Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Important Message From R. Yaakov Horowitz and R. Benzion Twerski About Suicide

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the tragic death of Motti Borger and the factors that presumably led up to what happened to him. Since this is a fairly high profile event in our community, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz and Rabbi Benzion Twerski fear that there may be copycat suicide attempts. As a result, Rabbi Horowitz asked that the following be published:

This essay will appear in next week’s Jewish Press. Generally, as per my arrangement with The Jewish Press, I do not post columns until the issue is on the newsstand. However, due to the nature and timeliness of this subject, The Jewish Press is permitting its release prior to publication as a public service.

Abuse Survivors; Please Do Not Suffer Alone

By: Dr. Benzion Twerski and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

In recent days, reports have circulated in the media and on the Internet about the tragic early passing of yet another young man in our community. Those reports indicate that the trauma of childhood abuse followed him and complicated his adult life to the point that it impinged on the quality of his personal relationships.

It is not the intent of these lines to substantiate these reports nor is it to dismiss them. Rather, we wish to use the opportunity presented by this horrible calamity and the dialogue it has created on the internet and in the street to once again loudly and forcefully reiterate the message we have been projecting for many years to victims of abuse – “Please reach out for help and do not suffer alone.”

For even in the event that the facts as reported in this particular tragedy are not accurate, they are most certainly consistent with the pattern we have unfortunately seen over and over again, where victims of childhood abuse go through unspeakable agony as they attempt to singlehandedly deal with the toxic aftereffects of the trauma they suffered in their formative years. We have each encountered numerous instances where untreated childhood abuse follows victims into adulthood, shredding their marriages and rendering them often incapable of entering into a loving and intimate relationship with their spouses until a trained mental health professional helps them sort things out. We have each been involved with more than a few childhood abuse victims who became addicted to heroin and/or cocaine, in an unsuccessful attempt to wash away the searing pain of their trauma. We have each paid more than a few shiva calls to families of abuse victims, who years and even decades later took their own lives.

There are a number of reasons why abuse victims would not avail themselves of intervention and assistance. Some are understandably reluctant or frightened to share the facts of their abuse with others. Others, who did have the courage to confide in adults in their lives were encouraged or intimidated into remaining silent – especially if the perpetrator is a respected individual or a close family member. This sends a horrible message to the victim – that he or she has done something that cannot see the light of day. The result is a that a never-ending video loop now plays in the mind of the victim, as societal pressure abuses them again and again, by forcing them to remain silent and unsupported.

There are many events that simultaneously involve more than one “system.” For example, when one gets arrested for driving under the influence which caused injuries or death, there are criminal penalties for drunk driving and financial reparations due for the damages caused. However, neither of these tracks deals with the fact that the perpetrator has a drinking problem. Courts realize they cannot treat alcoholism, as revoking licenses, impounding cars, and even jail terms will not prevent recidivism – especially if treatment is warranted but not followed.

Various efforts have been undertaken in recent years – all of which are necessary – in the arenas of prevention, education, training, and the need for reporting. And we both have proudly participated in many of them. However, despite the fact that these initiatives and the awareness they generate are often soothing to past abuse victims, none of these help them regain their footing. Only therapy by a licensed and trained professional can accomplish that.

We are therefore reaching out to anyone who was ever abused or molested in their childhood years and begging you to please do yourself the ultimate favor and get help.

Therapy may not solve all issues in your life, but it will do much to make your future brighter and filled with greater promise. In fact, many survivors thrive and build beautiful lives for themselves and their families following successful treatment.

It may be true that some people are resilient and survive with little apparent damage (apparent is the operative word). However, this is not the norm, and with the dangers involved, we would not recommend that you even risk this small chance. So; for your sake, and for the sake of your spouse and children, please, please get help.

This may mean several things:

  1. Contact a mental health professional who is experienced in counseling trauma victims. (I strongly feel that well-intentioned individuals like me, who do not have professional training in abuse treatment, are not equipped to deal with these issues and should limit our involvement to supporting the efforts of the professionals, and steering those who seek our guidance in these matters directly to them. Y.H.)
  1. Get information about trauma and its effects.
  1. Connect with other victims/survivors. The camaraderie and support are invaluable.

We strongly suggest that you ignore those who inform you, that getting married and starting a family will help you, “Get over it.” Experience has taught us that it will often complicate things rather than heal them.

Please, please do not suffer alone. Reach out for help today.

In closing, we offer you our sincere and heartfelt bracha that Hashem grant you menuchas hanefesh and simchas hachayim (tranquility and joy) in your lives.

© 2009 Dr. Benzion Twerski and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is a regular columnist in The Jewish Press. Dr. Benzion Twerski is a renowned and much sought-after mental health professional who holds a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Twerski has been one of the leading voices in our community on the issue of child abuse for more than a decade. He lives and practices in Brooklyn, N.Y. and can be reached at

The Wolf


squeak said...

This is a very important message to send out - and to keep sending out. I am very pleased to see that the frum community is finally coming to terms with the fact that abuse and mental anguish must not be swept under the rug. And that those who need therapy should not be allowed to fear social stigma for it any more than someone with high cholesterol levels should be allowed to fear stigma for seeking medical help.

Unfortunately, in many cases that I have seen the victims do not even know that they are victims. One of the saddest things about abuse that happens to children is that they often tend to believe that they "deserved it" or "didn't have it that bad". I've seen this even in serious cases of abuse. So the other big issue is, how do we get such victims to realize that this article is talking to them?

Anonymous said...

BT quitting last year because his kids might have trouble with shidduchim sent out a loud and clear message. The harm done will take years to recover from.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Twersky has continued doing much behind the scenes. All that is missing is the publicity. Meanwhile, the furor that followed his jumping ship kept the topic hot enough to get many individuals and organizations into a frenzy. Sadly, not much has come of their efforts, but maybe that is not the angle that will have the most effect.

I asked Dr. Twersky about the better approach to bring about change, without waiting for all the backroom politics. He told me that the victims and survivors must band together to get help via therapy and support groups. No one is ignoring the criminal aspect. It just does not seem to help much by focusing on arresting, reporting, and the like. He said this will probably start small, and it will steadily gain over time. He did not have the answer for stopping molesters without making criminal complaints and arrests. He also noted that most Rabbonim, even when well meaning simply do not understand the ramifications of abuse and trauma. Training them is the hard part, since they usually claim to know it all.

Many victims do not know they are victims. Often, someone enters therapy, and it surfaces that there were such issues in childhood. This individual may have never been aware of it. The many articles that appear in our publications as well as some secular ones are very informative. With greater exposure through articles such as this one, many more people can hopefully get the real help they need.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to what Dr. Twerski wrote last September:

Richard Highman said...

"By now I'm sure you've all heard about the tragic death of Motti Borger and the factors that presumably led up to what happened to him."

Where did we "presumably" read this "presumed" sheker? In the great bastion of truth known as the New York Post?

David said...

The biggest chillul Hashem is the fact that the so called Jewish blogosphere accepted as a given that this was a case of molestation when in fact the original accusation was roundly disputed as being false. The only fact is Motty was never in Munkatch Yeshivah (only in the camp as a counselor as an adult) where these alleged incidents happened. The fact that more accusations are being piled on proves that these scummy bloggers are not interested in the facts only in making use of a tragic death to further their agenda.

Shmuel Roth said...


You state the obvious. The so-called Jewish blogosphere, as you out it, is anything but Jewish. They will denounce at first opportunity anything truly Jewish, using whatever lies and innuendo necessary to achieve their evil goals.

Anonymous said...


When this article appeared in the YWN CR, it was signed "The Wolf". I'm sure you didn't mean to do that, did you? You can ask a mod there to fix it.

BrooklynWolf said...


I didn't do that. Someone cut and pasted from my blog.

In the YWN CR, my username is WolfishMusings.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

"David" and "Shmuel Roth" have missed the point. Neither author is addressing the Borger tragedy. Neither knew the young man or has any knowledge of what the truth was. The point in the article is that the lesson can be derived from something that could be. This is much the same as the parables of the Maggid of Dubno, who derives lessons from fables. Advising and guiding people who have been victimized to reach out for help - what is the "evil" agenda?

David said...

You my friend are missing the thrust of the whole article. Clearly they are bringing up this issue because of this tragic incident. Shame on them for allowing any association to be made with their just campaign, when there is not a shred of evidence to all the rumors out there. Don’t they realize that it is futile to associate with this slime as they are not interested in the truth only in mudslinging against our community?

BrooklynWolf said...


Please keep the comments on topic. If you want to advertise your new blog, then contact me by email.

The Wolf

Off The Derech said...

Hopefully that asshole Garnel will be the next to jump!

Commenter Abbi said...

Why do you allow OTD's violent comment to stay up for so long?

OTD said...

Hm. I don't think I wrote that. If I did, I apologize.

Shmuel Roth said...

The 2 comments above by "Off the Derech" have been made by 2 different people. The profiles for each of the 2 "Off the Derech" comments above are different from each other.

Off the Derech said...

Yes, I think it was an impersonator.

PI said...

Actually you are the impersonator. You made the first and 3rd OTD comment. The 2nd OTD comment is linked to the original OTD blog.

OTD said...

PI: the first comment was OpenID. I NEVER use OpenID.

But since you know so much about my impersonator...

OTD said...

And yes, I have two blogger profiles under the EXACT same name. I NEVER use OpenID.

Ookamikun said...

David and Shmuel, trying to cover up your own indiscretions?

Aaron S. said...

I surmise from Moshe's words that Moshe is likely a suicidal child molester.

BrooklynWolf said...

OK, enough already. No more ad hominem attacks. Stick to the issues.

If you can't play nice, I'll delete all the comments.

The Wolf

Ookamikun said...

Aaron, I'm not suicidal, I'm homicidal. :-D