My Father the Shaliach

Most of you know my father. You know him as that happy, warm and welcoming Shaliach. Always ready to lend a hand no matter what, from helping shlep boxes to having a deep meaningful conversation with a congregant at 3:00 in the morning. Our home was perpetually open, literally filled with every walk of life no matter what time of day. Songs were sung, L’chaims poured, a revolving door of of uplifted characters. This is the the man you all know and love, this is the man I never knew.

When the bottles finally empty and the unannounced guests have long gone, there would sit my father the Shaliach, unrecognizable. That toothy smile but a memory. Smiles, songs and kinds words were only reserved for people outside the family. Blessed by the Rebbe to go on shlichus, his mission, his children but a stumbling block to his happiness. We were never enough, we could never compete with that euphoric addiction of lighting the Yid’s holy spark.

Ten kids in 10 years, my parents were seen as the ultimate power couple. How they raised us, how they managed on faith of GD alone. But the secret is they they never managed. When my parents managed to find the time to spend with us, it was usually when we were getting beat. I lived abuse, I witnessed abuse on a daily basis. Between the beatings, the L’chaims, the unsavory guests, my home resembled a frat house, high on GD, but mostly the Rebbe.

I love you. This phrase never uttered by my parents. Terms of endearment are reserved for their students, campers or chabad house kids. When my first child was born, my father refused to hold the baby, but gladly held a congregant’s child on his lap through the duration of the shabbos meal. The hardest was watching my parents hug and be affectionate to congregants, especially when the only physical contact I received was when I was being scolded. Once my father the Shaliach beat me so badly, I could not go to school for a week. Neither him or my mother ever talked about what happened. My safe haven, in that loud over crowded home was a closet, where I would hide and listen to my goyishe music on the walk man that I stole. We lived in chaos, not enough bedrooms, I slept in the laundry room. Fabregens, impromptu walk ins from newly released convicts to homeless people would keep me up all hours of the night. Between hosting and managing a chabad house, there was only time for me to take one shower a week. I was constantly surrounded by people but I was always alone.

We were never allowed to go to friend’s homes, since no home was as chassidishe as ours. My life consisted of being home or hanging out by the chabad house, usually left to my own devices. Seven, the age I had my first shot of vodka. Nine the age I had my first cigarette given to me by a member of the shul. Eleven my first time reading Playboy. I found a stash of dirty magazine’s in the shul office, when my mother caught me I was beat. The subject was never discussed and only now, decades later do I wonder why there was pornography in the chabad house office in the first place? Eleven the age I was raped by a congregant. Twelve the age I was locked in a room every night until I learned the Rebbe’s Maimer. A towel given to grip and twist, to stop me from shaking whenever my father tested me. Thirteen, I became a man, all gifts and checks were kept to pay for the party. Fourteen given pot by a close friend of my mother’s. Fifteen old enough to be sent to Yeshiva and the last time I ever slept in my house since I began to wear jeans. Twenty the age I decided to take hold of my life and apply to college and the age where I found out that I already had school debt, loans taken in my name to pay for the Yeshiva education that I never wanted.

As I try to physically distance myself from my abusive past, moving across the country, never visiting home and never expecting a visit or a call, my last name keeps me tethered to my abusers. My ever recognizable last name. From Bal Teshuva hippies to children escaping their abusive homes, they all have a story of how my parents helped them. My Gd forsaken last name, is a cursed reminder of the love I never and will never have. The loss of love is a constant reminder whenever my father the Shaliach gives a parenting lecture, whenever an article is posted on a Lubavitch site of their recent accomplishments, whenever strangers finds out that my father is THE SHALIACH and how wonderful it must be to be born from greatness.

Everyone else has always come first and now my heart aches when I see my own children being rejected and yearning for attention from their famous grandparents. Youtube lectures of their Zaydie the Shaliach is as close as they will get. My Gd forsaken last name tied to them forever reminding me of the love and approval I will never have.

I can assuredly say my parents are the definition of the best shluchim, but they sacrificed their children on the Akeidah of shluchos. Maybe their cold neglect was the only way to push forward with their mission? Maybe they were overwhelmed with lack of money and the overabundance of children they faithfully produced? Did my mother love me? I don’t know, but I do know that she loves my father the shaliach more. For decades I wondered how such loving and selfless people could open their hearts to strangers but not their blood. Years of self medicating, therapy, rejecting GD and back again, I still have no answers.

The question that I carry with me and burdens my faith more and more, is why Rebbe? Why Rebbe did you bless my parents with shluchos and to have more children? All those times we went to see you, did you not see me? Did you not see my pain? Did you not see the abuse? Your picture religiously carried with me forever but still wondering why? Tears fall uncontrollably when remembering my younger self getting all those dollars, through those painful years, waiting for my miracle Rebbe story. My parents are truly amazing people, I just wish I got to know them like the rest of the world does. Despite it all I still love my father the Shaliach even though I know he does not love me.

45 Comments

  1. moshiachnow August 8, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Your account of your parents is painful and I am sorry that you had such an experience. The Rebbe, despite all of his amazing qualities, was not able to control peoples’ behavior, only to recommend and educate. And although it is true that the Rebbe knew things about people that sometimes amazed people, he was not omniscient. So I’m not sure if it is fair to fault the Rebbe for your parent’s not-good behavior. But nevertheless it hurts that you had to go through what you went through.

    I discovered the Rebbe in my 20s, and was positively impressed by the Rebbe’s world view. And a lot of Shluchim do amazing things and are decent people. But there are also some real stinkers. The Rebbe himself said (to Rabbi Alfasi who wrote a few sefarim about chassidic dynasties) that real chassidim are few and far between. May G-d bless you to have an amazing life, to build on the positive and rise above the negative, and to be the kind of parent you wish yours would have been.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous August 8, 2017 at 11:18 am

      So beautifully written

      Reply
      1. moshiachnow August 9, 2017 at 4:07 am

        Thanks.

        Reply
  2. Deborah August 8, 2017 at 8:25 am

    I am so sorry. You and your siblings deserved so much better. It’s hard to fathom such treatment.

    Reply
  3. thoughtsonahavaschinan August 8, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Thank you for writing this. I can only express my deepest sympathy for the pain you have shared, even as I know these words of mine are terribly inadequate. I pray that everyone who reads this takes a moment to reflect on their own priorities in life, their own relationships, and (as parents) their own children. May your story open every heart. By sharing this, you have impacted my life. Thank you, again.

    Reply
  4. Neshamaleh August 8, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I’m sorry you suffered abuse. The Rebbe was a good man, not God, and did not know. Most people don’t know when anyone, let alone children are in pain. Jewish law would’ve seen you in a gentile’s home rather than living with abusive shluchim. Perhaps consider changing your last name so you don’t have to relive the invalidation of your experience every time someone brings up your connection? Good luck to you. The Godly people of this world who hear your experience wish you only the best.

    Reply
  5. DaughteroftheRabbi August 8, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Relate to this so much. Thank Gd I was never physically abused, but verbally, yes. my own father “the shliach” is A huge man, with a resounding personality, but no understanding of the sensitivity and heart of a child. I was always scolded, my siblings and I have emotional scars to this day :(. I thank god every day for my mother who although didn’t spend time with us when we were younger, understands what happened and is there for us now. None of us are shluchim, what a terrible life for a child. Thank you so much for writing, I feel like I was reading my own story.

    Reply
    1. SonOfTheRabbi August 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      I could have written this comment word for word.

      Reply
      1. Shana August 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm

        I am a Shlucha and daughter of shluchim. Could have also written word for word.

        Reply
  6. zach August 8, 2017 at 10:26 am

    thank you for writing this, i did not experience the same thing, but did experience parts of it. You are one of many many…

    Rock on, look ahead and dont let your past overwhelm you. The world is yours for the taking!

    Reply
  7. pityu August 8, 2017 at 10:40 am

    No one i know lets people 3 oclock in the morning to disturb a family from sleeping sorry to hear that you had to bear so much indifference on your fathers part hope that you are healed and able to enjoy life.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous August 8, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Wow, this story blew me away. Amazed you had the courage to write this. I wish these people would stop defending the Rebbe. It’s not about the Rebbe. It’s about your family and your story. They don’t get it.

    Reply
    1. 900windows August 9, 2017 at 8:08 am

      Thank you for saying so well what I was thinking……this is *not*about the Rebbe. It’s about the author.

      Reply
      1. Sam Coon August 10, 2017 at 10:03 am

        yes but he “does blame” the rebbe a little .. for not saving him ..
        i feel his pain
        and i wish i could give him a big hug and tell him there are chsidim and shluchim (i am not a shliach) that do love him

        Reply
  9. Bitter Golus August 8, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I some times wonder if Shlichus in general was a thorough thought through process, there is so much neglect to our children and the outsiders are turning our children off the Derech in record numbers that the future looks very not bright.
    I wonder if after all is said and done, if we calculate our gains (from Shlichus) and our losses (from our own), was it really worth it? I’m afraid of the answer.

    Reply
    1. Getting less bitter August 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Shlichus has been a resounding success but it can come at a price. The Rebbe was aware that there were risks in reaching out to non-frum Jews and risking exposing our families to outside influences. His approach was always if you were active in promoting Judaism and focusing on holiness you could withstand any negative influences coming the other way. Some people fail at that but that doesn’t mean they haven’t achieved successes. But, of course, it is easy to get caught up in shlichus and ignore family or, worse, let out all of your frustrations on them. Being overly engrossed in shlichus and neglecting family is no different than being engrossed in your profession so let’s not attack shlichus as the culprit.

      Reply
      1. Leah August 10, 2017 at 9:10 am

        Because shluchis doesn’t have set hours, it is harder to set boundaries between work time and family time. Some shluchim have had to work to set these boundaries so that their home isn’t taken over by other people 24/7, but originally, shluchim lived by the idea that if they took care of Hashem’s children, Hashem would take care of theirs. It took awhile to realize that Hashem isn’t a baby sitter.

        Also, shluchis used to attract potential BTs who needed much more that religious instruction because some BTs were running away from bad situations or were in need of psychiatric care or counseling and rather than getting it, they expected it from the shluchim. I think that shluchim today are more prepared to refer those people to professionals and no longer imagine that these problems are caused by lack of religious belief or observance, as many old-time shluchim in the past believed. Psychiatry was in general distrusted by that generation of frum Jews.

        Reply
      2. fellow chossid August 11, 2017 at 2:22 pm

        This is so well said: ‘Being overly engrossed in shlichus and neglecting family is no different than being engrossed in your profession so let’s not attack shlichus as the culprit’ ,
        Your father could have been a business man and acted neglectful or abusive to his kids. Its the person not the shlichus. My question is where is the mom in all of this?

        and are you frum today? If you are, i give you a pat on the back for all the hell you went thru and still holding strong. They say neglect is worse than abuse but it seems you got a taste of both. I wish your life from now on will be one of happiness, peace, love and enjoyment, make the choice to live your best life possible, hatzlocho

        Reply
  10. heidi ort August 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Speechless. There is no excuse for this. If your parents read this, what would they have to say?

    Reply
    1. 900windows August 9, 2017 at 8:13 am

      I strongly suspect they would deny it(and believe themselves). My background has a different set of circumstances, but revolved around someone who was either unable or unwilling to acknowledge, let alone accept, that she had been the cause of anything she had done. That continued and worsened right up until her death five years ago(I’m in my 60s)…the last two of which I had cut myself off from her; pointless wishing I had done it sooner, but……

      Reply
  11. Nessya August 8, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I’m so sorry for all of your pain and everything you went through…I wish it was different and that your parents were even nicer to you and your siblings than the public, instead of being nice to the public and so utterly abusive to you and your siblings.
    I hope you and your siblings find a way to heal. May you only experience good!

    Reply
  12. Leah August 8, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    It seems that because having that last name brings you so much pain, that it would be a good idea to get a legal name change. You should know that this type of attitude, that the shluchim were tzadikim, harmed a lot of people and that is actually a type of cult mentality.

    Reply
  13. Sholom August 8, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I don’t think the author wishes to change his last name. He made that reference apparently to explain what he’s going through. At the end of the day he (ironically but) truthfully loves his parents.

    Author: you make some very valid points. You have brought up a very important issue. This is part of the reality that us Shluchim must always remember. Thank you for your courage.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous August 8, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Your suffering is very painful and sad. I realize there are unfortunately many shluchim who cannot handle the pressure of their work and their families. It is a task to learn how to deal with both. But i do believe your father loves you. I believe he just does not know how to express that love or respect. But at least you can do better for your children. And one day hopefully your relationship with your parents will be healed and you will find comfort in your life.

    Reply
  15. Elisheva August 8, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you for sharing this heart wrenching piece. You are very courageous to share your story. It sounds like you have triumphed despite the hell that you grew up in. I have asked myself the same exact question of the Rebbe. My ex-husband lived with terrible abuse growing up as well as his family having a close connection to the Rebbe. I wish you continued success in your recovery and may you be a shining example how man can triumph despite immense pain and sorrow.

    Reply
  16. Anonymous August 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story

    Reply
  17. Ev August 8, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    You are so brave. Words cannot express the sadness I feel reading what you went through. It will take a strong soul to repair this damage done to you and oh so much damage. Focus on the family you have created, heal through your own kids- they are gifted to you. Dont worry- they will very quickly see through whats real or not with their grandparents. You are bringing them up with their eyes open- they will be a great source of strength for you as they get older. How do I know- because my kids have shown me this. I also have a Mum who was very well known in our community at the expense of her own kids. It was discussed but never resolved- I know that big gaping hole inside my inner child will never be filled as only the warmth of a Mother could fill it but I have realised that there is neverending Love available to us beyond our birth family- you just need to let go of your story fully 100%, forgive them and move on. Trust your intuition and spend lots of your precious time with the gift you have been given for healing- your kids. Best of Luck and accept the pain is real.

    Reply
  18. Anonymous August 8, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    No words. I am so sorry to read your pain. Know that you helped someone by writing this. May HaShem heal your soul.

    Reply
  19. Shmuel August 8, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    You are doing a big mitzvah exposing this. I am sure there are so many others. Keep spreading the word. In doing so you will be saving so many others from this path. Enjoy your children and go with your heart

    Reply
  20. Religious Addiction August 8, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! As a child of Shluchim, I relate to much but not all of it.

    One thing that struck me is how you refer to “that euphoric addiction”. I recall reading in a book (perhaps by Pia Melody) some years ago, about those that are addicted to religion.

    I was struck by how that described my father in his relationship with yiddishkeit. It was a way for him to feel good and often justify and/or excuse his relationship with my mother and us children. Which also made me realize that his ‘work ethic’ may actually just be a work addiction.

    And oh how sad it is that it can be blamed on and explained away as ‘mesiras nefesh’.

    When I was able to see it as an addiction, I was able to start to heal and work an Al-Anon program to find peace.

    Best of luck to you!

    Reply
    1. Leah August 9, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Pia Melody does discuss addiction to religion in her book, Facing Codependence and basically it is religion that is devoid of any degree of critical thinking. It is religion used in a way that religion was not intended to be used. Rabbinic leadership must decide halacha based on the situation faced by each generation, rather than the way that it was applied for previous generations. For example, today we are allowed to report child molesters to secular authorities where previous generations were not allowed to report.

      In Chabad, the example is often given that we must run to soothe the child who falls out of bed, even at the expense of the Torah learning of the father, however, how often is that lofty and correct example not heeded?

      Reply
  21. Anonymous August 8, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Just a thought – blame Hitler usually parents mimic the behavior of their upbringing and Hitler locked slot of hearts from feeling and loving

    Reply
  22. Chavi August 8, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    Im sorry for what yoi went trough. A lot of people cant handle ceetain situations. Looks like having children was heacy for your father and mother. So they choose to focus on tge shlichis more that the wellbeing of the children. I take it as a personality thing.

    Reply
  23. 900windows August 9, 2017 at 8:17 am

    Thank you…..I don’t have words to express my feelings(at least, none that would be printed…..)…..sending love and empathy: I had a similar, though less severe, experience and your words helped me.

    Reply
  24. Addiction August 9, 2017 at 8:20 am

    So sad reading this post. Unfortunately what happened to you is happening to hundreds if not thousands of shluchims children all over the world. I never saw it as a “religious addiction” but wow does that make sense. Addiction does not necessarily mean alcohol or drugs, it can come in many forms. Religious addiction has the same effects on families as drugs and alcohol addiction. I agree with what all the other commenters said, heal through your kids, show them a better way. Hold your children tight and love them with everything you have.

    Reply
    1. Mendel August 10, 2017 at 6:08 am

      As a son of a shliach and all my social circles being children of shluchim I find it hard not to be offended by this assumption that this is happening to thousend around the world. I know from my family and as well as tens of my friends how there parents went above and beyond to insure that their children received a healthy and happy upbringing, not to mention insuring a safe a secure environment…
      My hart gos out to the author, but this in no way shows a general trend, rather the hartbraking personal experience. May God help you find healing and peace.

      Reply
  25. Saddened Sucha August 9, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Dear anonymous hurting son of shliach. Im on shlichus. And im a child of shluchim. And my heart goes out to you. Your parents did not give you the emotional love , physical love and spiritual love that every human being deserves. No excuses. While humans make mistakes, your parents had and have the responsibility to realize that they were doing something wrong- and get help – whether from a mashpia or a psychologist – for anger management and lack of proper priorities. As a parent- first priority is the well being of your children. As a parent I thank you for this very painful post, and fresh reminder , not only to shluchim, but to all hardworking people- to get their act together. A child needs safety and stability in their life. I too have lost my patience (to my kids) and have a hard time juggling numerous roles. I too have made mistakes. But – I am thankfuk for your post. If Hashem gives anyone the priviledge of raising a child, or many children, it is our first and most important duty to raise a healthy happy child. Even if someone is very successful in their major work or shlichus life, they are a failure if they have done it on the expense of their family. Shlichus and family life is one- meaning a healthy happy home, is the most incredible shlichus and impact one can have on a community. Again, I am sorry your pain.

    Reply
  26. Healing August 9, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Thank you – I relate. It was helpful for me to get to the place that I realized that they are emotionally sick and powerless over it – not evil even though the behavior might have been and I agree – it’s exactly similar to addiction. Truth is they probably grew up in similar circumstances- and much of this stuff is transferred trauma -from generation to generation. We as a people have a lot of traumatic hell to processs. ACA – Adult Children of Alcoholics and from dysfunctional homes is helping me to parent myself, forgive them, have compassion for them and learn how to heal, so that it stops with me.

    Reply
  27. Rachelle Pachtman August 10, 2017 at 2:50 am

    The details of your childhood may differ from mine, but I am still paying the price of religious abuse at the hands of my parents. The leather strap beatings, the emotional abuse all pale next to the verbal abuse I experienced growing up in Boro Park. Although I never married or had children, I did manage to build a good life and I am extremely grateful for this. Try to focus on the beauty and richness of life ahead of you. At a very young 69, I am going to Italy to study Italian and live like a student. I have spent 20 years as a volunteer in Canine assisted intervention. Helping others who have experienced trauma has helped me heal my own. And the love of my animals fills my home with joy. Follow your bliss and have a happy life.

    Reply
  28. Aryeh August 10, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Wow. What a moving story. I can certainly relate in some ways, since I too am formerly Chabad, a product of BT parents, though I would likely recognize you father’s name and may very well have met him back in the day. One thing I have learned from observing others is that religious extremes are, not infrequently, attempts to compensate for serious personality flaws. The religious approach can be drug-like, providing temporary relief and even euphoria, but it almost inevitably fails, leaving in its wake the rotten human beings in religious garb of which we are only too aware.

    I took the Rebbe’s advice on an important life decision, and it failed miserably. I have know others who fared even worse: dysfunctional marriages, the legions of failed shluchim, etc. He may have had a positive influence on many people, but he was hardly perfect, and his approach definitely did not suit many others including yourself. Remember, there are many approaches to Judaism and many approaches to G-d, most of which do not require self sacrifice or self destructiveness. I encourage you to seek professional help for the pain you endured throughout your childhood and to continue your spiritual journey to find a path to true meaning in your life. I wish you all the best.

    Reply
  29. Australia August 10, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing a little of your pain. I hope you can find new meaning in your life that isnt dictated by the abuse. I hope the Jewish community begins to acknowledge and learn and change.

    Reply
  30. A Shliach August 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    As a Shliach., ( 30 years) and a parent of children who I (and my wife) love and adore more than anything in this world,
    I was very pained to read your (and others) story. It’s hard to imagine any parents acting like this. And my heart goes out to you. And your siblings and I hope you can find your way thru this
    I’m sure thru the love you will show your child will aid your healing as well

    I would just like to point out (as was pointed out In an above comment) that this phenomenon is not neccesarily isolated to specific type of people like shluchim
    There are all types of abusive parents in every type of community
    Personally, I find it hard to believe that this behavior is prevalent among people like shluchim who give of themselves daily. It’s just not consistent
    Nevertheless there are sick people all over

    Reply
  31. Anonymous Ben Anonymous August 13, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing, I am loving the references to Pia Melody and 12 step. AA, SIA (Survivors of incest Anonymous- in this program, incest is defined broadly as a breach of trust, not necessarily abuse by immediate family) SLAA, ACA, and Alanon have all been helpful in my experience, which is similar to yours, author.

    I guess a lot happens Aff’n Rebbe’ns Pleitzes, doesn’t it.

    (The children of Shluchim were said to have been “on the Rebbe’s shoulders”, meaning he was to have taken responsibility for them).

    Reply
  32. Yossi August 14, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I am a Shliach and speechless as I feel your pain. May Hashem help you to heal and be whole again…The family of shluchim are here to help, try us…try me…Oy Ad Mosai…

    Our philosophy is that the Rebbe’s mandate for us is to treat every Jew out there as FAMILY and every Jewish child as our children….By definition that means that we have to start with family and our own children…Then we try, but don’t always succeed, in loving others like our own…then we try harder…

    Half my children our grown and have decided to follow, not being pushed by us, to be Shluchim themselves….

    The other half are young still…though I think we are good parents..Today, I will be more patient and more loving after reading this post…

    Reply
  33. A T Beuthner August 17, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Thanks for the harsh words. I feel deeply sorry for the pain; for the love that somehow did not get it’s way to your heart, and morphed into an ugly feeling that should not be there. In anyone. Never. There is a lot of abuse in this world, and also there is a lot of love and concern. I lot of times I feel abused by different people and in different ways. My wife too. Sometimes she helps me focus on the good things around and inside us. Sometimes I do it for her. I understsnd your wife must also suffer from all this, but I believe she accepted you for what you are, so I believe she also must have the courage and the strength to help you focus on the goodness to overcome the ugliness, the love and joy to overcome the pain and to give your children all the love and concern they really deserve. Dig deeply into your neshomele and you’ll find there the koichos to be a model husband and parent for your wife and kids. Like a phenix, recreating itself from the ashes.
    Thanks a lot for the shaking up and hatzlocho rabo umuflogo in your shlichus in your life, for all of us do have it and we must ask Hashem always to help us in it.
    Again, thanks and much hatzlocho.

    Reply

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