Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Take Care Of My Little Boy

"Macaroni for lunch again today, huh?" I teased. "I see the ketchup all over your shirt."

He looked down.

"That's not ketchup. It's blood."

I blinked hard, and looked again. It was blood. Splattered all over his little shirt.

"What happened?"

"My Rebbe hit me."

He said it so matter-of-factly, it took a moment to register. Just like that....'My Rebbe hit me.' Like, 'I tripped on my shoelace'. Like it was some normal, everyday occurrence. And if I didn't have the physical evidence, I would never have known what happened.

I sat down with him and listened.

The Rebbe slapped him on his face. Hard. Then he slapped him again. And again.

And again.

At some point, his hand made contact with my little boy's nose. The gushing blood finally stopped him.

I was stunned. Shaken. And angry. I looked at my little boy, and my heart twisted inside me.

I went to see the principal the next morning. He met my concerns with doubt, half-heartedly defending the Rebbe, and tried to dismiss me.

When I left the office, I knew that the Rebbe won't touch my kid again. I was able to protect my son, but I couldn't protect any of the other little boys.

I didn't hear the rest of the story until months later. How the Rebbe quickly ushered my son out of the classroom, stopped the bleeding, and tried plying him with candy.

And how he lost all respect for his Rebbe – not because of the slap, but because of what happened next.

The principal walked by and questioned the Rebbe. In front of my son and 25 second graders watching and listening through the open classroom door, he told the principal that another boy hit my son. My son was 7 years old. Too young to stand up for himself, but old enough to be deeply scarred by that experience. It taught him a lesson that no 7 year old should have to learn.

Ten years later, I don't think my son ever fully forgave that Rebbe. He is left with an intense dislike of the man entrusted with molding precious souls. A man who abused that sacred trust. A man who used his power to relieve his frustrations.

"I'm so excited for Yeshiva," my little boy tells me this morning.

"What are you most excited about?"

"My Rebbe."


I had heard a little bit about this Rebbe. He had some issues with discipline, and he was incredibly boring. He had a wonderful Rebbe this past year, and I was concerned about the transition.

Apparently, my little boy had none of those reservations.

"He gives out fake dollars when you know the Gemara, and you can buy seforim with them. He's such a good Rebbe."

"Oh…good!" Maybe this would work out better than I'd anticipated.

"He hurts."

He hurts. There it was again…that same matter-of-fact tone of voice. As though this is an expected component to growing up and going to school.

I've come a long way since the blood on the shirt incident. I'm not that young, meek mother I was back then. No one has the right to lay a hand on my kid. No one hurts my son.

I will protect my little boy.

To my little boy's Rebbe:

Look at my son in the classroom when you teach him. Look into his eyes and see how hard he tries…how eager he is to please. See how your disappointment in him…your frustration…reaches into his soul and breaks his heart. See how it hardens into the foundation of his character.

I see it. I see it all. And I am angry every time I watch his self esteem crumbling.

Do you know how sweet he is…my son?

If you looked into his eyes, would you hurt him? If you loved him, would you?

Is it worth a life? A future?

I don't ask you to love my son as I do. But please….look into his eyes. While your expectations may not change, the way you respond to him might.

Take care of my little boy.


  1. This is horrible.
    My son was hit by his Rebbe when he was in second grade as well.
    I marched WITH HIM right into the principal's office and told the principal that I had an achrayos to future parents and if he would not FIRE this Rebbe, I felt compelled to inform every parent in the upcoming class what had happened so that they could look out for signs of abuse.
    The principal asked that I remain silent but promised to censure the Rebbe and assured me that it would never happen again or the Rebbe would indeed be let go. Unfortunately, the next year another boy fell victim.
    I once again marched into the menahel's office.
    The Rebbe was fired.
    Corporal Punishement is abuse and abuse is NOT OK.

  2. Wow. That must've been awful, knowing that a Rebbe had done all that, someone who should be imparting values to his impressionable charges, values like honesty and self-control. It's not all about the number of mishnayos they learn, or whatever it is that they learn in second grade.

    You weren't meek, even then. You went in to the principal and spoke up for your son. What else could you have done?

    You are such a good mother...every one of your posts screams that. I hope that was the last of those kind of experiences for your children, and for you. (A person can hope, can't they?)

  3. THIS IS TERRIBLE! You could probably have that teacher thrown in prison for less than that. And the principal for not dealing with it. Stories like that make me sick. How could someone possibly think that repeatedly being smacked across the face in front of a class BY A REBBE instills good jewish images in a childs head???

  4. If the principal doesn't care, why should the rebbeim? And if parents keep sending their kids to the school, then why should anything change?

  5. My son is five and starting Yeshiva. This is my worst nightmare,

  6. That is sad. Very sad.

    Your children are lucky to have such a special mother-I hope they realize that!

  7. pretty intense...my husband was beaten and humiliated pretty badly by his rebbeim and he carries those scars with him still today. he cannot bring himself to forgive that first grade rebbe, the one who robbed him of his innocence and changed him for life. your son is lucky to have a mother who listens to him and is on his side - my husband has wonderful parents, but they believed that he must have done something to warrant the beatings. no 6 year old deserves that, no matter how defiant he is.

  8. My husband says he would call the police...no one has a right to lay a hand on your little boy.

  9. This problem was way worse when I was in cheder, 25 years ago. My rebbe beat the crap out of a kid after pulling his pants down in front of the room. I was 8 at the time, will never forget it. Here's another doozie, I'm not making it up. A kid made in his pants, the rebbe found the "culprit". Punishment? He put the kid in the garbage can, put the can in the closet, and had the kid stay in there for the rest of the day. Yup.

  10. G6...

    That's what I'd do today. Like I said...I've come a long way.

    SIR and Devorah...

    I want you to hang around. Whenever I do something that makes me feel like a terrible mother, I'm coming to look for you. Your job is to keep telling me what a great mother I am. :)
    Thank you!


    Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. The prisons would be full if we'd do that.


    So what do you think I should do? Stop sending him to school?


    The more "modern" the school, the less likely it is to happen. If that's your place, you're in luck.


    I don't know how long ago your husband was in school, or where he grew up, but it was a lot more common and more accepted years ago. But you're right. There's nothing a 6 year old can do that warrants that kind of punishment.


    Calling the police is the fastest way to get your kid thrown out of the Yeshiva and not accepted anywhere else. There has to be a better way.


    I believe it. I don't get it, but I believe it.

  11. well, maybe if people actually stood up to abusive school systems and DID call the police, teachers would need to think twice before beating their students. It has NO place in a school or anywhere for that matter and if enough people got in trouble for it others would stop. At the yeshiva high school where I live there is a terrible abuse of alcohol both by teachers and students. If a teacher of a public school was caught drinking with a bunch of students who were minors he would be thrown in jail immediately, no questions asked. Why should "religious" schools have immunity to laws and morals?

  12. MW-I sure will hang around here! Each and every blog post of yours shows how deeply you care for your children and how strong your love is for them. You are always there to protect them and be there for them but at the same time you know that at a certain point you must let them fly away...

    I hope I can be as devoted a mother like you!

  13. Just catching this. The physical abuse- oy. I daven regularly that this shoudl not happen to my kid, or anyone elses. I cannot believe it happens at all, though I know it does.

    But the emotional stuff- the disregard, frustration and annoyance- I feel like that happens so much, and nobody notices until the child has been shaped by it.

    Oh, and add me to the "Mystery Woman is a good mother" fan club. Feel free to send me a T'shirt.

  14. Oh this was my daily life for the first 12 years...

  15. Ouch. This post hurts.
    I think girls' schools have more emotional abuse rather than physical...
    It's the boys' yeshivos that really go for the jugular.

  16. This is chilling...
    What a world...
    How much power a Rebbe has.. and how much harm they can inflict...

  17. This is terrible. As a teacher in a boys yeshiva, and as a parent of sons, this does NOT happen everywhere. Torah U'Mesorah has very strong guidelines for Rebbe/teacher behavior and interaction with students. Every teacher is notified of these rules at the beginning of the year.
    In our Yeshiva, if a teacher YELLS too much during class, the teacher is spoken with. If he touches the boy, he's OUT.
    Abuse, should NOT be tolerated in any shape or form.
    To even keep the teacher on for the rest of the year, is criminal.
    You should have the strength to do what is in your children's best interest, whether it's popular of not.