka until the Rebbe told her to lay off. And now I say to Mrs. Reznick. U are not Chabad. You are hate and mussar. Nothing that Chabad teaches and advocates. I wish you would leave

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  14. I've always been rather shocked by the nerve of people like Mrs. Resnick, who preach chesed and then act in such an opposite manner...I mean, Jewish values put saving lives first, no matter what you think of that person's other characteristics. Jewish values don't permit public slander either - that's just...well, it's a lot of bad things.

    Also, to act so rudely to you, in public, on such a special occasion, certainly implies an amount of venom...and fear, perhaps. Because you question her comfortable little assumptions. Because you might make her wonder, for a split second, if she might be wrong about something. Because you don't toe the exact line that she wants you to toe.

    And keep it up, man. You do awesome work, and you're really brave for writing this blog and this post in particular. Kudos to your mother, too, for not just being supportive, but for being a righteous voice as well.

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  15. We as shluchos are the face of Lubavitch. And our speakers, the men and ladies who we bring out to lecture and speak to our communities are also the face of Lubavitch. If we put someone up to speak to our community, that means that we endorse this person in every way. Would any one of us knowingly have a TERRIFIC speaker who was known to be a dishonest person?? Of course not! And think of our lady speakers. Would any of us bring out even the best speaker if she wasn't dressed properly? Of course not.
    I just witnessed something last week that I cannot be quiet about. One of our very public speakers behaved publicly in a way that was beyond any limit of decency. And I feel strongly that we cannot ignore it.


    I and other members of my family on shlichus had Molly Resnick come speak for my community. She's a terrific speaker, and she tells a great story. She can be charming and friendly. (She was, after all, as she says in her own speech, a TV personality and spent years with TV personalities and we all know just how 'real' they all are!) Yes, she is generally charming and 'nice.' But most of us who have worked with her know another side to her. She is rude, disrespectful, inconsiderate and just plain mean. She is all of this, she says, because she knows what's right and she has no trouble telling you, straight out and without holding back at all, and she's hurt many a person.


    Last week she went too far, and this is why I am writing this. (In fact, the reason I am not putting my name to this is because I am a coward - I fear her vicious retaliation.)
    Let me say this outright: Molly considers me and her to be friends. She and I worked together, and she has spoken for the various shluchim in my family. But she will not speak for me again, ever, in my Chabad house.


    Last Friday morning Molly was at a bris at the JCM. There she encountered Chaim Levin. You may have read about or heard of Chaim, he is a CH boy who came out recently as gay. He writes about his growing up gay in a frum community and the torture he underwent. Now let me be clear right here: I do not condone Chaim. I do not condone everything he says or writes. In fact, I disagree with alot of his statements.


    I wanted to make that clear. And now I'll continue about what happened.
    Molly encountered Chaim. And she attacked him viciously. In public, at a simcha of his family, in front of lots of people. She called him names, said he was disgusting, said he was a disgrace to the Jewish people and t hat he was harming the Jewish people. Said to his mother - HIS MOTHER!!- "I can't believe you're proud of your son, would you be proud if he was a murderer?" She said this IN PUBLIC. Molly's outburst (and we all know she has outbursts!) was pure hatred. She compared him to a murderer and to HITLER!!! If she read his articles she knows what he suffered and that he is fragile emotionally. Yet, she still felt it 'right' to vomit this hatred onto him IN PUBLIC! I would like to ask her, what if he went home after his attack and succeeded in another suicide attempt?


    Yes, we are facing great challenges from outside and from inside and the new gay laws are just making things much worse. But Molly Resnick's attack on Chaim Levin was pure hatred and she is no better than the hooligans in leather jackets and on motorcycles who beat up boys and cut them up because they're gay. She is no better than these lowlifes.


    If all of this was in private, then I would have my own private feelings an thoughts about this 'fantastic speaker'. But it's not in private it's all in public and we cannot, any more, use her to represent us in any way as shluchos.

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  16. Ms. Anonymous, we need your name for the files in AGUCH.

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  17. I'm not observant, but I'm aware of Orthodoxy and Chabad and GLYDSA and what not. Molly Resnick's described behavior is just about the worst I've ever read of at any simcha. Although most of the Chabad community would be uncomfortable with secular law being applied, rather than religious law, Molly Resnick has to be grateful that neither the officials of the Jewish Children's Museum nor the parents of the twins called the NYPD to have her ejected from the premises.

    Her behavior was criminal. She's lucky not to have been arrested. You would have been within your rights to have requested the NYPD to arrest her for assault. She did assault you. You certainly have suffered a tort and could sue.

    I would hope that her reputation has been diminished within Chabad. She does not deserve to be viewed as a role model at all. She has to be very twisted to conceive that her behavior towards you was not inappropriate.

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  18. @Big Guy,
    Ms. Resnick's actions did not constitute assault. Maybe intentional infliction of emotional distress, which is hard to prove and even harder to get significant damages for. What kind of tort it was is not important, though, as Chaim's goal is not to recover monetary damages but rather to educate the public about how NOT to act. To that end, your last paragraph is spot on. One can only hope that, as the realization of how inexcusable her behavior was begins to sink in amongst those who agree with Ms. Resnick's sentiment, she will lose stature as a trusted voice of the community and others will begin to reflect on their own baseless opinions and ignorant hatreds.

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