If it is about meaning in this phase already and if that can be applied already, then growth is the only answer
The orthodox Jewish school in Amsterdam, the Cheider, is under fire because of sexual abuse scandals. Recently, the Dutch newspaper NRC revealed that the school did not make a statement in the sexual abuse case of Ephraïm S. in 2012, only until the then education minister had exerted pressure.
Many people from within and outside the Jewish community will not dare to say certain things in the context of the sexual abuse case, a case in which Ephraim S. is suspected of abusing multiple boys at the school. I would like to express my opinion on two matters. One: we stand behind the people who support the victims and those involved. From now on I will call the victims in this case victors in the making. Victims of any offense are victors in general. Two: close the Cheider symbolically to draw a line under the possible mismanagement, failure and above all the suffering. Start over.
Taking matters into own hands
The sexual abuse case is not the only history in which the role of the (former) leaders of the Cheider can at least be questioned. There are many stories, such as my history and the stories of family members who were linked to the Cheider, long before I was born. My story is about survival within a problematic home, with the irreversible effect in the long term of becoming biologically childless. Don’t get me wrong, you can absolutely come back from abuse, violence, libel and slander, brainwashing and much more. This is because you can take matters into your own hands, which is what I did. Again, I will be the last to say that it is easy, because in many cases people are working on it for the rest of their lives, but it is certainly possible. Being biologically childless is not something I can change, unless the developments in health tech will progress positively and very quickly. I can only change my thoughts and attitude, although in the meantime both my partner and I think in a realistic yet hopeful and a bit rebellious manner: oh world, just wait and see.
Victors keep carrying the damage with them. Depending on someone’s healing process and a bunch of sub factors – nature and nurture – a history can become someone’s strength and can be transformed into something positive. However, after a lot of conversations I had with victors of all sorts of histories, I am certain that there will always be a part left in the individual that cannot be understood by outsiders. Maybe this is for the best. Perhaps like it should be. After all, things have actually occurred and words have actually been pronounced and so on.
To heal and to be healed
I will not equivocate here at social, psychological and especially spiritual level. For a moment, in-depth details of what happened in the sexual abuse case are irrelevant to the general message of healing and being healed in the greater whole. Like someone who is involved in the sexual abuse case asks rightly so: how did this happen and why? If the answer is about meaning in this phase already, then growth is the only answer I can come up with, not only for the victors in the making, the ones involved, the Cheider and the Jewish community, but also for society. Whether one wants it or not, lessons will be learned. Improvement may not follow as fast as some would like, including me, but change is inevitable. Instead of standing opposite of each other, join together at a ‘higher’ frequency. In addition, show some respect, grace and empathy for all stories, from the foundation of the school to the contemporary histories. Then it will become apparent that everyone can agree unanimously; this can never happen again.
Human rights at micro level
Let’s park the bickering for one moment and take this in on the level at which it is brought: close the Cheider symbolically. Choose a new board. Be open to women who come from the community, or who have dedicated years of their lives to teaching at the Cheider. Have the contemporary director look at the pain points and take decisions, with solutions that will focus on human rights at micro level. Only then can this school flourish again in an integrated society, in which there is room for everyone. In other words, the embodiment of a lasting Jewish identity. And while I am busy sharing my opinions here: take that fort away, the monstruous fence around the school building. Protection and delineation by using a fence can hopefully be done in a different manner these days. Once, the founder of the Cheider, mister Cohen, agreed with wire. Reopen the building in a festive way like it happened once before. Do this with a promise to all those who care for the Cheider, including myself, precisely because it is the only orthodox Jewish school in the post-war period in the Netherlands. Then start again with appropriate pride. Of course, all those beautiful aspects of this school remain publicly hidden in the context of the sexual abuse case. In that regard, just go on.
Dina-Perla de Winter grew up in a strict Jewish orthodox environment and wrote about it in her book called Exodus from the lighthouse. She also attended the Cheider, an orthodox Jewish school for primary and secondary education in Amsterdam. This article is a translation of an article that was published in the Dutch newspaper called De Kanttekening.