Personal Note: The following article was relayed by a former student of Rabbi Friedman. My own personal thoughts and reflection will be forthcoming very soon. -Chaim Levin
Written by Sara Pruce
It is interesting to me that so many people are surprised by the words of Manis Friedman that have recently been exposed. As a person who has spent some time in his company, I am not in the least bit surprised. Upset, yes, surprised, not at all. Maybe I have been waiting for this. For him to word things a little less articulately so that his actual intentions are obvious.
I believe this man is dangerous. He is capable of sounding brilliant, while being ignorant. He is capable of making people feel understood, while belittling their experiences.
It is true, what he said, he is not a psychologist. He does not understand trauma or abuse. When I was in his company I experienced the death of a six year old boy who I had held dear. When I heard the news of his death, I was so broken inside. I cried, and the Rabbi´s reaction to my tears was to accuse me of not being a believer. If I believed in god, I would know this was meant to be. That it was something good. That is the most insensitive, ignorant reaction to a person’s emotion I can imagine.
His words on molestation are equally hurtful and ignorant. However, what I am clear on, is that this is not an isolated incident.
I worry for the people who cannot see past his articulate, diplomatic voice. It is dangerous to an insulated community to have a revered elder who is so closed to the obvious problems that exist.
I was once at a lecture on Judaism and Justice, where we were asked whether we thought being religious helped or hurt our cause. I thought it was obvious, that being religious made people more sensitive and motivated them to do good. However, one member of the group spoke up and said that sometimes, people get to a point in their religion where they think that praying for things to be alright is enough, and they stop trying to fix the problem. I believe it is imperative to look at ourselves really closely and make sure we are not in that place. There are problems that need to be fixed and we need to use religion to motivate and sensitize us, not as an excuse to do nothing.
I have deep respect for the members of the community that are beginning to come forward and talk about how much damage abuse can do. I have deep respect for the parents who are attending lectures on keeping their kids safe, who are talking to their children and who are investigating claims. I have respect for the people who are believers but do not allow that to cloud their view, do not allow that to hurt innocent people.