Sexual abuse victim recalls arduous ordeal 20 years later

Rabbi Menachem ‘Mendy’ Weiss pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault on Monday.

Boy wearing a kippa (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Boy wearing a kippa
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
“He identified me as his prey.”
These were the words of the sexual assault victim of former New Jersey rabbi Menachem “Mendy” Weiss.
On Monday, Weiss pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, which took place between January and June 1999.
In a statement posted on the Jewish Community Watch website, the anonymous victim recalled his difficult past and the damage he endured following this trauma.
“I never thought this day would come,” the victim said. “Twenty years ago, my parents entrusted me to the home and expertise of the man then known as Rabbi Menachem Mendel Weiss, of Woodcliff Lake, NJ.”
The victim, who today is a married man, said that at the time of the sexual assault he was living in Weiss’s home, “with his family, across the country from my own family. I attended the school, then called Sinai Special Needs in Teaneck, NJ, where he was a special education teacher who was working with high school-aged boys with emotional, developmental, psychological and mental problems. He was a rabbi at a small Chabad synagogue that had services on Sabbaths and holidays at his home in Woodcliff Lake.
“The word ‘rabbi’ means ‘my teacher.’ He was my rabbi, my religious authority, my teacher and my legal guardian,” he said. “He identified me as his prey, and used his positions of guardian, religious authority, and teacher to sexually assault me multiple times while I was in his home under his care, and while his wife and young children were down the hall.”
The victim explained that over the last 20 years, he has suffered tremendously.
“I have had severe depression,” he said. “I acted out. I felt empty. I felt and continue to feel extreme shame.”
He said that he still struggles with social relationships today.
“I was confused about my sexuality,” he recalled. “I had morbid, suicidal thoughts, a strong feeling of inadequacy and complete lack of confidence.”
THE FEELINGS of emptiness, shame, shyness and introvertedness remained with him for many years following the sexual assault.
He said that he had suffered from sexual dysfunction, saw himself as “damaged goods,” and later turned to drugs to deal with his pain.
“I lost aspirations and dreams of accomplishing anything in life,” he said. “I became closed and withdrawn. I could not make friends, and I still have difficulty making friends. It is extremely difficult for me to place trust in anyone,” he said.
“I expect to be taken advantage of, to be abused, to be cheated, to be violated,” he added, saying that “this secret, this sickness, this vile disease [had been] eating me up inside for so long.”
He stressed that he had also sought help “at great financial and emotional expense” from psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors.
“Most of all, I have felt guilt,” the man continued. “Guilt that I didn’t speak up at the time so he would stop. Guilt that I didn’t speak up when it happened again. Guilt that I was somehow complicit in his evil.”
The victim said he continues to feel the guilt today, and it has taken “countless psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors, thousands of dollars, and almost 20 years until I could come forward so he could be held responsible for his crimes.”
The victim shared that he also felt guilty, “because he was certainly abusing others, and that my silence about MY abuse allowed him to continue.”
He charged that Weiss, “like many other child molesters and child rapists... put himself in a position” where he was able to “access to groom, abuse, assault and rape those in our society who are most vulnerable,” stressing that these were “not just children, but children with disabilities.”
The victim added that he realized it was time to come forward about his ordeal after becoming a husband and a father.
“I came forward to shed light on this man, Mr. Menachem Mendel Weiss, and to prevent him from perpetrating this evil on anyone else,” he said. “I believe making known to the public who and what he really is will help save others from becoming his victims.”
He encouraged other people abused by Weiss or people like him to come forward, because there is still time within statutes of limitations on rape and sexual assault of children in some states.
“I shudder to think how many countless other victims of Mr. Weiss are out there, how many are irreparably damaged, how many do not have the support that I do,” he said.
On Monday, the prosecution recommended a six-year prison sentence for Weiss, and that he register as a sex offender.
Weiss was charged in March 2018 with two counts of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, after the victim accused the rabbi of sexually assaulting him.
At the time of his arrest, Weiss was living in Los Angeles, listed as married and working as a teacher.