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This Orthodox Children’s Book About Sexual Abuse Is So Important

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There’s a new children’s book that might be next on your to-read list with your kid. It’s called “Zai Gezunt!” and it’s the Yiddish translation of Artscroll’s “Let’s Stay Safe,” written by Bracha Goetz and illustrated by Tova Leff.

So, what it’s about? The title gives a hint: It’s an illustrated book about children’s safety, focusing on all sorts of things like how to ride a bike, cross the street— and crucially, how understand consent and personal space. The book was the brainchild of Monsey’s Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam, who told The Forward why it’s such an important project for him:

“Safety education is so important because abusers self-select. Their nightmare is a kid who is educated about personal space. They look for the kids who don’t know – they groom victims. Once a child knows that no one is supposed to touch them, they react, they project it very quickly.”

The English version of the children’s book was first published in 2011, focusing on an ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian family, allowing it to be accessible and relatable to Orthodox families, as Horowitz explained:

“Our goal as an organization was to take every barrier away from homes. Modesty was really important here. If the imagery was not congruent to the community’s standards, it could be a barrier.”

book

Goetz, the writer of the English version, was inspired by her own children to write it, as a concerned mother. She explained:

“When I raised my children, I taught them about stranger danger, but I was unaware that most children are molested by people they know. When my own family was effected by sexual abuse, one of my children begged me to use my children’s book writing abilities to write a book designed for Orthodox children, which could help prevent Orthodox children from being molested…but no publisher was interested. When I sent my manuscript to Rabbi Horowitz, he was very interested in helping to get it published…I wrote the book in a sensitive and careful way, so that it would be able to be helpful in every Orthodox home.”

You may not believe it, but it’s hit home for a lot of parents, so much so that 60,000 copies have been sold or distributed.

According to The Forward, a yeshiva school on the west coast read the book to students, and “two six-year old girls came forward saying their rebbe touched them on multiple occasions.” Thankfully, the teacher in question was then let go–and all thanks to a book that changed the lives of children. Wow.

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