The author of “Hush,” a haredi woman, cautions that “there is still so much ignorance” about abuse in the Orthodox community
Novel, three nonfiction books on problem in Orthodox community point to growing awareness as cases persist
Early on in the deeply affecting new novel “Hush,” (Walker Books) the book’s narrator, a chasidic young woman named Gittel, finds herself sitting across from a social worker in the 66th Precinct in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Urged on by her only non-Jewish friend, a neighbor named Kathy, Gittel is there to give information about an act of sexual abuse she witnessed as a child — the rape of her best friend by the friend’s brother.
While Kathy has assured Gittel that God wants her to speak up and tell the truth after all these years, Gittel is plagued by doubt and guilt. “But Hashem did not want me to go. He had stated clearly in the Torah that it was a violation of the divine, a transgression of the commandments, to speak evil of other Jews. I was only here because of that, despite him.”
Gittel was unable to tell even her own parents of her plans to go to the police; they, too, had long known about the abuse, but they had chosen to keep silent. “I did not want to hurt them, to break them down, because it wasn’t their fault, only Hashem’s, how He allowed children to suffer.”
Indeed, Gittel’s parents — and most of the other adults in the book — are portrayed as warm and loving, people who genuinely try to do what they feel is right for their children. But they are so steeped in denial and the fear of giving the community a bad name or not securing a good shidduch [match] that they ultimately fail their children in the most fundamental and devastating ways.