Rachel Fryman

When Kids Speak We Have to Ask Hard Questions

This past week, Chaim Walder, a notable Israeli children’s author and educator, was suspended from his radio show and newspaper column after allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct surfaced. In the United States, Mordy Getz announced that his Eichler’s store in Boro Park would no longer carry Walder’s book, posting on social media, “[o]ur heart goes out to all those who had to, and still have to, suffer in silence and it is our hope that this statement serves as an encouragement to them to come forward knowing that we care about them and will have their back and help them heal.” Despite the risk of financial loss, Mr. Getz made a decision to stand with survivors of abuse and to help change a culture of shaming.

For all of us pleasantly surprised by this menschlikeit response, we implore you as parents and concerned community members, to ask your local institutions some important questions. What active steps are they taking to safeguard our children? When was the last time your children’s school hosted a sexual abuse prevention education seminar for faculty and employees? What policies are in place for when allegations of misconduct are made? Are children taught how to express their concerns confidentially?

The real discussions have to happen at home. When you sit down with your children and talk about sexual and physical safety, know you are not speaking hypothetically. These conversations can and do save lives. Your children will talk and educate others.

Please see these recommended readings by Samantha Spolter, the Safer Communities Coordinator at JCFS Chicago, where she offers psychoeducation to Jewish Day Schools and institutions on abuse prevention.

Don’t Touch My Hair
By Sharee Miller

I Said No!
By Zack and Kimberly King

My Body Belongs to Me
By Jill Starishevsky

Consent (For Kids!)
Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You
By Rachel Brian

My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes
Created by Pro Familia

The Recess Queen
By Alexis O’Neil and Laura Huliska-Beith

Let’s Stay Safe!
The Malka and Arthur Krausman Edition; Artscroll Youth Series

The conversations about sexual abuse prevention, like so many taboo topics, only begins with these readings in your homes and discussions with your local institutions. It is uncomfortable to admit, but we are not doing enough to educate and empower our children.

*Thank you to Samantha Leapman MSW, the Safer Communities Coordinator at JCFS Chicago for her assistance preparing this article.

About the Author
Rachel Fryman PhD LCSW is a psychotherapist at Adelphi University and in private practice on Long Island, NY. Her doctoral dissertation at Smith College centered around divorce in the New York Jewish community. Rachel is a graduate of Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work with a Certificate in Jewish Communal Service. She has received advanced clinical trainings and completed courses at Nishmat and JOFA to be a kallah teacher instructing premarital Jewish education classes. Rachel has taught, presented, and written on the intersection between mental health and Judaism.
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