Charlotte Schwab, Ph.D.

Sex, Lies, and Rabbis : Breaking a Sacred Trust

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Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute
 Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute  (ISTI)
      Saint John's Abbey and University
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ISTI Book Reviews

ISBN 1-4033-3805-1  Charlotte Rolnick Schwab, Ph. D. Sex, Lies, and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust. Bloomington IN: 1st Books Library.  316 pp (PB $18.95; Dust Jacket $32.95; e-book $10.95).  Call the publisher, toll free at:  800.839.8640 


Sex, Lies, and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust by Charlotte Rolnick Schwab, PhD, is a powerful book, a combination of memoir and nonfiction, about what happens when clergy, specifically, rabbis, are deified. It is about the betrayal and the cover up of the betrayal of teen aged girls and women by male rabbis, and thereby, the betrayal of these rabbis' wives, families, congregations, communities, denominations, and all Judaism. Two murders are connected to rabbis' sexual abuse. One rabbi is awaiting retrial for allegedly hiring a hit man to murder his wife because of his sexual misconduct.

This author writes about her own frightening, shocking experience as the wife of a rabbi-perpetrator of sexual abuse of other women, his violence toward her, and threat to kill her if she told about his nefarious double life.

The book delineates in one volume: the crisis in the rabbinate, in congregational Judaism; what needs to be done to bring about healing and change; gives description of cases of rabbis' sexual abuse as told to the author (these cases are all composites; the victims/survivors' identities are disguised), and as reported in the media, including the two murders related to rabbis' sexual abuse; the alarming extent of this problem; outlines policies that synagogues and denominations need to adopt; provides definitions of sexual abuse; discusses the kinds of personalities of rabbis which can lead to rabbis becoming sexual predators; and offers some suggestions for prevention. The book offers a Resources List and extensive Bibliography, including articles from Jewish and secular newspapers around the country, about rabbis' sexual abuse.

The book provides a healing program geared toward Jewish victims/survivors or rabbis' sexual abuse; it can be adapted for victims/survivors of abuse by other clergy and of other kids of abuse, including abuse by batterers. Women who suffered abuse of any kind will find this book validating and helpful for healing and recovery. "12 Steppers" will be especially interested in this book.

The book is helpful to people of all religions who are experiencing the crisis of their religious authorities' sexual abuse and covering up of that abuse, including Buddhists, Catholics, and Protestants. It is an urgent read for all Jewish people concerned about the safety of their teen aged children and women, and about the future of their religious organizations and communities.

Books have been written about Catholic priests and Protestant ministers and sexual abuse; this is the first about rabbis' sexual abuse. Rabbis Arthur Gross-Schaefer and Marcia Zimmerman, and Rev. Nils Friberg praise the book on the book jacket. Maj-Britt Rosenbaum, MD, psychiatrist and former Director of the Long Island Hillside Medical Center Sexuality Center, wrote the Preface. Gary Schoener, clinical psychologist, who treats both clergy-perpetrators and victims, wrote the Foreword.


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I read your book and think you did a tremendous job bringing the rabbinic abuse issue to light. It must have been a difficult decision to reveal so much about yourself, but doing so, I think, helps give the issue flesh and blood and heightens the impact of your thesis.

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