The Power of Personal Testimony

by David Mandel

[Editor’s note: This video is groundbreaking in its courage, impact, and ability to make us direct, rather than avert, our glance from yet another problem we have been silent about for too long. It requires no introduction, but David Mandel, one of the most important personalities our community is blessed with in attending to the needs of those who have nowhere else to turn, was kind enough to offer some introductory thoughts.]

Imagine you were mugged and robbed of your most precious jewels. The bodily injury you suffered will heal. The loss of your family’s ancestry represented in your mothers ring and necklace and your fathers watch is irreplaceable. It is causing you emotional torment. It has been in the family four generations.

The mugger is caught. The jewels are not found. He is convicted and sent to jail.

How should you react now? Are you a victim of a mugging? Are you a survivor of a mugging? How long do you remain angry or feel responsible for the loss of an important family history? Was it indeed your fault even if it was not?

Elisheva was the victim of a mugging and lost her precious jewels. Taking a very difficult personal journey she transformed from being a victim to a survivor. Her physical wounds healed over time. Her jewels which were her self-esteem and her personal strength as a human being have taken much more time to heal.

Elisheva was a victim of domestic violence.

Her husband abused her in many ways. Given a choice, she would have opted for the loss of jewelry many times over, to the loss of her self-respect, her dignity, her soul.

Confronting personal character flaws has always been one of the greatest challenges in life. It is made more difficult when your husband, your confidant, your presumed best friend successfully diminishes and alters your character.

How do you reclaim what is rightfully yours. Does pressing charges against an abusive husband help? Is running and hiding the answer?
Will an order of protection keep you safe? Will his going to jail make you stronger?

Elisheva has chosen the path of teaching.

With the many challenges faced by our community, personal testimony can be the greatest influencer of others who may be suffering in silence. Be it eating disorders, an addictive personality, or a young man committing suicide – we no longer need take the road of silence. A welcoming sea change is taking place.

The video with Elisheva powerfully demonstrates that when certain ills in the community are addressed with honesty and sensitivity, it yields tremendous good – stark awareness, robust discourse – through which we as a community can develop better solutions.
Elisheva shares her story of brutality and strength in a video. She describes in vivid detail what it means to be lost as a woman as a wife as a human being.

How can one reclaim what G-D gave them at birth and what man believed he can take away at age 20 or 30 or 40? Every person at some time in their life faces a challenge that may overwhelm them. It may be financial, childlessness, child rearing, an emotional problem, early loss of a parent, the crisis and life problems abound.

Elisheva’s lesson is not just the ability to heal from domestic violence.

Elisheva’s story can be any one of our stories.

She is slowly finding her jewels again.

David Mandel has served as the Chief Executive Officer of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services since 1995. David is Chairman of Touro College’s School of Social Work Professional Advisory Board. He is a lecturer and a frequent contributor to newspapers, magazines and radio programs on a range of mental health and social issues.

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5 Responses

  1. Shades of Gray says:

    “It requires no introduction…”

    I saw this moving video previously, but I like the way the introduction expands the message beyond the original context, “Every person at some time in their life faces a challenge that may overwhelm them…Elisheva’s story can be any one of our stories.”

  2. Raymond says:

    I do not know if it is even possible to watch this video without having tears form in one’s eyes. What a sad, yet touching and even inspirational video this is. What a sweet lady the woman in this video is. Thank G-d that her life has turned around for the better. One has to wonder what kind of upbringing that her former, abusive husband had, to have believed that it is somehow okay to abuse his wife in such a terrible way.

    I have fortunately never seen abuse nearly as severe as what this woman went through. Nevertheless, I have been to religious Jewish homes where I have seen somewhat milder abuse take place. I recall being at the Shabbat table of a childless couple in Jerusalem, in which the husband kept telling his wife to “Shut up!” no matter what she said. I have witnessed cases right here in Los Angeles, of husbands insulting and just generally talking down to their wives, treating their wives as if they are little children. Part of me wonders how it could be that a person who studies Torah and lives a religious life, could possibly treat their wives in such a despicable manner. A stronger part of me, however, realizes that the husband’s character is so depraved, that even trying to cover it up with a religious facade, simply does not work.

    While I reject modern-day feminism to a large extent, I do support the idea of a woman getting at least a four-year college degree, and/or developing enough work skills, such that she has the capability of supporting herself financially, even without her husband. That gives a woman enough independence that enables her to not be in a subservient position to her husband. A man knowing that his wife can successfully leave him any time she wants, might make the man think twice before he mistreats his wife in any manner whatsoever.

    [YA – Maybe this was part of what the Baal HaHafla’sh meant in the 16th century when he wrote in his sefer on Kiddushin 30B s.v. elah bito that a father is obligated to teach a vocation not only to his son, but to his daughter. Relying on a husband, he says, is not sufficient. What if she becomes widowed or divorced?]

  3. SA says:

    Will anybody be able to watch this without crying?

  4. Shades of Gray says:

    “…ability to make us direct, rather than avert, our glance from yet another problem”

    This relates to the Parsha. The Alter of Kelm says that the similar language of נתן עליהם לב ולא העלים עיניו which Rashi uses by Hashem signifies a reward for Moshe acting similarly נתן עיניו ולבו להיות מיצר עליהם .

    “This was Moshe’s great attribute – the ability to psychologically participate with his brethren in the time of their suffering…The Alter of Kelm explains that G-d was inspired – as it were – by the actions of Moshe. It was Moshe’s own similar actions that triggered G-d’s looking at and taking to heart, so to speak, the troubles of the Jewish people.”
    (Rabbi Frand on Parshas Bo, Tape # 268)

  5. Adena Cohen says:

    Thank you for posting this empowering video. As you posted in the introduction, this is a problem that we have been silent about for too long. The more people that share their stories the more likely it will inspire others to seek the help they need.
    We must also speak up and share the stories of those who have been sexually abused. Our silence makes survivors feel as if their abuse is something they should be ashamed of. This shame prevents them from getting the help they need and also enables the abuser to continue to abuse others.

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