By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Avremi Zippel, Program Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, has testified in the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City that his family’s former nanny sexually abused him.
The Deseret News said that Zippel “is also making history” as he “may be the first Orthodox Jewish rabbi to come out during the #MeToo movement as a survivor of sexual abuse — a topic he said is rarely discussed in the observant Jewish community.”
At a preliminary hearing Tuesday, the 27-year-old Zippel identified Alavina Florreich, 69, as the nanny who molested and abused him in his parents’ home for about 10 years beginning at age 8.
Florreich was arrested March 30, 2018, on suspicion of 131 counts of child abuse. She was charged in 3rd District Court in April 2018 with five counts of aggravated abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, and two counts of forcible abuse, a second-degree felony, according to charging documents.
He said the encounters occurred over 100 times throughout his childhood, the Desert News reported. When it would happen, he said he would fixate his eyes on the “nasty wallpaper” in the downstairs bathroom, as if he could disappear simply by focusing his gaze in one spot.
His parents, Rabbi Benny, now 52, and Sharonne, now 50, moved to Utah with their one-year-old son in 1992, as Chabad Shluchim.
Rabbi Avremi Zippel, now a father himself, said his past hasn’t made him overprotective, and he deeply trusts the nannies he and his wife employ for their two children, Menny, 3, and Menachem, 18 months.
He told the Desert News that rather than becoming hypervigilant about protecting his kids, he has focused instead on creating an open, loving relationship with them.
“It’s given me kind of a wake-up call to provide the safest and most loving environment for my children possible, and to know that they will never be judged. That if anything happens to them, they will always have somewhere to turn,” he told the newspaper.
He said that by telling his story, he hopes to show the world, and especially the Orthodox community in particular, that survivors can be resilient, successful and strong.
“Sexual abuse needs to be talked about more in the Chabad community. We need to talk to our kids about bodies, about boundaries, about privacy,” his wife Sheina Zippel commented.