Sunday, March 29, 2009

PTSD? Hah! Been There, Done That. Thanks Yeshivah.

Dear Diary;

Today I talked to a friend, who's being discharged from the Army for having PTSD. While I wouldn't fathom equating my life experiences with with his, I couldn't help noticing how familiar some of  the symptoms sounded. Obviously PTSD is in the news a lot these days, and especially being in the Military, I'm very aware of it, but I never thought about it in relation to myself, until I discussed it with my buddy.

After speaking to this buddy, I looked up the symptoms of PTSD, and what do you know - out of 17 symptoms, I have about 10 of them. What the hell?! I'm not depressed, I'm not traumatized, what's going on?

The first symptom that jumped out at me was " Feeling jumpy and easily startled", I hadn't really thought about it, but I flinch at the slightest hint of what could be a possible physical threat towards me. When I say "possible threat", I'm talking about gestures that most people wouldn't even notice or would ignore, for example high-fives, back-slaps, and the like.

Beyond that though there was, "feeling of intense distress when reminded of the trauma", "feeling detached from others and emotionally numb", and "hyper-vigilance". Plus a few others that I recognized in myself. 

I guess now would as good a time as any to back up and explain what "trauma" it is that I'm talking about, I'm talking about Yeshiva. More specifically a certain Yeshivah.

Shortly after I turned thirteen, my Parents sent me to a "sleep-away" Yeshivah located in my home town. By the afternoon of the first day I was calling home in tears, begging my Mother to come get me. In trying to describe the physical, and emotional abuse that went on there, I'm doing the place a disservice. Beatings were so normal a sight, they were completely ignored by other students, Rebbeim bragged about how much they intimidated us, and kids walked around with bruises, welts, and all sorts of marks.

Besides the physical abuse there was the mental pressure put on us, every second of the day was controlled, starting with the wake up at the crack of dawn, to the fifteen minutes we had to run to the Mikvah, haul ass back and be seated at our spot, and heaven help you if you were seconds late, all the way to laying down on the left side and waking on the right. Not tolerated were: Laughing, talking about anything aside from what we were studying, contact with the outside world, no food or snacks outside of the three meals served to us (fifteen minutes a meal with no talking), no personal books, or tape players, and on and on. 

And the rules! There where rules on everything, from our hair-cuts, to how many showers we could take a week, and what kind of soap we could use, to what kind of underwear we wore. Violation of any of these rules resulted in a beating, if you failed a test you were promptly beaten, if you were caught dosing off in middle of the day you were beaten, pretty much anything was cause for a good beating.

Now when I say beating, I'm not referring to a little slap or even a backhand to the head, I'm talking about all out UFC style - anything goes straight up beat-downs. Fists, elbows, sticks, and anything handy were all fair game. I've seen coffee jars used as weapons, heads slammed through drywall, chairs and trash cans thrown, all in one session.

The truth is I couldn't possibly portray an accurate picture of the place within the narrow confines of this blog, I could go on for days, and still not do it justice, I have enough individual instances to fill a book, but just suffice it to say that we lived in constant terror. Yet on the other hand we grew immune to the beatings, it got to the point where we bragged about how badly we got hit that day, I even remember thinking to myself one day, that today was the first time an entire day has gone by without being hit once. That day was one and a half years into my time there.

Over the years since then, I've thought about what the thought process was behind their tactics, and I've yet to come up with anything concrete. I'm sure somewhere deep inside, these people thought they were doing the right thing, on the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that at least some of them got off on beating these defenseless kids, in fact some of them positively relished it.

Before I go on I must clarify that I was not by any means what's known as a "problem child", I wasn't a trouble maker or anything like that. On the other hand I was not a Masmid either, I was an above average student in subjects that interested me, but just average when not, and the same could be said for the majority of the rest of the kids in that Yeshivah.

I attended the Yeshivah for two and a half years, at first I begged my Parents to take me out of there, I showed them bruises and marks, all over my body, but it was a dead end. My Parents being the naive BTs that they were, believed that anyone with the title Rebbe, Rosh Yeshiva, or Menahel (Principal), could do no wrong. No matter what I said to them, the answer was the same, "He's a Rosh Yeshivah, he must know what he's doing". Eventually I gave up, and stopped trying to convince my Parents to remove me from the Yeshivah.

After I left the Yeshivah, I made a conscious effort to forget and get over my experiences there, and to a large extent I was successful. I moved on, for the most part blocking the whole thing out of my head, but certain things wouldn't go away. To this day I never sit with back to the room, I avoid talking about the whole experience, and when I do I get physically ill, (as I type this, I'm sweating, my heart is pounding, and my hands are shaking).

One good thing that came of the whole experience was, that when I went to basic training, the Drill Sergeants couldn't intimidate me the way they did all the other trainees. I remember thinking as they were yelling in my face " Is that all you got? I've dealt with a lot worse, bet you won't hit me".

So I guess by the book I have PTSD, what does it mean to me? Nothing really, I don't walk around thinking about that Yeshivah all day, it had no impact on my life aside from the aforementioned symptoms, and luckily I don't have the more serious (in my opinion) symptoms like depression and the like. So thanks a lot Moshe Lazer Blum, Shimon Goldbrenner, and a few others whose names I can't remember, I guess I'm a better person for it. (I contemplated putting addresses and phone numbers, but I decided not to.)

P.S. I'd like to reiterate, that in no way do I want to imply that my seismic lifestyle change, was caused by, or connected to any feelings of resentment, toward my parents or teachers. It was mostly an intellectual decision.

23 comments:

Off the Derech said...

This is horrible.

Jewish Atheist said...

That is horrible. Frankly, I recommend almost everybody who goes OTD see a therapist. It's helped me a lot. I never suffered anything like you did though. Sorry you had to go through that. :-(

Shaya Getzel said...

The truth is I've gotten over it, and hardly think about it nowadays, but that conversation brought it all back.

kisarita said...

i really hope you will publicize the name of this yeshiva. there must be some legal action you can take or at the very least there should be an investigation of the place if it still exists today.

Shaya Getzel said...

It has since closed, but many of the "Rabbanim" currently work at other Yeshivahs. I have not kept tabs on them though.

DaveK said...

Hey Shaya,

I went through similar stuff up in Rochester in the 80's albeit without the official sanction of the Rabbi's.

As a "freshie" I was open to attacks from upperclassmen whenever they felt like it.

The most important thing up there was getting to davening on time, or you got detention. The Rabbi's didn't give a shit if someone was getting beaten up though, as I got suspended every month for being late to davening and class and the upperclass hoodlums never did.

Freshwater Phil said...

Parents need to listen to their kids when they begin to decide that yeshiva isn't for them. Had your parents listened, you very well might still be observant today. Attmepting to force you into their idea of what is good for you didn't lead them too far.

I was sent away to yeshiva against my will at 16. I had already gone though a couple places with relaxed rules, and knew good and well that this new place wasn't for me, as it had strict rules and a madman for a rosh yeshiva. Regardless, I was sent there, ended up doing more learning than I ever did, but got booted out for girls, movies, etc. Only bright side to the story was that I met met my wife to be while there. We are now happily married for over 14 years.

Though I kind of went off a bit, I remained religious and still am today. I wasn't going to allow anyone to deter me from my views one way or another. Just as they couln't push their ultra frummy views of what's right or wrong on me, I didn't let my contempt for the creeps push me away from the right path.

Sorry to read that it didn't work out for you and that a few idiots managed to destroy your faith. There is always hope.

Shaya Getzel said...

Phil; I think you misinterpreted what I said,the experience in that Yeshivah, had nothing to do with me leaving Frumkeit. In fact I stayed for years afterwards, even got married to a Frum lady, and only later left for philosophical reasons.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering what other people who went to the Yeshiva experienced. I can't understand how information about the beatings didn't get out. If it's still a problem, you need to think about whether you should identify the Yeshiva to the public.
Ichabod Chrain

Shaya Getzel said...

No one who attended that Yeshivah, would disagree with what I'm saying here.

Eventually the word did get out, and the place has since closed, but many of the former Rebbaim, now teach in other Yeshivah's.

Eli said...

Shaya getzil I would like to talk to ýou, I also went there in 1993/1994 , my email address is. Unit173@gmail.com

Eli said...

This weekend I saw an invitation for a tea party for a yeshiva in monsey, after reading it thru I noticed something that all of a sudden started heating my blood and felt my preasure rising, the trigger was a name on there "Shimon Goldbrener" after reading that I serioulsy started having flash back from back in the day when I went there, also at the same time my left side neck was killing me and hurting me and that got my blood pumping even more, I started remembering what had happened in that school, I don't think about it everyday or can even go by years that I don't think of it but at that momnet it hit, the story with the hurting shoulder/neck/back was as follows (when I do think about that man, I will never forget the details on the story and nor will the kids that watched it either) on may of 1994 there was a ceremony in brooklyn and I wanted to attend, so being that the scholl was in rockland county/monsey, I asked the administration (blum and goldbrener) if I can go tomorrow to brooklyn and they said yes, next morning came and I woke up a bit late, I rushed to mikvah and then rushed into shul, they were already in middle of davening (basically was late) so after davening 1 of those 2 came up to me and said to me that I cannot go to brooklyn cuz I arrived late to prayers, I tried arguing that we didn't make any kind of deal that he can stop me from going, still didn't help and he said no u can't go. Later after breakfast and just about walking into class, mr goldbrener told me that he would allow me to go but in 1 condition, he will give me 50 punches on my shoulder/back and after that I can go, mind u this guy was about 250lb and I was a little 13 year old maybe 125lbs tops. And me wanting to be a hero said no problem its a deal. Having all studnts sitting around 1 big table (a few tables put together, about 15-20 kids) he started punching 1 after another, I was sitting next to him on his right side & my left shoulder was his punching bag, as he kept going 1 after the other, the students also counted with him, 21, 22, 23 and so on, when it came to 33 the students counted that # twice, I was like that's not fair but still my screams were disregarded, when it came to 49 this guy stopped and he said that I can not go Bcuz he didn't give me 50 FIFTY punches, weargued and argued, he even at 1 point threatned me that if I don't stop arguing he will beat me up, at the end the students stuck up for me and they said that when counting they counted one of the #s twice so that means that really it was 50 not 49, I was granted permission to go. In brooklyn ceremony there was so many people and there was lots of pushing going on, and when people were pushing on me it hurt so bad that my while trip wasn't almost worth it, but it was still worth it since I had gotten thru that. This is only 1 of the many many stories I myself had there, and g-d is my witness that I'm not making this up, for now I gotta go but I sure wll come back and share with u guys some more stories, and if any1 reading this remembers this pls email me and or comment.
May these men (moishe lazer blum and shimon goldbrener) never rest in peace

Eli said...

Another story from them: 1 day the boys were assigned chvruses (studying partners)goldbrener / blum paired me up with this kid, I didn't want to study with him so I asked blum or goldbrener (I don't remember which 1 I asked) that I would like to learn with some1 else, the response was NO u have to learn with him, then I argued back of course, and goldbrener took me into a nearby bedroom (that I do remember it was goldbrener himself) and slapped me once, then he asked me "are u gonna partner up with that kid, yes or no" so my answer was "no" so he slapped me again, this went on for a while (maybe 15-20 minutes) as he kept on asking yes or no and my answer constant "no" (didn't he ask me yes or no, and I answered his question) the beating got more hard and more violant, (the entire time I was thinking, if only blum would find out what goldbrener is doing to me, goldbrener will get in trouble by blum, but little did I know at those moments that Blum was In this beating together as well.. Read on...) so after about 15-20 minutes mr Blum came into the room and asked goldbrener if I already answered and goldbrener responded by "no he didn't" so then came the worse, 2 adults started beating on me (me being 13 yrs old, short & about 125lbs to the most, goldbrener 30's and appox 250lbs and blum 170 high 20's , sure enough after additional 10 minutes of 2 men beating on me I of course answered yes and they stopped, later on goldbrener told me that I am a stobburn child & he will knock it out of me, but little did he know that he ruined me for life and I'm now more stobburn then ever. more stories to come. And if any1 has stories from this yeshiva pls post

Eli said...

Here's another 1, I dunno how many of u readers know the difference between a 6 slice yamukah (kippa) and a 4 slice, but that mr Blum sure does know the difference. One fine afternoon it all seemed to be going well, I went into town and bought a new yamukah, I went from a 6 slice to a 4 slice (the difference is also, (he 6 slice was soft & the 4 was more stiff) I threw out the 6 slice and I rolled into yeshiva with my new 4 slice yamukah, I didn't pay much attention to my new yamukah, just that it was more comfortable on my head, all of a sudden mr blum comes up to me and tells me to get ridd of the 4 slice yamukah and wear the 6 slice, I explained to him that I like this 1 and also I threw away the other 1, then Blum took off my yamukah off my head and left me with nothing on my head, so I was like if the so called rabbi can remove my kippa then if I'm doing a sin, its on his responsibilty, then the guy started punding my head with his fingers and he kept on saying "put on a yamukah put on a yamukah" and I was like so give me back mine, he refused. Then while his hand is knocking on my head, I put my head down on the table (like taking a nap) and the pounding got stronger and harder, then he asked 1 of the boys for a blade, he cut my yamukah in to 4 pieces (nazi style) and there my yamukah was a cut up and I'm not wearing any, that pissed him off even more cuz I kept on asking and I was upset that my yamukah was cut, so the punding continued untill it got real ugly, he threw me on the floor and started kicking my head (it looked like he was playing socker and my head was the ball) I can tell ya 1 thing, I was beaten..... I don't remember the end of the story , I just know that I'm still alive to tell the story and now days I proudly wear onlý 4 slice yamukahs, it did leave a trauma cuz I wouldn't change that style for anything, it goes so far that my X wifes daughter once came home and said that her friends were making fun of her that he dad is wearing a 4 slice yamukah and my X gave me that look like she would appreciate if I would change it, & I explained to her that I suffered so much for that yamukah and nearly lost my life over it and I hope she understands, she did understand. And that's where this story ends. More to come hopefully. May then never have a peacful day.

Eli said...

Just last night I spoke to a guy, he had told me that he used to get beatings from Moishe Lazer Blum if he was maaver sedra with the wrong tune

kishke said...

What's the name of this crazy yeshiva?

monsey sucks said...

the yishvas name is nar hator the rabbis over there are going to hell

Anonymous said...

This is just sick. Are these guys still alive? Are there still yeshivos like this? Congrats on making your voices heard. hopefully some parents who say the rebbe can do no wrong will pay attention to this and spare their children from these places.

Anonymous said...

I have witnessed these "sanctified" beatings in the frum community. It's unfortunate but the beatings at that young age most probably rewired your brain for fear and hypervigilance. It would no doubt take behavioral therapy to be normal again. I hope they get outed to the media. Bastids.

Robyn said...

if only i could cry. this would make my cry...

Anonymous said...

You guys need to get together and file a police reoprt. These people belong in jail, not in other Yeshivos. Has too much time past that it's past the statute of limitations?

Anonymous said...

I was recently at a business show in NJ. When I came out of the meeting I saw Shimon Goldbrenner dealing with a girl that apparently was a prostitute. My guess that the negotiations were about his performance since he has this bad limp..
Took me a bit to recollect who this overweight piece of drek is. Haven't seen him since my yeshiva days at DT. Seems he added on more then a few pounds since.

Anonymous said...

I would like any or all of you to contact me. I've been dealing with a member of the Blum family for years. This man has managed to wreck my life across country while he happily sits at his home.

Blumvictim@yahoo.com