Male sexual abuse happening under our noses, says Koleinu
“Adult male-on-male abuse is a worrying issue as more incidents involving innocent teenagers and young adult victims are brought to our attention,” said Rebbetzin Wendy Hendler of Koleinu, an organisation that offers a helpline for victims of all forms of abuse in the Jewish community.
“It’s happening under our noses and in our community. We aren’t immune to this form of abuse,” Hendler said.
Highlighting National Child Protection Week which runs until 6 June, Hendler said it was important for the community to address this unspoken issue.
“This is an area which is seldom discussed or even recognised in our community. Boys and young adults find it unbearable to confront and so difficult to talk about,” she said.
“Male-on-female sexual abuse is starting to be reported and spoken about. It’s far more difficult to contemplate the idea of male-on-male sexual abuse as it’s a taboo topic.”
“Abuse thrives in secrecy,” Hendler said. “Secrecy keeps the abuser safe. If adults know of abuse and do nothing to report it, they become complicit, and it’s against the law.”
Hendler together with her partner, Rozanne Sack, became aware of the rising incidence of sexual and other forms of abuse in the Jewish community several years ago.
Sack said that while all victims of sexual abuse experience shame, for male victims, the level of shame and confusion is often greater as their masculinity and sexuality is called into question.
“They are often told by the perpetrator that they wanted the sexual intimacy, that they are to blame, or that they are gay. The child’s sexual identity is disturbed, and they experience great self-doubt about their sexual orientation. They often feel disempowered because as males, they believe that they should have stopped the abuse and that they are weak for having allowed it to happen.
“Abuse happens in a community that allows it by turning a blind eye, sweeping it under the carpet, or sending perpetrators overseas to carry on abusing in other communities. It’s only through education, raising awareness, reporting, and holding perpetrators criminally accountable that we will be able to stop the cycle of neglect, abuse, violence, and exploitation of children,” she said.
Family educational counsellor Rabbi Elimelech Gartner said he was receiving reports of this type of abuse in the community.
“Male-on-male abuse is a reality. This doesn’t mean it’s widespread, but it’s happening, people are coming to me, and I’m hearing complaints. I don’t believe I’m the only one who hears about it.”
Rees Mann of the South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse said the damage caused by this type of abuse was devastating.
“Adult male survivors of sexual abuse present with huge developmental and psychological issues. There can be mood and behavioural disturbances, many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. There is anger, rage, and often suicidal thoughts as they grow up.
“The most important thing for adult survivors is to disclose, and find someone they can trust who can show them empathy, someone who will hear and believe them.”
Adolescents are more often targets for male sexual abuse he said. One of the biggest reasons for not reporting a male sexual assault is the fear of being seen as a homosexual.
According to Hendler and Sack, there is no typical profile of a sex offender, but a career offender is someone who makes it his life work to gain access to children, groom them, and ultimately sexually abuse them.
“They are often the most personable, likeable people who have gained the full trust and respect of the community,” they said.
The offender will probably choose a profession which gives him access to children, for example a teacher, sports coach, or extra-murals teacher.
“He firstly identifies a target victim, often a vulnerable child. He befriends the child, spending time with him or her in the presence of the parents and gaining the trust of the parents. He then starts to spend time alone with the child, showering him with attention, giving him gifts, babysitting him, taking him on outings. He may show physical affection to the child in front of the parents as a way of normalising the behaviour and desensitising them. He will groom the parents as well as the child, showing them how much he cares for their child, and how much he adds to the child’s life. He will entrench himself as a special person in that family’s life. This behaviour will continue for months or even years before he begins to sexualise the relationship with the child. By this time, it’s often too late for the child to be able to resist the perpetrator.”
Sadly, even if the child wants to disclose the abuse, “no-one will believe anything bad of the offender as he is beloved by the family and a highly respected member of the community”.
The Chevrah Kadisha’s Community Social Services (CKCSS) division is the only Jewish organisation registered to provide services to persons in abusive relationships or who perpetuate abuse, as well as family members impacted by abuse. It’s mandated to investigate all reports of abuse and neglect of children.
“For any community member who becomes aware that abuse may be taking place, there is a procedure for obtaining professional and legal help for those who may be impacted. While such situations are deeply unsettling, experienced, court-mandated, and non-court-mandated assistance is readily available to the Jewish community,” said Tania Leibovitz, group intake consultant at the Chev.
“Even if a person initially chooses to report the abuse to another person, professional, or organisation, it must still then be reported to CKCSS or another designated child-protection organisation mandated to investigate the case. Failure to report an abuse is deemed a contravention of law,” she said.
“By far the most important factor in encouraging a male victim to come forward is unwavering support and belief in their experience,” said Hendler.
“Our community needs to do better in making it safe for any victim of abuse to come forward, by not making them go through secondary traumatisation, by not making them feel as if their marriage prospects will be threatened, by not asking how they could have let it happen.”
- All cases of abuse or suspected abuse can be reported to CKCSS by contacting the intake line: 011 532 9701, or the Chev emergency helpline 082 499 1010 after hours. An anonymous sexual abuse reporting hotline has also been set up on 011 264 0341.
Communal organisations help make Rosh Hashanah special
With Rosh Hashanah upon us, communal organisations are hard-pressed to make sure that every community member is looked after, but the number of people needing help has spiked since the onset of the pandemic.
The Chevrah Kadisha – which looks after the lion’s share of those in need – has recorded a 35% increase in the amount of financial assistance that it gives families towards living costs. In the Western Cape, Jewish Community Services Cape Town (JCS) recipients have increased more than 100%.
The Jewish Women’s Benevolent Society (JWBS) has also noticed an increase in the number of people in need over the past few years. “With COVID-19, it’s especially hard,” said Maureen Disler, the co-chairperson of the organisation which has survived for more than 127 years. “People have lost their jobs, and some people ask for food vouchers. They haven’t got enough to feed their children.”
The Chevrah Kadisha gives special yom tov meals to the 850 elderly and physically or mentally challenged people living in its residential facilities. However, its wider reach extends to nearly 11 000 people, helping them with living costs, food, healthcare, education, accommodation, and social services throughout the year.
“The Chev is unique in the sheer volume of people it helps, the duration of time that it helps them for, and the diverse range of its activities from cradle to grave,” said Saul Tomson, the chief executive of the largest Jewish welfare organisation on the African continent.
The organisation distributes R5 million every month to families in the community, totalling R60 million for the year. This is a significant increase from pre-COVID-19 times. It’s also involved in education, with nearly R1 million a month going towards 279 children in Jewish schools and remedial schools, as well as 130 university students who are being educated through the Chev’s interest-free student-loan programme.
“Particularly now leading up to Rosh Hashanah, a lot of assistance is being distributed through our COVID-19 emergency release fund,” Tomson said.
Smaller organisations like Yad Aharon & Michael have also been inundated with new requests over the past two years.
“Whereas the number of families who receive weekly food parcels from us stands at about 700, families who aren’t in a position to provide festive meals for Rosh Hashanah through to Sukkot apply for food parcels, which we gladly provide, thereby increasing the number of parcels packed by anything between 20 to 30 plentiful yom tov hampers,” said Alice Friedman, the chief executive of the organisation founded more than 23 years ago.
Ingrid Koor, the chairperson of the Union of Jewish Women (UJW), which assists just more than 100 people over Rosh Hashanah, said, “There are many more people in need as many families have emigrated, leaving elderly people. The economic downturn and COVID-19 have made things more difficult. With, unfortunately, many more elderly passing, our numbers have remained the same for a few years.”
The UJW’s flagship project, Kosher Mobile Meals (KMM), will supply festive cooked kosher Rosh Hashanah meals, plus honey for a hopefully sweeter year. “We will also distribute yom tom joy parcels supplied by the HOD [Hebrew Order of David] consisting of treats and non-perishable food to recipients,” said Koor. “KMM distributes kosher cooked meals to those Jewish elderly over 75 who are unable to cook for themselves.”
For Rosh Hashanah, Yad Aharon & Michael is handing out double portions of seasonal fruit, apples and vegetables, supplemented by meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Its dry goods hampers include honey, grape juice, challahs, and honey cakes in addition to all the basic requirements needed to prepare yom tov meals and usher in a happy and sweet new year.
“I’m confident our families won’t need to shop for extra food for two days of yom tov,” said Friedman. “Our aim is to enable them to enjoy plentiful meals free from worry and anxiety. This is made possible by the community’s renowned generosity.”
JWBS is giving money to its recipients to sweeten their Rosh Hashanah. It also recently gave out activity packs. “People are lonely and isolated, so we’ve given them each an activity pack. They really look forward to it,” said Disler.
This Rosh Hashanah, the JCS’s hampers include round challot, ready-made vegetable soup, roast chicken, pumpkin pie, vegetables, salads, and strawberries.
“Of course, we add in the apples, honey, grape juice, and candles,” said Lauren Cohn, the chairperson of the JCS Tikvah Foodbank Committee. “In addition, we include a Tupperware container filled with teiglach, meringues, dried fruit, and Sparkles. Every food hamper has a special Rosh Hashanah card handmade by children in our local Jewish schools. These food hampers are well thought out, meticulously planned, and beautifully presented with the love, dignity, and respect that we all deserve.”
The JCS is raising funds through the Rosh Hashanah Appeal, which entails sending out e-cards on behalf of the Tikvah Foodbank’s donors. The organisation also relies on volunteers.
“Our Rosh Hashanah and Pesach [fundraising] campaigns are the biggest,” said Friedman. “We have a Rosh Hashanah campaign running at the moment. It’s widely posted on social media, advertised on street poles in suburbs known to be frequented by the Jewish community, and in the SA Jewish Report. We’re also selling beautiful yom tov gifts at various points in Joburg, which is a successful initiative.”
The JWBS phones people to ask for donations as COVID-19 restrictions prevent it from running traditional functions such as theatre shows and golf tournaments.
Since many of the UJW’s recipients don’t have family nearby or the funds to pay for their meals, KMM is run mostly on donations. “We launched a fundraising campaign on social media and via our databases to raise money,” said Koor. “We also phoned people to ask for donations.”
Although the UJW’s principal need is donations, it also needs volunteers to chat to its isolated elderly when it’s safer to do so. “KMM recipients are more isolated since COVID-19,” said Koor. “We used to host elderly people to a Wednesday lunch at our UJW house. These people are sorely missing the social interaction.”
Asked what advice she has for those wanting to help others on Rosh Hashanah, Friedman said, “Teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah are the three elements which Hashem takes into account when finalising our verdict for the coming year. I’m fully cognisant that everybody is financially stretched, but helping those in our midst who cannot celebrate Rosh Hashanah and the chaggim without our assistance is a communal responsibility. Treating the needy with sensitivity, kindness, and empathy underpins Yad Aharon’s brand of chesed, and addressing the harsh reality of hunger and destitution in our midst forms an integral part of our mission.”
Hudaco-ORT helps disabled entrepreneurs
ORT South Africa hosted a ceremony on 12 August for 10 entrepreneurs who it assisted to obtained SETA qualifications to help them start their own businesses.
The potential and existing entrepreneurs were assisted by Hudaco-ORT to obtain National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 2 new venture creation qualifications, assisting them to start and grow their business ventures.
Hudaco-ORT helps people with disabilities by facilitating their completion of the NQF level 2 qualifications, which equips them to capitalise on opportunities. The beneficiaries received their Sector Education Training Authority (SETA) certificates at the ceremony.
“We often unintentionally consume ourselves with what’s considered the norm rather than focusing on our own uniqueness,” Hudaco-ORT said. “People with disabilities are the epitome of uniqueness, forming a vital part of society and reminding us to value our own strengths and weaknesses.”
Said, beneficiary Mncedisi Bengu, “It was a surprise. I was fairly happy and shocked at the same time. I didn’t think I would be successful. My teacher, Sarah Malape, gave me an experience that I had never had in my life. She taught me to respect myself and other people, and to be myself.”
On receiving his certificate, he said, “I’m excited. At my home, they gonna [sic] be happy for me, and say, ‘Wow you did it.’”
Said another beneficiary, Sthembile Gumede, “I’m so happy, and my grandmother is happy for me. I wish I learnt more because I like books.”
ORT SA wishes all the beneficiaries of the Hudaco-ORT Project well in their future endeavours, and is grateful to Hudaco for partnering with it to make a difference in people’s lives.
Rabbi and craftsman perfect the art of charity
Two people from two different backgrounds – Rabbi David Masinter and artist Leonard Nyathi – have come together with the goals of teaching, educating, uplifting, and spreading the message about the need for charity around the globe.
Masinter, the rabbi of Chabad House in Johannesburg and the founder of the fundraiser Miracle Drive, was looking for a good craftsman who could also teach in the most destitute areas.
He came across Nyathi, a master craftsman whose business struggled before Miracle Drive recognised his talents and commissioned custom artworks.
Masinter told Nyathi, “Let’s identify the artists, bring them together, train them, and I will buy in a whole bunch.”
Encouraged, Nyathi started working with Masinter. “We worked as a team, an unusual team,” says Masinter. “The only thing we have in common is that we both like to teach.”
They started hiring and training underprivileged people. “We normally hire street kids and people with disabilities,” says Nyathi. “We also give training to people that don’t have an education. The rabbi and I decided to employ people so that they could make a living.”
Masinter says they found underprivileged artists in the most remote areas, and improved their skills. “When you find a skill within a person, you improve not only that skill but every other aspect as well,” he says.
Nyathi and the other artists are turning Jewish objects into what Masinter calls “African art”. All the artworks are handcrafted and hand painted – from ceramic mezuzah cases and ceramic dreidels to ceramic arks and a set of three ceramic grating plates (meat, parev, and dairy). It can all be purchased on the online Gallery of Goodness and Kindness, set up due to COVID-19. According to Masinter, they also “have a whole bunch” of non-Jewish products.
“The gallery online is only the beginning,” says Masinter. “We are building a proper gallery like the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art – a proper beautiful online gallery to promote South African art, underprivileged and other artists, one that can bring a smile to people’s faces.”
Asked if they have a marketing and sales strategy, Masinter says, “A hundred percent. That’s why this thing is going global. We also doing displays in different shopping centres, and we are taking it overseas.”
Nyathi is thankful for Masinter’s help. Now, he and the other artists can afford to pay their rent and support their families. “If it wasn’t for Shabbat, we were going to close this business,” Nyathi says.
When people praise his artwork, Nyathi says he feels “over the moon” and “recognised” in his heart.
Asked where the funding comes from for the materials, Masinter says, “Where required, I will do the funding, but the idea is to make it self-sustainable. This thing is global. We have already got orders from overseas. We are changing our world for good. Everyone should be energised by this. We can do much more.”
Masinter believes every Jew is obligated to uplift the spiritual and material welfare not only of every Jew, but also non-Jews as well.
“Therefore, we cannot live as South Africans only focusing on Jewish things when we have a fortune of programmes, from kids programmes to teenage programmes, to senior-citizen feeding programmes. We have to worry about everybody. You can’t live in a country where millions of people are living in squalor and say, ‘It’s not our problem’. The way to [help] is through job creation, and this project is helping with that. We have 21 libraries in the city in underprivileged areas. We have the whole learning programme for primary school children. We have a job-creation programme, and now during COVID-19, we went into this programme, which is self-explanatory. A rabbi and an artist have come together to turn the world upside down for good, with one thing in common, a passion for art and education.”
Masinter’s charitable work is based on two philosophies, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” and “You don’t have to stay down, you can uplift everybody.”
Asked how long he has been doing his charitable work, he says, “I’m a Chabad rabbi. Every Chabad rabbi does charitable work. We don’t talk about the past. It’s about what we could be doing. You must energise people to copy what we are doing. We can’t sit here with millions of people living in squalor. We should all be asking what are we doing to assist welfare in this country, Jewish and non-Jewish.”• The Gallery of Goodness and Kindness can be found at: https://www.chabadsouthafrica.org/templates/articlecco
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