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Op-Ed: Rising Above the Culture of Victimhood

by D.J. Granovetter

As of late I have been troubled, seeing a great many articles and social media posts online written by anonymous individuals bemoaning their lives growing up in the Chabad world. These tearjerkers want to tell everyone what victims they are, how they were “abused” by the system, and by their parents, and by everybody.

But what’s more troublesome than these self-indulgent articles tends to be the comment sections, filled with readers who have taken the bait and are shedding crocodile tears, and then some.

What kind of cushy lifestyle have we gotten accustomed to that so many want to thrive off the culture of victimhood?

Imagine, back in the olden days of Chabad, when families would brave communist Russia, going with mesirus nefesh, the whole family, to spread Torah and Yiddishkeit. There was no talk then of victimhood. There was only talk of Chabad shlichus, and what needed to be done. But today it’s totally different. You hear people crying about not having received enough attention when they were little, that their parents were “too strict” with them, that they were forced to learn a ma’amer before their bar mitzvah and oh, it was so hard and excruciating.

These are the kinds of things individuals are complaining about today!

You have those who have left Lubavitch, pretty much left the path of Torah and mitzvos. But they stay around, taking advantage of the institutions, services and open arms of Chabad, and then they turn around and behind their backs and speak lashon harah about Chabad and about shluchim.

Maybe the time has come to take a step back from self-indulgence. Life is not all about self-focus. It’s not all about screaming victim. And there is a perfect cure for this illness, and it’s not therapy. It’s real simple: Let’s stop thinking about ourselves and concentrate on others for a change. There are so many opportunities in this world for chessed projects and outreach. Maybe spend a day doing chessed. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, or at your local Chabad house. Go visit lonely senior citizens. Hand out sandwiches to homeless people. See how quickly you forget about yourself, and rise out of the self-imposed illness of victimhood.

And remember: Parents, teachers and others do make mistakes. Human beings make mistakes. You wouldn’t want your own mistakes to be held against you forever… and in the spirit of that, it’s time to forgive and move on.

To be sure, problems need to be pointed out, and not brushed under the rug. But the intent ought to be to fix the problems, not just make noise for the sake of making noise.

There is a world of goodness out there. Why not go out there and be part of it? It’s what life really is all about. Blogging endlessly about our trivial woes is certainly not going to help bring the Geulah. Rising above ourselves and reaching out to others with acts of goodness and kindness, now that will surely bring the Geulah!

67 Comments

  • 1. Yet... wrote:

    The advantage of today’s world is that it exposes things, both good and bad, like never before. True, we shouldn’t seek out negativity, but luckily, negative acts, can’t also be swept under the rug, anymore, and victims finally have a real voice to be heard. It’s a balance, we’re all trying to figure out. And I think, most of all, that a little accountability goes a long way. Yes, people are human, and therefore need to own up to mistakes made, especially in the name of religion, if we are to successfully raise a new generation of frum yidden. Hypocrisy, can no longer be silenced.

    Reply
  • 3. article wrote:

    Beautiful article. sets the tone right. גערעדט צו דער זאך
    addresses all various groups and also those if just pushing through their life with excuses.

    Reply
  • 7. Georgia Jewish Proud wrote:

    Wonderful article, beautifully said. Everyone has problems, stop trying to blame the rest of the world. Take responsibility for your actions, forgive, forget move on. The world is full of negatives, be a positive factor in this life. Jewishness is a joy and a responsibility, be proud !!

    Reply
  • 8. No One wrote:

    Many ,Many,Many years ago we could go to the Rebbe or to the Beis Din for complains, Many year’s ago most of the chasidim faced the same or similar problems. Today we are at the mercy of political forces and high tuitions & high rent, also we are facing themail same organizations and people not exactly looking for the good of every one of us & thanks to the Internet, blogs, Facebook , etc we can bring the Emes tone surface, yes we the surf mall people don’t have the time & power to take the big Machers, & we are not anymore on 1930 under communism and yes,this generation comes with new challenges and we have to face it by talking about it, the rabbis teachers & parents must adjust to reality and act accordingly.

    Reply
    • 9. Chaim Hershkop wrote:

      So what are you doing about it?

      There are busy people out there who go above and beyond (who don’t owe you anything), so what are you doing to make this world a better place?

      Exposing what other are NOT doing (from the comfort of your computer or phone)?

  • 10. Cher wrote:

    Nice article but don’t be naive enough to think you know what these “victims” have dealt with.

    Reply
    • 11. Chaim Hershkop wrote:

      Face Palm.
      They are telling us what they are dealing with. They are writing them on FB, we see it in comments on CH.Info and the other web-sites.
      Most of these things are everyday challenges one faces in life, yet these individuals don’t want to won up (step up) and take responsibility and therefore they point fingers at other.
      These are not real victims, these are a product of a victim culture and they need to be told straight out to stop Hacking a chainik! They are just causing unnecessary stress to those around them. Those who have to listen to their stupidity/foolishness are the victims of these “victims”.

      Before commenting on ANYTHING, make sure you read or hear good what you are commenting on.

  • 12. Anonymous Internet wrote:

    Funny how the author himself hides behind the anonymity of a fake name…

    All kidding aside, the author would sooner see the horrific crimes inflicted upon children covered up, then have the crimes revealed and discussed in the public square. What better way to maintain his false image of what Chabad is and was? (And speaking of victim mentality, is there anything more victimspeak than saying “our ancestors were the REAL victims!” Your victimhood spans generations.)

    Stop your bellyaching, Granovetter, this is insipid even by the low standards of your writing “career”.

    Reply
    • 13. D.J. Granovetter wrote:

      I am not anonymous here. I notice, on the other hand, that you are. Abuse of any kind must NOT be swept under the rug, I made that perfectly clear. So don’t put words in my mouth. At least I’m trying to solve problems here. You, evidently, are not.

  • 14. Chaim Hershkop wrote:

    Its easier to destroy than it is to build.
    It’s easier to complain, blame, excuse and justify (victim hood) than it is to take action to fix the problem.

    There is always sometimes (even something small) that eah one is capable of doing to make their world and as a result our world (together) a better place.

    There is no “we”, “someone” or “somebody”, whose going to fly in to save the day, there is only “You”.
    In a place where there is no man, be the man!
    Be a good example, perhaps, maybe, someone will follow and if nobody follows? You do what you need to do, you do the right thing, even if 99.9% are not.

    Reply
    • 15. busy bubby wrote:

      These people are badly wounded and are not looking for a way to strengthen the group that wronged them. If someone is wronged, today we can expect to see it online.

  • 16. יד החסידים תהא על עליונה wrote:

    I once heard someone refer to Chabad as “Do-it-Yourself Judaism”. And the more I think of it, it becomes synonymous with a DIY Lifestyle in general.

    Chabad Shluchim are the ultimate lifehackers figuring out how to make do with limited resources, and maintain happiness, peace of mind and an internal inspiration that is unparalleled in any walk of life.

    So what of people who want the easy way? Of those who complain that we are missing the boundless and warrantless love of Baal Shem Tov times? They are still stuck 300 years ago. Thy are trying to use 300 year old philosophy to fix modern day problems.

    Let’s get with the program and be the Chabad Chassidim that we ought to become. Learn Tanya. Open a Sicha. Farbreng with friends. Let’s make it real!

    Reply
  • 17. Der Emes wrote:

    No. This op-ed is wrong on so many levels. They don’t stick around cause they want to, rather, they stick around because they are damaged by the system. With no real education to speak of, and with scars of the years of abuse, they cannot just walk into the sunset. They are stuck. Victimized by the system. Call it what you want. They are here to stay. The chickens have come home to roost!

    Reply
    • 18. D.J. Granovetter wrote:

      Then why don’t we do something to help these people, instead of just sitting around at keyboards spewing negativity? Let’s do something to actually make a difference for a change.

    • 19. Chaim Hershkop wrote:

      Explain then, please do. How many of their friends and classmates have succeeded? How many have an education (the very same kids they grew up with), have good and even professional jobs? Didn’t they learn in the same system?

  • 20. Only Teachers wrote:

    There are only 2 lines of work in the world where you can do lousy work and still not be fired: 1)Politics, and 2)Lubavitch teachers.

    Reply
  • 22. Yes, but wrote:

    your point would be much better taken were it not for your sarcastic, belittling tone. For all your high-mindedness, could you not have edited this to be a little more respectful in tone? No need to belittle others’ pain in order to suggest they move on to greater social service. No need for the sarcasm
    (crocodile tears) to deliver your message.
    So, please, before swatting away the feelings of others if they don’t make the mark for ‘pain’ in your book, try some of your own suggestions. Try thinking of others kindly. Try to rise above your own disdain for others to a place of at least sympathy, if not empathy.

    Reply
  • 23. On the topic wrote:

    The first time R. Mendel Futerfas came to 770 (shortly after leaving Russia), he compared his crisis’s to those of his American friends: Trying to loose weight, and finding a parking space ……
    (heard from R. Gershon Shusterman)

    Reply
  • 24. finally wrote:

    well said and about time. life is hard, we should be grateful that these are our challenges unlike our grandparents…we have the strength and courage lets use it.

    we are resting on giants shoulders lets be soldiers too.

    Reply
  • 25. A long time resident wrote:

    Many good points are made here. However, there has been very bad conduct allowed in our communities, particularly in the area of child abuse and and related evil conduct perpetuated in our yeshivas over many years. Light shed in those dark places has improved things in many ways. Sorry if some feathers are ruffled, but too many children were hurt.

    Reply
  • 26. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

    Just because you’re a Lubavitcher or a Chabad schlicus doesn’t mean that you automatically have a stellar character that defies criticism. Everyone makes mistakes and while mistakes should not be held against anyone forever it depends on exactly what kind of mistakes are being referred to. Criminal actions can never be forgiven, especially if they are committed against children. Don’t use religion to justify bad behavior.

    Reply
  • 27. Berel wrote:

    I can’t put a finger on what writing the author is complaining about but everyone is very happy with what he’s saying so I guess it’s just me.

    Reply
    • 28. The "authur" wrote:

      This was written as a response to anonymous essay on neshamas.com recounting his childhood abuse which this “author” perceives as crocodile tears.

    • 29. Chaim Hershkop wrote:

      Apparently there is a FP where “victims” go whine. You need to sign up. If you want to waste more of your life on line and walk around with a dark cloud over your head, you should check it out. If you want to live, if you want to thrive, don’t bother.

    • 30. WIS wrote:

      To the ‘The “authur”‘
      This is not a response to actual victims, this is to those fake victims who jump on the band wagon of real victims and start to complain about every challenge they faced in life.

      There is a victim culture out there. Real victims should be offended when phonies (losers) jump on their real tragedies.

  • 32. This op-ed is full of holes wrote:

    I disagree with this 1000% he was not raised religious and he’s complaining about abuse within the system. The chabad system is built on abuse.

    Reply
  • 33. Stop. wrote:

    The mistakes that you mention from these adults that these articles are complaining about need to be approached. You don’t get to abuse your children for the sake of “shlichus” and tell them to get over it.

    It’s mindsets like these that make people write those articles in the first place.

    Take responsibility for the hurt you are inflicting on others.

    The trend of abuse in Chabad homes is NOT okay.

    And it has absolutely nothing to do with how much mesiras nefesh your grandparents had.

    Irrelevant and irresponsible.

    Reply
  • 34. live from Ottawa wrote:

    # 15 hit the nail on the head.

    The point is valid and needs to be said.

    But by bunching together people who r”l have genuinely abused with people who just wish to feel sorry for themselves (probably representative of the gammet of authors of such articles-I know some of those anonymous authors), the author of this article loses his right to use anything but a gentle and loving tone. (See Hayom Yom 18 Menachem Av).

    It may be good advice to encourage real victims of the system to focus on moving on even while doing their part to bring to light what must be proactively addressed. It is surely counter productive to imply that one who has been tortured has no right to feel or express pain (crocodile tears).

    The tougher tone should be reserved for those inventing horror stories as justification for their own ongoing bad behavior. And even there oolye…..

    Reply
  • 35. And yet... wrote:

    If these people do not talk about what happened to them they are left to the scientifically proven possibility to repeat the the familial pattern of dysfunction. We are in the times of moshiach and people are tired of suffering and causing suffering.

    Reply
  • 36. Ahavas Yisrael- to love a fellow Jew by rabbi Dubov wrote:

    It follows that one’s love for a fellow Jew must be as great as the love for oneself, for in essence, it is one. This type of love is not based on external factors; it is a love of the Jew at its source with a love that transcends all reason.10 If at any time the concern for one’s own affairs supersedes one’s concern for another, one has not yet attained true ahavas Yisrael.11

    One may even go so far as to say that the concern and affairs of another should be greater than one’s own self concern,12 and the pain felt for another’s loss should be greater than one’s own pain, G‑d forbid.13 The reason for this is that for one’s own suffering and pain, G‑d forbid, one may calculate and analyze why one may be deserving of such affliction; however, when it comes to somebody else, one must always look with a favorable eye.14

    In order to reach this level of ahavas Yisrael, contemplation is necessary; however, it is only a medium through which one can access an essential love that transcends intellect,15 a natural love (like the love of a father to a son or the love of brothers16 ) which is engraved upon the soul of every Jew.17 Our task is that through avodah (Divine service), we arouse this level of love.

    Reply
  • 37. D.J. Granovetter wrote:

    I want to make a number of things clear here. Firstly, this was not my original title for the article, the editor chose this title. Secondly, my agenda is that if there is anyone in pain, we need to reach out to help that individual. Publishing bitter and negative stories online doesn’t help, it just makes everyone bitter and negative. Let’s change the system so that abuse stops happening, and reach out to those who have suffered and help them.

    Reply
    • 38. Anonymous wrote:

      So you should have written that. Instead you write that the answer to a life of shlichus craziness is shlichus! You obviously have no idea and this article is of no help to the ones you say you are helping
      -daughter of a shliach.

    • 39. Aghast wrote:

      D.J Granovetter, how dare you call victims of abuse tearjerkers!! Your article is a disgrace. Shame on you!!

    • 40. D.J. Granovetter wrote:

      To Mr. Aghast:

      Well, I’m aghast at you for suggesting that the answer to the problems in the Chabad community is to spew anger and hatred and be so self-centered that just because you call yourself a “victim” therefore everyone should kneel down and lick your shoes, and in the meantime do absolutely nothing to change anything. Let’s just let all the problems be, we’ll whine and throw fits all the time, and hate on everybody. That’s your solution. You know what? I’m a victim too. I suffered through terrible teachers as a kid, had a miserable time and was bullied nonstop, but you don’t see me throwing hissy fits and hating on Chabad and on other Jews. Instead I’m trying to take action as best as I can, which is not that easy, because you don’t have a whole lot of others taking any action. Just people like you who are doing absolutely squat. So shame on you!

    • 41. busy bubby wrote:

      Most of these people who are in pain from the system write articles and form organizations after leaving the organization when they no longer feel any loyalty to it.
      Recently the laws in NY, regarding the age at which a young person could be married, changed, due to the efforts of a formerly Chassidishe woman who was married off at 19 to an abusive man whom she barely knew. She divorced, left the group, and now advocates against forced, arranged, or any type of marriage involving a minor. It took a bad situation to put her on the outside and cause her to take action against the practices of her group which she feels are harmful. She couldn’t change this practice as an insider but only after her anger caused her to leave the group.

  • 42. Maybe we all need to learn hechaltzu? wrote:

    In truth, one should feel more anguish at someone else’s suffering than at one’s own (heaven forfend). In one’s own case, one can always explain that one deserves suffering because of one’s misdeeds. As our Sages declared,2 “If one sees that suffering is coming upon him, he should examine his deeds.” If one honestly searches, [the reason] will surely be found. If no [reason can be found, our Sages explain] that the suffering results from one’s failure to study Torah. [Realizing the cause,] one will not feel anguish. Quite the contrary, since suffering rectifies the soul, he will accept it with love.

    However, these assumptions cannot be made concerning another’s suffering. One must assume that the other person is good in every respect. One should not view others in terms of one’s own [experience], for one must judge every man positively and firmly believe he is surely better than oneself. Hence, one ought to be deeply distressed by the suffering of one’s fellow, and pray for him. (If one knows for a fact that his fellow has sinned he should tell him so in private and admonish him for his evil deeds. Through this “he will return to G‑d and He will have compassion upon him,”3 and turn His anger away from him.) If one does not commiserate, and even more so if one is gratified, [his feelings are motivated] by baseless hatred.

    Summary:
    Baseless hatred prevents one from partaking of the joy or sorrow of one’s fellow. An explanation can be found for one’s own suffering, though not for one’s fellow’s suffering, since we must judge others favorably.

    (Hechaltzu chapter IX)

    Reply
  • 43. Anonymous wrote:

    Haha you tell the son off daughter of a shliach who grew up on shlichus and was caused so much pain that the answer to their pain is shlichus. You obviously did not grow up on shlichus yet you on your high horse presume to know the answer.
    – daughter of a shliach

    Reply
  • 44. Chaim Hershkop wrote:

    Our grandparents build new lives from the ashes of the holocaust (do I need to give examples of the atrocities they experienced?).

    Fast forward 2017/5777, we have young, healthy, capable individuals complaining about inconvenience/challenges they faced.

    The Victim culture doesn’t help anybody, a bunch of losers flaming each others victim hood, instead of getting people moving forward.

    This is an injustice to people who are really victims, who really suffer.

    I pray for all my brothers and sisters, those truly suffering and even those who are victim of themselves, that you find your way out of the dark. deep pit your in (or think your in). If you need help, there are many hands reaching towards you, all you need to do is grab one.

    When you find peace within yourself, you will find peace with everybody else.

    Reply
  • 47. Nice. wrote:

    Go tell the victims of abuse who suffer terribly from feeling a lack of self worth that they need to “take a step back from self-indulgence. Life is not all about self-focus”.

    Wonderful. When someone writes an article that doesn’t fit your own agenda you preach to others to take a step back. Take one step further and allow yourself to feel another’s pain. That what the “real chassidim of old” did…

    Reply
    • 48. D.J. Granovetter wrote:

      Wrong. The chassidim of old took action and changed things. The culture of victimhood is a stumbling block to real change. Same thing when it comes to the secular liberals, but that’s a subject for another time.
      Here’s a thought: Take all the negative energy that is going into all this pity-partying (and underlying hatred of Chabad and frumkeit in general), and redirect it into actually making real change happen. You can’t repair a damaged building by inflicting further damage on it. You can’t repair a damage system that way either.

  • 49. Shoshanna Silcove wrote:

    very good article. I’ve been frum and I’ve been frie, and frum is better! Thanks to Chabad, my life has been immeasurably enriched!

    Reply
  • 50. To D Granovetter wrote:

    Your article is very refreshing. It’s about darn time that people stop complaining about and “bashmutzing” Judaism and Chabad on social media.

    That said, I would clarify that unloading your tzores is actually the right and healthy thing to do, but NOT publicly. Not on Facebook or any other form of social media. The place to unload and talk over your grievances is at your therapist, mashpia or trusted advisor.

    Reply
    • 51. busy bubby wrote:

      If someone has truly been abused, in today’s day, you can expect to see it on social media or even in the news because that person no longer feels that he or she must protect the reputation of the group and in fact, feels empowered when he or she publicizes their story and maybe saves someone else from what they went through.
      The answer is; we must prevent child abuse in all forms or we can see more websites, books, articles, etc written by survivors.

    • 52. Chaim Hershkop wrote:

      100%, if ones purpose is to heal, that’s exactly what they are going to do, go to herapist, mashpia or trusted advisor.

      It’s always easier to destroy than it is to build.

      I pray these people free themselves from themselves and find peace.

    • 53. D.J. Granovetter wrote:

      So true! I was expecting to get some flack for this article, but it’s only from those who from the outset intentionally want to miss the point. Those who write these public forums practically expect to be worshipped for it. No good ever comes out of it. There’s no doubt that people have experienced pain and abuse from the system, and I’m not an exception. For this reason there are therapists and mashpiim. There are a lot of problems with the system. Abuse must be dealt with and not swept under the rug. But these bitter, angry, hateful rants that are popping up all over social media aren’t solving any problems, they’re only creating more. Imagine if all that energy was reinvested in actually trying to solve problems. The Geulah would be here by now.

  • 54. busy bubby wrote:

    It is hard to reach out to someone in pain if you are unaware that his pain even exists or if you want to belittle him for expressing that pain or trying to put a distance between those causing the pain and himself.
    I know what article that he is referring to and it really made the rounds and what we can all learn from it is that shluchim should put their children first, before their communal obligations. We should all put our children first. Chessed is important but we can’t neglect our children on a daily basis in order to do chessed.
    We also must realize that the way the previous generations disciplined children and allowed all kinds of people into their homes at all hours put many children at risk for the type of abuse that led to the type of mental anguish that made it difficult if not impossible to continue to live a frum life. No one should pass judgment.

    Reply
  • 56. Agree wrote:

    I couldn’t agree with this article more– so true– thank you so much for this– a breath of fresh air!!! Thank you!!!

    Reply
  • 57. Yael wrote:

    Why does the writer assume people who share their suffering, only cry about it and blame? Why does he assume they don’t help out in soup kitchens, do chesed, whatever else….? Believe it or not, people can do both! What a simplistic view of the world.

    Reply
  • 58. Head is still in the sand.. wrote:

    How is this a healthy response to the anonymous article this author sites? Clearly the person who penned the anonymous article suffered far more than having to study a ma’amer. The times of insularity and close community mindedness are over. The flood gates are open and as we grow as a technology based connected society, the gates will open even further, and unless there are changes to attitudes like this, you can expect a larger flooding of OTD, drugs. etc.

    Reply
  • 60. Ben wrote:

    My kids think I had a great life as kid. I grew up in a big house. My own room. Vacations. Etc, etc.
    I went to college, educated. Etc etc.
    And, all those things are nice and good and healthy.
    However.
    All those things are not enough.
    When I was 27 my soul started speaking to me: “what about me?”
    And you know what? I didn’t have an answer. All the knowledge and yoga and other meditations in my life were Not sustaining my soul.
    Yes, after years of struggling I did find Torah and Chabad, thank G-d.
    My soul had an answer.
    However, that is not the end of the road. Yes, I am a practicing Jew now, but that did not end all the challenges of my life. They still come at me full blast.
    The difference is that now my souls is satisfied and is able to fight the challenges.
    Yiddishkeit does not take way the challenges of life, but it does does provide the answers on how approach them that no secular in the world can provide.
    I have spoken to the most off the Derech people, and I see in everyone of them the underlying faith that allows to keep going

    Reply
  • 62. i read it. whatever wrote:

    When ‘victims’ publicly broadcast their victimhood, they often don’t realize that they are unwittingly being victimized all over again, albeit by allegedly friendlier parties.

    Websites (like neshomos.com) / media (like TV, radio, newspaper) / chesed / abuse / OTD organisations depend on ‘victims’ to keep them alive and going. What good would neshomos.com be without a juicy, scandalous, sensational tale of Chabad Shlichus abuse?! ‘Victims’ and their public stories breathe life into the organisations which purportedly help them. Without these ‘victims’, there would be no cause, no annual dinners, no fundraising, no fame, no revenue and no income. How could fundraisers and organisation managements then justify their existence without resorting to the victims’ tales?? Otherwise, these ‘industries’ would fail and fold, leaving many without a raison d’etre and without an income and livelihood.

    For sure, victims need help and they should be provided help to the max. And abusers should be ostracised and punished. But going around with public pronouncements and denunciations, often serves only those pining and yearning to help broadcast them.

    Reply
  • 64. Moishe pipek wrote:

    I find the comments disturbing, one cries because he feels hurt rightly or not the next yid gives him musar and thinks that he is a tzadik and the other is not.the other comments are parrallel playing nobody seriously weights the others opinion everybody is convinced that only he is right.

    Reply
  • 65. Zev Rosenberg wrote:

    While I agree that some perspective is necessary on shluchos, and that most shaliach families are doing fabulous work, it is not necessary for an individual suffering so much pain (child abuse, beatings) to stuff their feelings as a result. Don’t expect them to be praising Chabad’s work when they’ve been left out in the cold for strangers at 3 am, when they needed loving parenting.

    Reply
  • 66. SLBO Moderation Vaad #sqn wrote:

    Let our dear Lubavitcher snowflakes vent their troubles and blame the system for options they and their parents made.

    Thanks.

    Reply
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