Many years ago when I was newly married, I woke up from a nightmare. I don’t get nightmares often, but when I do, they stay with me for a time, haunting my waking thoughts as I search to make sense of the frightening visions. I woke that night in a confusion between dream and reality, with tears streaming onto my pillowcase and barely concealed snuffles and sobs, trying not to wake my husband without success.
He asked me what was wrong, and I began to tell him about my dream, thinking that putting it into words outside of my dreamscape would take away the power of the disturbing alternate universe from which I had so recently emerged.
As I began to delve into the details, my husband stopped me. “No! Don’t tell me. An unspoken dream is like an unopened letter. If you don’t say it out loud, it won’t come true.” Apparently this was an adage that many in the frum community live by, and are deeply superstitious about. Indeed, he seemed nervous at the prospect that I might say too much, thus bringing ill tidings upon us. He spent time soothing and reassuring me that it was just a dream and everything was fine, until my little crying hiccups subsided and my eyes no longer ran in salty rivulets down my cheeks.
As I turned over on my damp pillow and heard my husband begin to softly snore, I lay awake and thought again about my nightmare. I felt unsettled and restless, but I repeated the mantra to myself that it was only a dream. Eventually I drifted off to sleep. While the dream continued to haunt me for a few days afterward, not putting it into words eventually helped to eradicate it from my memory, as I have no recollection about the details today. I have since kept my nightmares to myself, to the same amnesic effect.
It’s interesting to note that the idea of not speaking of dreams, lest they come to pass in real life, is typically only brought up when referring to bad dreams. Nightmares are the visions that must be kept at bay, by not infusing them with the power of words.
I believe it’s this same theory that prevents us from speaking of real life horrors. If we don’t name the atrocities, they don’t exist. Except they do – much in the same way my nightmare affected me in a very real way – even though it remained unrevealed. Even though I don’t remember the details, I still remember my fear and panic as I woke from that bad dream and struggled to put it into context. I know the nightmare happened, I remember the trauma, whether I spoke of it or not.
There are some brave people in our world who dare to reveal what we all want to remain hidden. They refuse to leave the nightmare unspoken, because if these nightmares are allowed to exist in the name of keeping unpleasantries out of the public eye, they grow and flourish like a cancer. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is one such champion who refuses to remain silent, if he can save even one child from being harmed by those things that go bump in the night, or even in broad daylight, while the rest of us “keep it sweet” and stay quiet because, “loshon horah,” because, “think of his/her (the abuser’s) family, because, “there are two sides to every story,” because, “it’s embarrassing to talk about such topics,” or because, “it will make a chillul Hashem for the rest of the world to hear of this happening in the Jewish community.”
Yes, especially when it comes to child sexual abuse, there are so many reasons to remain silent, yet that silence is mostly self-serving. It alleviates us from the responsibility of getting involved. We tell ourselves the rabbis will handle it, the parents will handle it, maybe even the police (if they are notified) will handle it. It’s not for us to mish in (butt into someone else’s business). Yet when all of us have that attitude, it leaves no one to mish in.
Rabbi Horowitz is the perfect example of why a person shouldn’t mish in, after all, look where his mishing in got him? A defamation lawsuit and failed attempt at an order of protection filed against him in the Israeli courts from U.S. convicted Level 3 sex offender, Yona Weinberg! The lawsuit remains pending.
It all began when Rabbi Horowitz, founder and director of the Center for Jewish Family Life/Project Y.E.S. and founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, discovered Weinberg had moved to the Har Nof area in Jerusalem, and sent out tweets to warn residents of his presence. Ever since those fateful tweets, Rabbi Horowitz, a child safety advocate who speaks internationally educating parents and children on protecting themselves against predators, has been the subject of a legal campaign by Weinberg to silence him against warning residents of his Har Nof community about his criminal past.
Ironically, the media attention brought on by Weinberg’s own legal campaign has called more attention to his current whereabouts and criminal past than a few tweets ever could.
Rabbi Horowitz recently spoke in Har Nof about child safety, an event that was almost derailed by Weinberg’s attempt to get an order of protection against Horowitz, unsuccessfully arguing that Horowitz would incite community violence against him and his family. Hours after successfully fighting the petition for a restraining order in Israeli court, Rabbi Horowitz was able to give his seminar to an audience of 200 as planned, despite Weinberg’s legal effort to prevent him from coming to his neighborhood. His speech from August 2 in Har Nof can be seen here.
Lohud featured a timeline of Yona Weinberg’s crimes and whereabouts, giving more background and justification for why Rabbi Horowitz would want the citizens of Har Nof to be aware of Weinberg’s presence –
“June 2008: Brooklyn district attorney indicts Yona Weinberg, a 29-year-old licensed social worker and bar mitzvah tutor, on numerous charges including nine misdemeanor counts of second-degree sexual abuse and six of child endangerment.
June 2009: Weinberg convicted of nine counts for victimizing two boys — seven counts of second-degree sexual abuse and two of child endangerment.
September 2009: Weinberg sentenced to 13 months in jail. At his sentencing, Judge J. Reichbach criticizes the Orthodox Jewish community for supporting Weinberg, noting 90 letters were sent attesting to his character and innocence — and mentioning nothing about the victims.
2010: Weinberg released from jail after serving roughly a year. He returns to his Brooklyn home, where he lives with his wife and young children. Weinberg is designated a Level 3 sex offender (high risk of repeat offense and threat to public safety).
June 2014: Police investigate a complaint Weinberg allegedly groped an 11-year-old boy after they were watching television in Weinberg’s apartment earlier that year. Prosecutors declined to bring charges, according to the Daily News.
August 2014: Weinberg allegedly elbows and slams the same 11-year-old against a coat rack in synagogue after prayer service, hurting the boy’s back. The boy told police that Weinberg pushed him against a bookshelf, threatening further harm if he continued to talk to authorities, the Daily News reported.
September 2014: Police file report about the alleged physical assault. The next day, police go to Weinberg’s Flatbush home to arrest him, according to the Daily News. His wife told police he was not home and referred them to his attorney. Weinberg moves to Israel. Shortly after, his wife and four children join him in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof.
January 2015: News of Weinberg’s presence in Israel appears in the Daily News. After the story, the NYPD notifies the state that Weinberg had moved to Israel. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz of Monsey, child-safety advocate, sends out a tweet to notify Har Nof residents of the presence of a Level 3 sex offender in their community. Tweet says he was as dangerous to children as “a terrorist with a machete.”
June 2015: Horowitz is served papers at his Monsey home, informing him that a summary judgement was issued against him for $55,000 in an Israeli court, stemming from a defamation lawsuit. Horowitz didn’t show up in court, he said, because he didn’t realize he was being sued.
Later that year: Horowitz’s attorney in Israel has judgment set aside. Horowitz is still required to pay some court costs.
July 2016: Weinberg seeks protective order against Horowitz, which would prevent the rabbi from giving a lecture on child safety in his neighborhood, where the rabbi has been lecturing for 13 years. The court denies the request.
November 2016: Trial date scheduled in Israel for defamation charges. Horowitz says he will appear in court to defend himself.”
Horowitz said that he will not be silenced by a bullying sex offender.
“I think this is a test case…,” he told The Journal News/lohud. “I am not giving up.”
Israel does not have a sex offender registry, and as such, some child abuse activists such as Horowitz take it upon themselves to warn residents of predators in their vicinity. “How can you slander a sex offender?” asked Horowitz..”
“Horowitz told The Journal News/lohud that he won’t be intimidated by Weinberg, who used his position as a bar mitzvah tutor to gain access to his victims, who were 12 and 13.
He also sees the fight as part of a larger effort designed to thwart others from exposing sex offenders and warning potential victims of the danger. The Israeli legal maneuverings are key to this tactic, he said…”
“If you care about the personal safety of children, these lawsuits should trouble you deeply. For, make no mistake, if these outrageous lawsuits are permitted to continue, fewer and fewer people will be posting warnings when convicted sex offenders move near you or those you love,” he wrote on his blog, RabbiHorowitz.com.
“Horowitz, who faces thousands of dollars in legal fees, in addition to the threat of a judgement against him, pledged to continue his defense in order to protect families who have a right to know a predator is in their midst….I will fight to the end,” he said.”
I asked Rabbi Horowitz how those of us who also feel this lawsuit is an outrageous and dangerous precedent can financially help him. He said that the best way to help him is by donating to his efforts to distribute complimentary copies of his Project Y.E.S Let’s Stay Safe books and give seminars to communities who want to learn how to protect their children from abuse. The Let’s Stay Safe book has been translated into several languages and been culturally appropriated for various Jewish communities in Israel and the diaspora. Many of these communities are impoverished and so he gives his books away to them for free with no compensation for even basic costs.
Mishing in comes at a price, and it’s a price most of us aren’t willing to pay. Thank God for those who mish in. Thank God for those who wake and tell what they saw, for those are the ones who will save lives, save worlds. We can no longer afford to be dreamers, dreaming that if we don’t acknowledge the nightmares, they don’t exist.
Let’s assist Rabbi Horowitz in his important work so that he can continue to share his message to communities around the world.