Rabbi, Teacher, Molester - Ephraim Shapiro's Mark on the Baltimore Jewish Community
By Phil Jacobs
Unorthodox-Jew [Baltimore MD]
April 5, 2007
(Part of a continuing series on child molestation within the Jewish community)
Photographer Murray Levin has looked through his camera lenses countless times, capturing Jewish weddings, bar mitzvahs and other joyous events.
The one "picture," he however can't stop focusing on isn't in his camera, but in his 64-year-old memory.
It's an image of a bar mitzvah lesson at the old Agudas Achim Synagogue. It's the shame that came along with his teacher the now deceased Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro, placing his hand down the 12-year-old Murray Levin's pants and fondling him.
With at least half a dozen maftir lessons, came the rabbi's touch.
But it wasn't just Murray Levin.
The former Talmudical Academy teacher, by one influential Baltimore rabbi's estimates, molested hundreds of this area's sons, grandsons and brothers.
Bob Glickstein, 65, another survivor of Rabbi Shapiro's, figures it could be thousands.
One thing that hasn't survived for Glickstein is any connection to Judaism. Living now in Vero Beach, Fla., this yoga instructor calls his bar mitzvah day "the worst day of my life, because I had to have Rabbi Shapiro there." He married out of the faith, had a child and raised him as a non-Jew. He not so jokingly calls himself an "anti-Semite."
This was part of the cost of Rabbi Shapiro's actions.
Rabbi Shapiro, who died in the early 1980s, remains "alive" in the memories of so many. His collateral damage is everywhere. A weekly Kiddush of respected businessmen meets, and the topics invariably turns to the sexual molestation the rabbi heaped on many of them.
A bite on the ear.
A "French" kiss.
All these terms are difficult to read, but they all are connected to Rabbi Shapiro's "maftir" lessons.
Local rabbis requested that Rabbi Shapiro's name not be used in this article to spare his family any further embarrassment.
(see following "Why we must mention names, deceased or alive.")
The following are interviews with three of the Rabbi's "survivors."
If you are a survivor or if you know of someone who survived any sexual molestation, you have an audience here.
The way Murray Levin sees it, sexual predators live in a world of "no risk and total reward."
Organized Judaism, be it synagogues, schools or community groups bury this news or distract, he said.
"I don't think they see themselves getting apprehended," said Mr. Levin. "They are bright people, great communicators and intellectual. And they will continue until we bring out the trauma they cause. We have to create an environment that shows them they can't continue without severe consequences."
Mr. Levin held his molestation in for decades. And he does not want anyone else to hold back. Most of all, he sees it as a calling that the older survivors do what they can to protect all future generations even if it means teaching little children to speak out."
"Families," he said, are going to have to speak up. We have to become the predator of the predators."
Mr. Levin was molested in a portable building at the Agudas Achim Synagogue on the 3600 block of Reisterstown Road near Coldspring Lane. He was studying for his bar mitzvah, which would take place at Shaarei Zion.
"Rabbi Shapiro was grooming me with French kissing and masturbation," said Mr. Levin.
Mr. Levin kept it all quiet. He didn't know that there was a possibility of someone else involved until four years after his bar mitzvah. He was watching a football game with a couple of friends on TV. The friends pretended to tackle one another like football players, and one of them randomly said,
"Rabbi Shapiro stuck his fingers in my ass."
That was Mr. Levin's first clue that he wasn't alone.
In between his molestation, Mr. Levin, who would lead junior services in shul, and who described himself as a gifted and talented child, captain of the safety patrol, began to fall internally. His image of self, his trust in boundaries and other people failed.
To this day, even though he makes a great deal of his living photographing the Jewish community, Mr. Levin wonders what might have been with his life had it not been violated.
"Many of us are still hiding," he said with a quiet voice.
"To me, anybody could be a pedophile," he said. "Everybody who works with or who is near our children need to be scrutinized. I want everyone to be aware of who you pass responsibility of your children to."
He doesn't want much to do with Judaism.
He can still "feel" the texture of Rabbi Shapiro's moustache against his face when he was being kissed.
Bob Glickstein's Jewish "upbringing" ended during his bar mitzvah lessons with Rabbi Shapiro at Agudas Achim.
"He used religion to molest young boys," said Mr. Glickstein.
This 65-year-old yoga instructor talks candidly in a Vero Beach, Fla. coffee bar called Cacophony. He has only told a couple of people about his molestation.
But he wants the word out there now.
"Rabbi Shapiro knew what he was doing," said Mr. Glickstein. "He had a boys group he called the Akiba Boys of Agudas Achim. They would do chores around the shul. But meanwhile, he was molesting them. He had a system of bar mitzvah lessons that would feed into his molestation. Everything he did was about molesting boys.
"It was a horrific experience," he added. "He would call me into his office. "He'd start playing with you."
It was difficult for Mr. Glickstein to continue. He sat up straight, perhaps finding confidence in a yoga posture, and he remembered some more.
He called his bar mitzvah the worst day of his life, because Rabbi Shapiro was in attendance. The rabbi was also at his father's funeral.
Mr. Glickstein kept it to himself, yet he used it as part of his influence to start looking into other religions, such as eastern religions. A short marriage to a non-Jew resulted in a son, who he raised out of the faith.
There was nothing joking about this comment on his face.
"I am basically anti-Semitic," he said. "I like Jews, but I just need to stay away from them (as a result of his molestations).
"There's always been a lot of fear and anger in my life that comes as a result of Rabbi Shapiro's actions," he said. "There's never a time that passes that I don't think about him. There's anger and there's fear."
Mr. Glickstein said that he's always had difficulty since the molestations, which happened four to six times, when it comes to authority figures and establishing close relationships.
Last September during a visit to Baltimore, one of the victims decided to pay a visit to Talmudical Academy. It was his first time there since 1974.
He met with Rabbi Yehuda Lefkowitz, the school's executive director.
"I told Rabbi Lefkowitz that I was a victim of Shapiro's," "His face went white. "I told him I wasn't there to cause trouble or threaten anything.
But what I wanted from TA was for the school to investigate and to find other victims. I told him I thought there should be some sort of monetary scholarship fund to pay for the therapy of the victims. And I wanted a letter of apology.
His response to me was there's nobody here from those days, it's a whole new administration and faculty. I gave him my email and a business card.
It's now March. I haven't heard a thing from him."
Rabbi Lefkowitz said that he passed the information along immediately to school's board, and "nobody took it as a joking matter."
Rabbi Shapiro is Deceased. Why Print This?
He can't defend himself.
He's deceased, what difference does it make now?
This is an embarrassment to his family.
These are just three of the reasons why we were asked not to print the name of the deceased "Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro."
• "He can't defend himself."
He died in 1989. He was eulogized before 700 people as a "kind man." There are estimates as high as hundreds of molestation victims who weren't able to "defend" themselves while the rabbi was alive. There are young men whose lives were changed forever because of his acts. Some of these men are more figuratively "dead" than Rabbi Shapiro will ever be. They need our help, compassion and therapeutic assistance. It wasn't their fault. They can heal now.
• "He's deceased, what difference does it make now?
A large percentage of sexual molestors were molested themselves. Survivors may find answers and empowerment if they know that their molestor was actually a survivor of Ephraim Shapiro's.
• "This is an embarrassment to his family."
The models of discussion and behind-the-scenes declarations against molestation is not working, especially in the Orthodox community. At best, a person is taken away from a setting of teaching children or sometimes sent out of town. Arrests, the courage of a survivor to charge his molester, doesn't happen a great deal of the time.
Perhaps if the pedophile knows that this is now about names and his association to names of innocent relatives. Perhaps, just perhaps that will keep another child safe for a day.
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