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Nov 21, 2013

Nuchem Berzosky suggests how to resolve abuse in school, with a personal revelation

Recently a serious case of abuse in a frum school was exposed. It was so bad that it required the intervention of the Minister of Education, Rabbi Shai Piron, though it seems to have continued after his intervention as well.

Nuchem Berzasky was formerly the campaign manager for the campaign of Moshe Abutbol for re-election as mayor of Bet Shemesh. Even if I did not like some of his tactics, one has to admit that he did an effective and even phenomenal, in some aspects, job. That's not really relevant to this, but last week Berzosky announced that with the official publication by the Ministry of Interior of Moshe Abutbol as elected mayor, he is going to be returning back to his private life. He has not really - perhaps it is just too soon and it is a long process to return to a quiet private life after being involved in such a public affair... Berzosky has remained public, sort of, commenting on recent events in the news. And I think that is good. I enjoy seeing his perspective, even when I disagree, just like I enjoy seeing the perspective of people from the entire range of the spectrum of ideas. Berzosky is skilled and talented in making his point and articulating his thoughts and opinions, and it would be a shame to lose someone so skilled.

The recent exposure of the abuse case has brought Berzosky out of his privacy, with a powerhouse of a letter which he sent to Minister Piron..

Berzosky writes (the original can be found on Bechadrei):

I will being on a personal note. When I was a 9 year old student in 4th grade, I was the victim of a web of serious and continued abuse, which was kept bottled up inside me, even until today. This is actually the base of power for the abusers. They take advantage of the naivete and of the fear of the child, and they rely on the fact that the child will hold his tongue, as it also undermines the parental faith to the point that the child feels as if he is guilty, and the father finds the main guilt by him, and not in the dedicated teacher.

Today, with hindsight of 26 years, it is clear to me that the teacher "marked" me because he had been in a financial dispute with one of my relatives. That is how I found myself standing in the center of the class, in the middle of the lecture, in front of 35 students, without shoes, with peyos (which were usually curled downwards) above my head and tied to each other like shoelaces, while I was commanded to hold my backpack with all the books on top of it. And that's what I had to do for the entire duration of the class, for an hour, without the ability to move.

It did not end there. After a few days he repeated that ceremony. Removing my shoes, my peyos tied above, bag in hands, but that time he chose to place me by the window facing the school courtyard, during the recess. And that is how I found myself on the gallows in front of 400 kids, with them gaping at me as ina  live display case, or maybe like in an aquarium containing only the fish that cleans the gunk stuck to the glass.

These were the high points, but they were preceded by a series of beatings and personal attacks.

All those years I was angry at my friends who saw and kept quiet. A child's brain at that age works like self-guilt first and last.

I am not saying this as a step against that "hangman" who for whatever reason was given the keys of education, because after a number of years he left his job, and I do not have the desire of revenge in me even though he rightfully deserves it, because today he does not have the destructive tools to perform his plotted actions.

But in recent days a pandora's box has been opened of cruel abuse against helpless children, by educators and principals. The box is opening little by little, with the blessed and courageous initiative of Bechadrei Chadarim many difficult testimonies are streaming forth unabated, one story leading to the next.

We all know that it is not connected to this or that sector. The plague of cruel educators crosses all sectors, in the country and around the world, as we see exposed weekly in the media.

So I do not think that dealing with the difficult problem openly bears any chilul hashem. Just the opposite - my turning to you is backed up by rabbonim who see the covering up to be an ample base for the destruction of generations, and request cooperation with the suggestion I raise before you.

And now to the actual recommendation:

The Ministry of Education should obligate all schools in the country to install cameras in the classrooms and around the area of the school. Violation of this rule will cause a significant deduction of their budget, via a series of sanctions from the Ministry of Education, even to the point of shutting the school down. 

Installing the cameras that will document what's happening on the premises, both visual and audibly , will uproot 90% of the occurrences. The stress should be on audio, for in many situations the abuse is defined verbally, meaning, verbal abuse, which by Jewish tradition is much more serious than physical abuse. This type of abuse would not be caught by video recording alone.

Along with my turning to you as Minister of Education, I also turn to the leading rabbonim in the Haredi sector and to leading educators, that they should obligate their institutions that are not subject to the Ministry of Education to also take this step to protect our children.

At a time when every bank, office, bathroom and bus us armed with video cameras, there is no reason this technology should not be used as a significant and quality defensive system, that will bring security to the parents who do everything for the success and advancement of their childrenn.

As soon as it will be collective, the good teachers wont be hurt by it, and they are definitely the majority. They too will understand the need to deal with what looks like a situation that hasnt been resolved for many years. And just like in most offices this is accepted with understanding and not with suspicion, the world will change for this as well.

Minister of Education, there is no doubt that if you succeed in this task, your name will be engraved in gold in the letters of gratitude from all the residents of Israel, the parents, the kids, each person with a personal dedication  for the defense you provided for the base of generations.

The solution Berzosky presents is not new, but I commend him for promoting it publicly, while exposing his own personal background..

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1 comment:

  1. I don't agree with the camera solution. Predators will find ways to get around this anyway, and the cameras will be used against teachers with the "wrong hashqafah," even though they are fine teachers. However, like you said, he should definitely be commended, for having the courage to share his personal story. And even though I disagree with the camera solution, and it will no doubt be picked up by those who want to weed out those NON-abusive teachers with the "wrong hashqafah," he IS offering a solution, instead of just ranting about the problem, which is only the beginning of the process.


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