Over the last few weeks, the infamous Rabbi Manis Friedman YouTube video has been sending shock waves within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism, along with many survivors of sex crimes and those who work with in the anti-rape movement from within every faith.
In Rabbi Friedman’s original YouTube presentation he compared disclosing one was sexually abused as a child –– to sharing that one had a bout of diarrhea. Suggesting that it would be inappropriate to share such information with a perspective life partner; along with several other very sic analogies in his failed attempt to be cleaver and informative.
Since the first film clip aired Friedman made a second YouTube video in which many felt was his attempt at making an apology. Several survivors and mental health professionals have felt this second YouTube video was nothing more then a public relations piece in hopes of doing damage control –– after making his personal views on healing, public.
Many community leaders from with in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement have been making excuses for Friedman’s inappropriate and demeaning comments.
A highly respected Lubavitch rabbi who wishes to remain anonymous stated:
“I personally respect Rabbi Friedman very much. He does say things that initially shock the system but once given the chance to explain what he says is most often very compelling. It would be a shame to write off someone with so much wisdom, compassion and understanding based on a few sound bites from youtube. No one should expect a free pass, but over 30 years of dedicated service to the community including to abuse victims who have experienced healing through listening to his words of wisdom –– should earn him a bit of an investigation before placing him on the "black list".”
It’s important to note that Rabbi Manis Friedman is not the only orthodox rabbi who is a self-professed “marriage and family counselor”, who has made inappropriate comments and suggestions to survivors.
Several years ago when Dina Tamar got engaged to a man who was a Kohain (a descendent Aaron) she sought out guidance from Rabbi Shlomo Canvasser, who is another self-proclaimed “counselor”, who at the time had office space in Heritage House in in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s old city.
Dina grew up in a secular home and knew very little about Jewish law. At the time she was a very new Ba’al Teshuva (a returnee to the orthodox way of life). She was a student at a woman’s seminary in Jerusalem and was being taught to ask rabbis for guidance in how to do just about everything. Dina went to Rabbi Canvasser to get advise in how to tell her fiancee that she was an incest survivor.
Dina had no idea that according to Jewish law, she would not be allowed to marry her fiancee because she had “illicit sex” with her father.
Instead of finding a therapeutic way of informing Dina of the problem, Rabbi Canvasser stated: “You can’t marry him, you were F _ _ _ ed by your father. He’s a Kohain. What are you thinking?”
Dina was in shocked not only to learn that because she was abused as a child, but also at the vulgar word choice this orthodox rabbi used. Instead of showing Dina compassion and empathy, Rabbi Canvasser’s words re-victimized this abuse survivor. Dina had no choice but to break up her engagement. She knew she could no longer communicate with this orthodox “counselor”, and was afraid to share any more thoughts or feelings she had with anyone. She ended up retreating emotionally, which spiraled into a deep depression that lasted several years -- until she felt safe enough to find a “real” mental health professional to help her cope with this re-traumatization caused by self-proclaimed orthodox “counselor”.
Neither Rabbi Manis Friedman or Rabbi Shlomo Canvasser have a master’s degree in the mental health field nor are they licensed. Because of this those who go to them for any form of spiritual counseling have no legal standing or venue they can utilize when inappropriate “counseling techniques” are utilized. Nor are they bound by confidentiality, unless some sort of written confidentiality agreement is signed prior to entering into this type of professional relationship.
For these reasons many mental health and legal professionals, along with activists in the anti-rape field, believe it may not be best interest to communicate with “self-proclaimed counselors” or even “life-coaches”. Much better to find someone who is a licensed professional, who has specialized training in the field and can prove that they are both experienced and qualified.