Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Abba's word on virginity

I have been reading Freckle's latest post. If you haven't read it, here is a link: Rape, Cosby Sympathizers and the Patriarchy
Seriously, just read it. Freckles has an incredible ability to just say it like it is, and give things clarity with her perspective. 

Unfortunately, my brain has been completely preoccupied with this stuff lately. All of it, the apologists, the predators, the people who looked the other way, and the assholes  who keep this patriarchal victim-shaming rape culture alive, inside the Family and elsewhere. 
No, I'm not above addressing the trolls who imply that I am lying, or enjoyed being raped and want to be a victim. The truth is, it completely infuriates me, so much so that I am afraid to address it in fear that it might completely overtake me. I have chosen to be anonymous for a lot of reasons. However, that choice has consequences, such that I cannot afford to acknowledge that anger or the actions it might drive me to take. Like walking up to certain people and going bat-shit-crazy on them, confronting people openly.  If I let myself get angry I may not be able to control myself. I just can't go there right now. 

But I really don't know what the hell to do with it sometimes. And there is still my part in it. No matter what anyone says, my silence allowed others to be hurt, and this is the only way I can make sure everyone knows, even if it's too late. 

In the meantime, I've used my energy to dig up more papers from the labyrinth of boxes in my attic. I found the transcript of the tape Jack made at the women's request for clarity regarding who a priest can marry.

It's interesting to read about the marriage Freckles mentioned because he was very clear in this transcript that a marriage between a priest and a non-virgin can not happen, and that there is no going back once semen has entered the woman. Just more hypocrisy. 

Following are some emails from women in the Family who had some questions and concerns. These are from discussions that happened during monthly Rosh Chodesh meetings.  Notice that rape is mentioned, and how horrible that situation would be for the woman. This was a real concern, which should tell you enough. 

I don't have the answers that were given in print.
However, the response was the same as the original tape: there is no room for interpretation. It is what it is. That's it.
Of course, that leaves the woman to carry the burden of what was done to her for the rest of her life. The man? No consequences, spiritual or otherwise.

And I have a burning question that nobody seems to want to acknowledge or answer.  To those Family members who are still involved and have commented before:
Please tell me, is George D still a part of the family? Are his sons? Have they been left-sided, or did they leave on their own? Did you know about the things they did already, or did you read about it first on one of these blogs? I really want to know. I want to make sense of it one way or another. Why won't anyone acknowledge this?

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Scarlett R

This summer it will be two years since I began writing about the Family and some of my experiences. It's strange looking back at who I was then, and how it has changed in this short time.

My anger and paranoia has ebbed. I haven't completely lost the need to get things out, but it is definitely dulled. I guess I have come to accept certain things, especially that not everyone in the Family has experienced the same things as me, and therefore won't have the same level of anger in certain respects. Also, I realize that nothing has happened- I have been writing  but they really have no power over me, and they don't know who I am. And, I have been able to look at the group and other members from a different perspective. However, I notice that many former members are unable to see it from any perspective outside of their own long-ago experience. There are just as many present members who also refuse to accept that anything is wrong at all. Those of us who are willing to share the things that happened to us personally in the context of the cult are called liars, spiteful, vindictive, evil and hateful. Some people insist on believing that the group is one big pedophile ring and others refuse to believe there is any systemic abuse at all. Niether is correct.
For me, my rape, or more accurately my long-term sexual abuse is an integral part of my experience in the Family. They can't be seperate because the experiences are deeply intertwined. My life in the Family is a huge part of my abuse and it's aftermath. And my abuse is a large part of who I am, who I have been and where my life has gone. I never realized that until recently, and actually, I have spent most of my adult life refusing to remember or feel or even to accept that someone other than myself may be responsible for what happened to me.

I didn't start this as a blog about rape, and I don't want it to be about that. I have tried to veer away from the subject because I thought it isn't really a part of the Family framework. I guess I believed that it was only isolated incidents, or mostly just the dysfunctional families on the fringe who are no longer involved.  But I have to talk about it because no matter what other people experienced, if even one of us is abused within the cloak of Jack's family, then it is about the group as a whole.
Because really, what is the main thing that is emphasized by Jack and everyone else? It's unity, and "psychic unity" and the whole idea that none of us is an individual, but a part of each other, a collective whole. What is it Jack always said? "We are only as strong as our weakest block" Each one of us is a stone in the temple, and it can't be built with missing stones, or weak stones. The Family is supposedly praying and meditating for the "Unity of Israel" as well as unity and love among each other.

How, then, can any one of us say that past abuse doesn't matter? Or that certain individuals aren't important enough to stand up for? If you can stand there as a Family member and say that you "Love" your neighbor as yourself, and that you are a "light" and that your purpose is to spread light and positive energy in the world, then tell me, please, why is it so hard to put that into action? Why can't you ask the hard questions? Why are the things that have happened to some of us by others of us swept under the rug?
If you want to be a part of this family, and really want it to be something positive, then why not stand up for that, seek the truth, and change things for the better? Otherwise it's dishonest. And if you are not willing to accept that the bad things that have happened are a part of what the Family is and was, then you really are living in an illusion.

Those of us who have been hurt shouldn't have to hide and be ashamed. We shouldn't have to be afraid to feel, or afraid to express ourselves in fear of creating "broken shalom" or gossiping. I was raped and felt marked from the very beginning. I hated myself, and I was afraid to tell anyone because I was sure I wouldn't be believed, or that I would get in trouble. And I think those things could have very possibly happened. People were more concerned with Jack's image of them, and being "righteous"  than admitting they had a problem, or someone else in their clan had a problem. Everyone wanted, more than anything, to be special in Jack's eyes. So, people couldn't see, or refused to see things that were happening right under their noses.

To add insult to injury, being raped becomes a mark on a woman in the Family because now she cannot be considered a virgin. This makes her unsuitable for marriage, especially to a priest. Jack specifically went into this  when several women were discussing the origins of our souls during their Rosh Chodesh gatherings, and how being raped may affect the soul of your children. Just the fact that there were women in the family concerned about this should tell you something.

As I have said before, there was a lot of emphasis by Jack on the conceiving the correct type of soul, and semen. He was obsessed with "the seed".
What it comes down to is that the man's semen holds the essence of his soul. A woman is, well, just an incubator when it comes to her baby's soul. A man's purpose is to increase his "house" (a lot of this comes from Pedersen's "Israel: It's Life and Culture"). Each wife and consequent child is another shoot on his tree. A wife joins the man's household, and becomes his family.
A woman's sexual history is of utmost importance because any time a man's semen enters a woman's body, the essence of that man's soul is there, forever. If a woman is not a virgin, then you cannot know which man's soul has been passed to that child. Basically, your child could be some other man's spiritual child. This is especially important for priests. Because the priestly line must remain pure, he is ONLY allowed to marry a woman who is a virgin. So, any woman in the Family who wants to marry a priest must divulge her sexual history so it can be determined if she is technically a virgin. It's not just sex- because semen cannot enter the body, then a woman who has never had intercourse, but got semen into her body, orally or otherwise, is not a virgin. On the flip side, a woman who has had intercourse, but has always used a condom may be determined to still be a virgin by the elders.
A man's sexual history? It doesn't matter. The only important thing is to make sure that your child from a woman is only yours.
So, understandably, there were women who were upset by this, and wanted to know about cases of rape in which the woman was forced and had no control of the situation. Jack's response was that it made no difference. Sex was sex, semen was semen. The raped woman has the further burden of knowing that any future child she has may contain the essence of her rapist's soul.
So, it's not the rapist who bears any consequence, it's the woman, and if she does the proper thing and lets the elders know her sexual status, she gets to walk around as marked "unsuitable".
I digress, but this is how the Family manages to further stigmatize a woman instead of the man who is actually responsible for his actions.

As hard as I've tried, I cannot separate my abuse from my experience in the family. It is all a part of who I am. My physical and sexual abuse was a part of my life. There is no separation, it is thoroughly intertwined. And if it is my story, then it is part of the Family's story. I will not marginalize myself because it doesn't fit what people want to see or believe. I have spent my whole life doing that. Honestly, I cannot reconcile the fact that I was raped, bruised, and there for everyone to see, yet no one noticed. I know I wasn't the same after that. Why didn't anyone notice? Why did my abuser as well as others be allowed to continue? It infuriates me. Finally. I spent so many years not feeling anything at all, refusing to acknowledge the things that were there under the surface. I had to push it away because I had to continue seeing this man well into adulthood. And every time I did I felt the same way he made me feel back then. All it takes is a little look or wink, or grin- and I feel disgusting and fearful again. I know when he looks at me he remembers every disgusting thing he did to me. I don't want him to be able to remember. It's like he owns a part of me I can never get back.
I did a great job keeping everything buried until more recently. Reading the other blogs and starting this one opened up a lot of dormant emotions and memories. I wanted to get the truth out there, but I didn't expect it to have the emotional toll it did. I thought time would lessen the memories, dull them. It hasn't, it's become an open festering sore. I still can't talk about it, but I can write about it a little bit, and writing some of these things still helps.

I know I briefly touched on the ways my abuse has affected my life, but at the time it was just starting to become apparent to me. Two years later I am just starting to deal with it, and trying to figure out how to do that. I have realized that time and distance does not erase what happened. It will just wait there, as raw as when it first began. I also realize that I can't deal with this while remaining connected to the same people that surrounded me then. They were such a huge part of my situation, and how I dealt with it.  I can't live with the constant possibility of contact with him, reminders, or interacting with people while pretending everything is okay. I really do need to make a clean break or this stuff will stay here forever.
I don't want to feel marked, or somehow wrong anymore..
The family says forgiveness should be the most important thing. We are not supposed to hold grudges, and need to learn to move on. A member can NOT have any unresolved issues against another member, or there is broken shalom, and it affects the entire Family negatively.
They are clueless. I suppose I am guilty of "broken shalom" because here is what I have that is unresolved against another person, and that I can't just "move on" from:
I have spent years being a shell of myself. I am unable to get too close to anyone. I wake up feeling like I am suffocating with his hand was over my face so I can't breathe or scream. The pain that came next when I thought I was going to die. When these things come back, I feel physically sick. And I can'r control when they come back, especially when I am sleeping. I can never quite shake the feeling that there is something wrong with me. It feels like everyone can see it in me, or somehow know. I still feel that I did something to cause it, even though I know, intellectually, that I had no control. It's the things I wrote about in the first couple months of this blog.
The hardest thing, even more than the rapes themselves was the awful realization that I was thoroughly alone. No one could see me, and no one cared. I know that if anyone paid attention, they would have noticed something. I couldn't say anything and I couldn't stop it. I needed someone to see and stop it, but no one did. That was on them. The fact that this man had access to me, and others is on them. And so it kept on happening for more than 2 years. People knew who the abusers were. As I have said before, being raised in the Family made it easy to lie and pretend that everything was okay. In a way, it was the family that groomed me to be the perfect target for this guy.  And he was protected while I was left alone. In fact, I helped protect him by not speaking a word about what was happening, to anyone, ever. I stayed silent until I began writing this blog.

Earlier posts about Abuse



So while I have come to terms with other people's decision to stay involved in the Family, I have also come to terms with my own full experience. I may be labeled a traitor, or a liar or worse because I write this blog. But this is my story. This is my experience, and I grew up in the same Family every other member did. I see things differently than I did two years ago, but it makes me so angry that the Family has tried to marginalize those of us who have been hurt simply for saying what happened. Why would anyone want to be a part of something that values a person who hurts others more than the people who are hurt?

I ask myself pretty often how things will change if I walk away completely. I wonder if these things will be easier to come to terms with. I know no one wants to hear about this stuff- it's uncomfortable and icky. But I have to, at least right now. The old ways aren't working anymore.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Subtlety is a prevalent characteristic of the Abensur Family in many aspects. So many things seem to walk a fine line; Cult vs kooky offshoot religious group, brainwashing vs teaching, harmful vs benign...I suppose arguments can be made on either side. To outsiders it is not as clear as other groups like the Branch Davidians, or the FLDS or the Moonies, to name a few. The family exists in regular society. We don't visibly separate ourselves or look different. We hide in plain sight. We appear pretty much like everyone else, except often there is something just a little bit "off"; something you can't quite put your finger on.

To put it simply, people in the Family have crappy boundaries, in their personal, professional and spiritual lives. I never noticed before, but as my thinking has shifted, I can see how people's "normal" personal boundaries were changed and eroded. It didn't happen overnight, it took years and 2-3 generations to create the dysfunctional boundaries that exist as the norm today. And they really are the norm- for people fully involved in the Family, the lines are blurred, deliberately. They aren't even thought about or questioned, they are just a part of everyday life. Of course, the present generation of 20-50 somethings have grown up in the midst of this and have been programmed from birth in most cases.

There are numerous aspects to this and I am unsure where to begin. Looking back at what I know of the group's beginning, I think that Jack targeted young people from somewhat dysfunctional families who already had poor personal boundaries. When Jack's sexual relationships came to light in the 80's, the people who chose to stay despite the truth were the unhealthiest and neediest of them. In some ways, while the "big blowup" created a lot of havoc and stress, Jack was left with the ideal bunch of people to continue his fantasy with.
Yet, he didn't outwardly become authoritative, as so many Hickmanites love to point out. He would never publicly or directly give orders. (I think he did to his inner-circle of men, but not the general family). He didn't prohibit people from speaking to their families or friends outside the group. He supposedly encouraged education and questioned authority. These things are said any time someone questions whether this group is a cult. I remember saying these things myself: "Abba never told us we HAD to do such-and-such" and "There is nothing negative in any of his teachings, in fact it's all very positive..." blah blah blah

But he did do all those things- he gave orders, and influenced every decision, and he retaliated against those who rebelled or spoke against his authority, whether it was behind closed doors, or indirectly through the covenant, teachings or other people in positions of authority. He very systematically broke down people's boundaries and autonomy. By the 3rd generation the children were raised with a completely altered sense of self from birth. The fact that we are "hidden in plain sight", and essentially living a double life with so many secrets is even more damaging, in my opinion, than a group which separates itself from society completely.

So, back to boundaries- how are they broken and manipulated in the Family? I was jotting down some thoughts earlier and I realized this may be a subject that covers several posts. I suppose the first thing to mention is the covenant, since this is the framework of the Family, and the agreement our parents signed themselves and their descendants onto.
If you are unfamiliar with the covenant, you can access it here: The Covenant of Shoresh Yishai

If you read it, it speaks for itself. By agreeing to this covenant, you are giving up your right to your own autonomy and property and possessions. Yes, every person still owns their houses and earnings (for the most part), but it clearly states that you are to give up anything that the elders demand without question or grumbling, if they decide you have more than you need and someone else needs it. This has in fact taken place, many times. There are also individuals and families who were directed to take a person or whole family into their household if the Abba or elders decided it should be.
You are also to get permission from the elders before you take on any debt, such as car loans, mortgage, education or credit cards. You are to get permission before marriage. The covenant lays the framework for the Family leadership to control every aspect of your life, which goes far beyond any legitimate religion or church. And our parents and grandparents did this willingly and happily for us to be born into and raised in.
I could write plenty on each bit of the covenant, but I believe it is somewhat easy to understand even if you don't have a background in the family.

The covenant is the framework- it directs us to live by the "rules of the Family". It's these rules- the constantly evolving and shifting rules that really get into the personal aspects of our selves and our lives that step over any line that could be called appropriate.
I talked a little bit in a post about some of the rules around sex and marriage. Having to seek approval and permission before marrying is intrusive enough, but Jack went a lot further by dictating how couples are to to have sex and interact with each other.

In the early days, when Jack was leading his followers to a warped version of orthodox Judaism, he introduced the laws of Niddah. Here is a brief explanation of what that is:  Niddah
I believe that the purpose Jack's little journey through Judaism was twofold; he became obsessed with it himself, and because it was a great tool to determine just how far he could intrude into people's lives. To no one's great surprise, his followers jumped in with all they had. For people who were mostly from some form of Christianity, following strict halacha was an all-encompassing task that took a great amount of time and effort.
Niddah now told couples when they could and couldn't have sex, sleep in the same bed, or touch each other. Jack of course, took it a step further. He added many rules that he claimed were kabbalah, and had to be followed in order to ensure that the children produced had the right kind of soul. Jack loved to use fear tactics related to people's children and their souls. You wanted to do everything right or your child would be born with a "demonic" soul, and would never have the potential to be a part of the kingdom. And there were so many ways to get one of these demonic souls, and it was every parents' worst fear.
So, one rule was that when you were having sex, you had to make sure there was no artificial light in the room, such as from a streetlight outside, or a digital clock. The reason for this, according to Jack, was that artificial light gave Lilith (the evil first wife of Adam) the ability to come in and steal semen from the man. This would be used by her to create little demon souls to populate the world. There are many different legends regarding Lilith in history, including Lilith in the role as a succubus. However, Jack certainly gave it his own spin.

Another intrusion into people's personal lives was the directives to have sex in certain positions only- namely missionary, or even better, the biblical way: the woman approaches the man, starts at his feet, and crawls up to be lying over him. Any other way is considered animalistic and from the "Left-side", meaning, of course any conception could result in a demonic soul. Seriously, the rules went into that much detail.
Having sex while a woman was "niddah" aka "unclean" would also result in the man being unclean. The laws of Niddah were stressed often, because following these laws exactly was the only way to guarantee you would not create a demonic soul. It also gave jack another tool to objectify women, and place them in a category as he saw them: creatures who had the power (which he hated) to influence and control men sexually, who would lead them astray and result in them being "unclean". Jack was a misogynist through and through, but that is for another post.
So, Niddah was taken very seriously. Every little thing was stressed over and analyzed.Women would call Jack just to explain to him what they saw in their underwear and ask if it was okay to have sex with their husbands. I'm not even kidding. Sex between married couples caused more stress and anxiety than can be explained. And even then- even if you did everything "right" and "purely", you could still end up with one of these demonic-soul-children if god decided you weren't righteous enough. Jack loved this control he had over relationships and families.

Don't forget, Jack was the one who got to go up to Guf (the place in heaven where souls wait to be born) and personally select adomic (the right kind) souls to be born into the Family.
Jack was supposedly celibate, and as such was always in a state of purity because he was never in a situation to be marred by a woman's uncleanliness.

Ultimately, by raising their children in this structure, they taught them (us) that it is okay for other people to intrude into the most personal aspects of our lives, and tell us how to live and act. We were also taught that whatever we had was for someone else to use if they decided. We were taught that our bodies and our souls did not belong to us, and that we were here for god's use, no matter what that was- and of course, there was always someone there who decided what god's purpose was, like Abba or the elders, or our parents while we were kids.
Even our thoughts were not our own. Just like other religions, we were taught that god sees and hears everything. Nothing can be hidden from god. But we were also taught that we were special, and had special energy and power- our prayers were more powerful, our our energy came back with consequences, good or bad. Basically, we grew up believing that the things we did or said or thought had a great impact because of who we were.
I specifically remember being taught that our thoughts were important- that it was important to learn to control them. I was told that if I think negatively about someone, that somewhere, that negativity, or negative thought, becomes real. Also, because of who we were, we had to be extremely careful how we thought, especially towards our parents or authority figures.

Who remembers all the teachings about the Watchers? These are the aliens/fallen angels who watch us constantly, and plant thoughts in our heads, and influence our actions. We have to take extra care to be righteous, be pure, pray and meditate, and control our thoughts so that the watchers are unable to penetrate and plant their own thoughts in us. We also had to thoroughly examine our own thoughts and intentions to be sure they were truly from us, or from god, and not the watchers.

There are so many ways that our basic boundaries and sense of "self" were altered that I am afraid I can't touch on all of them here, but it is a quick overview. I would appreciate feedback if you can recall other ways this was done. There is a lot I don't remember or wasn't around for in the early days.
Some other related teachings, or concepts in the family is the whole topic of "Death to Self" that we were taught, and the idea that if we are comfortable in our lives, then something is wrong with us spiritually, and must change.

And of course, there is Martyrdom. We are all to become martyrs (in more ways than one) if we are ever truly going to walk with Yehoshua in the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reaching Out

A woman left a couple of comments a few days ago on two different posts. I expected a response to her from other posters, but there has not been one yet. Maybe her comments haven't been seen yet since they are on older posts. They are here:

Don't Just Take My Word For It

Are you implying my apples aten't what they ought to be?

I was surprised by her words, mainly because she is not anonymous, in fact she is quite open about who she is related to and gives her name. She is reaching out, and I hope someone reaches out to her. There are a lot of readers here who have a lot of good information and experience, as I have seen from the emails I have received.

I am not the right person to reach out to her. I have not considered all of the repercussions of some of the things I post; while writing and exposing information is helpful for me, and maybe others, it is also hurtful to some. Though that was not my intention, I realize there is no way to avoid it.

I believe that the people whose names and actions I have posted created their own situations, as well as that of the people close to them who have to live with the consequences. By posting this information, I have definitely contributed to it's attention on the Internet.  I am conflicted, but I don't think I would change my decision to post what I did. However, I am sorry if my actions have added even more salt to already open wounds.

I am not always prompt in responding to emails, but if anyone wants to reach out privately, I will not ask for identifying information, and will keep anything said completely confidential.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Secret Jews or Secretly Not a Jew?

A person who was a member long ago recently began sending me emails with a lot of information about the early days of this group, and some history of people and families who are still involved. It has been very informative and I have been connecting a lot of the dots. It has been interesting, to say the least.

A theme that has been coming up recently in comments and emails is the Jewish aspect of Hickman's group. Where does that stand today, and how has it evolved?

First and foremost, this is not a Jewish group. Very few of the members are Jewish, and Jack Hickman himself was not. As most readers know, Jack became interested, then obsessed with Judaism decades ago, and brought the Family through a supposed "phase" of Judaism. Like so many other things, there are a lot of differing views among family members on Judaism, and it's role in the group. Some people consider themselves Jews, a few actually are, and others don't, or at least hide any Jewish leanings they might have. For people on the outside, this can be quite confusing. I have heard people compare the Family with the Jews for Jesus group, and other so-called messianic groups, but there are too many differences to use them as comparisons. I suppose the best way to explain the role of Judaism in the Family is to go back to what was taught and followed over time.

When Jack was a pastor in the early days, this was a solidly Christian group, even though the exact brand of Christianity was quite convoluted. At least this is what I understand. They believed in Jesus, and still do. They call him Yehoshua, Metatron, and others names, but they believe in him. These beliefs veer away from conventional, such as their conviction that he was married and had children whose descendants continue to exist today, but they still believe in him. Jews simply don't. They may believe he existed as a person, and may have been a cool guy with interesting ideas, but that is as far as it goes. Jews do not read, study or use the new testament in any context with their religious convictions at all.

Even the "Jewish" things the Family follows are different from the way most Jews, whether orthodox, Conservative or Reform, do things. It really is just Hickman Judaism, just like the group has their own brand of supposed vegetarianism, where they eat fish, and for 3 weeks out of the year eat meat, because that's what Jesus did.
For instance, Hickman Jews keep Kosher, but they consider chicken and turkey to be "parve" , which means neither meat or dairy, and can be eaten with both. That is not the way it's done in most Kosher households. Also, they will mix meat and dairy now, and still consider it kosher. There was a phase in which they were much stricter according to halacha- or rabbinic law, but they no longer consider halacha valid or worthy of following. Their view is that rabbinic law was made up by a bunch of rabbis, as opposed to Torah law, which was given by God to Moses. Rabbinic law adds a whole slew of new laws on top of the basic Torah, and as a result, most Jews spend so much energy following every little rule that the spirit of the original law in Torah is lost. That is a very simplistic and general explanation of the belief, but all I want to get into right now.

I don't necessarily have a problem with that, it makes some sense to me. What I do disagree with is the way some members try to pass themselves off as genuinely Jewish and get involved with Jewish communities when it is a lie. Anonymous commented in the Introduction that it is fraudulent, and I agree. I think that most temples would agree that there is a basic expectation that if you join, and send your children to Hebrew School, and participate as a member, that you are actually Jewish. And not harboring your secret beliefs in Yeshua, etc. Maybe I am wrong, and it would be a non issue. I don't know, I am only guessing.

Not all Family participates in temples or synagogues. The majority don't, but many do. A lot of the Family disagrees with joining a temple, and others disagree with any Jewish identity being known to outsiders. They wear yarmulkes inside, but make sure they are never left on if they go outside. It actually surprises me that there are so many differing opinions on this is one group, especially one labeled by many as a cult. But it's one of those things that Jack left up to interpretation. No matter which side you fall on, the belief is that they are interpreting it the way Jack meant. If he had ever given a clear directive this subject, you can be sure it would be followed that way by everyone.

The only thing he was clear on is conversion. We are not supposed to convert to Judaism. I am unsure what the leadership's stance is on that presently, but last I knew, it was discouraged. John Hove had converted to Judaism early on, and several people started to follow suit. It was okay for John, but Jack didn't want everyone going out and joining synagogues and converting. One of the reasons given was that John converted selflessly, in order to give something of himself to Judaism. To be a light. Most other people were converting for selfish reasons according to Jack, like access to Hebrew school, or learning more about Judaism through them, or whatever. There were other reasons also, but despite Jack's obsession with his own "Jewish" identity, he had a real disdain for the Jewish community in general, and for the current State of Israel. He believed, and taught that a lot of current Judaism was false, insincere and on the wrong path. He also taught that a "Jew" and an "Israelite" are not necessarily the same thing. We, of course, were true Israelites, even though most of us would not be considered Jewish. This was another reason for the discouragement of converting; Jack didn't want people getting drawn into the Jewish way of thinking because it is a mind frame that is supposed to be much different from ours.

Of course, the majority of the adults in the Family were raised in Christian religions, and they had a background and context to use to make sense of things. For the children, it was much more confusing.

Most of us identified as Jewish, and had no clue that our beliefs were often in opposition to Judaism. We were on Long Island, where there are a lot of Jews. Most of us went to public school because Bet El had shut down, and we just assumed we were Jewish like the other kids who were. Many of our parents told us we were. Actual Jews in the family were respected, and lots of people were searching their ancestors for any possible link to Judaism they could latch onto. Some of them claimed to be Jewish. My parents did this. As an adult, after having always considered myself Jewish, I researched on my own and found out that neither one of my parents is Jewish at all. I don't know if they were deliberately deceptive, or deluded themselves into actually believing it to be true, but either way, they lied. And I am not Jewish. And neither is anyone else in the Family with very few exceptions.

So some families involve themselves with synagogues in their communities in Maine, Colorado, NY and elsewhere. Some even work as Hebrew or religion teachers at their temples.  I do have an issue with this, unless they go through the proper channels and convert, and be honest about their history and who they are.
I can't pinpoint exactly why it bothers me so much, except that I am just sick of the secretiveness and pretending. Enough already. It's also just disrespectful to those Jewish communities to pass yourself off as something you aren't. Either be Jewish, or stay away and worship with others who actually share your beliefs. I think that if I was a parent with children at Sunday school at a church being taught by a fellow Christian, I may be upset to learn they are actually being taught by an atheist.

There is another issue, and it is a little bit more complicated. For myself and some other people in the family, leaving is a very gradual process. Some people can just cut everyone off and start new, but for me, it is a process to disentangle myself from the relationships and support systems that exist with the Family. Some of us are attempting to make new connections and new attachments separate from this group. It may be hard to understand, but a lot of us have grown up with our entire families and friends and even employers and teachers all being within the Family. If some one is living in an area like Maine, near so many other members, leaving can be extremely isolating and painful. I know for a fact that there are some areas that no matter where you go; the store, a walk to town, the doctor's office, work, you can't avoid running into a Family member. Several times a day sometimes. Once some one is labeled as an "enemy", this can be very uncomfortable, especially if they don't have a new support system or circle of friends in place. Most move away, or stay away if they are already gone for work or college.
I guess I resent not having ANY sort of "safe haven" from Family. When it comes to religious institutions, that is a part of separating for some people. I may want to convert, and join a synagogue in which I identify with to be a part of a valid community, or have that to offer to my future children. It would be nice to be able to offer something sincere to that community. Maybe it is just too simple and idealistic, but some things in life should be free from corruption.

Sometimes I would like to be somewhere without the shadow of the Family hanging over me. I want to enjoy a service, or an event without feeling like I am under scrutiny, or being reported on to the leadership. Also, I don't want to be in the presence of all the history and baggage that comes with each Family relationship.

I suppose the only real way to separate from the family successfully is to separate physically as well as figuratively. Moving may be the the most clean break after all, especially if there are children involved. There must be a better place to survive the coming catastrophe than the Rockies or the Maine tundra, right?
I keep thinking of the article from the 70's article posted on Freckle's blog:
They're Out to Grab Your Kids...

Back then Jack's group was out proselytizing just like these groups, and the Jewish community did not like it at all. The family doesn't do that anymore, and they are not trying to get Jewish members away from synagogues, but it does make me wonder; for those people still fully involved in the Family, and who have access to all of the Family's religious and holiday services and activities and schools, what is the purpose of also joining a synagogue?
John converted. Don Smestad did not.Very few did. Why are any of them going to synagogues in Maine and Upstate NY, or LI or Colorado? Also, how do they reconcile the major differences n philosophies and beliefs, like, um, Jesus?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Pedersen, Judaism and Jack's roots

There has been much discussion about the various theologies and philosophies that Jack Hickman drew from during his formation and progression of his group. It truly does appear as a hodge-podge of ideas that don't make much sense when you try to understand it from a linear, logical position.
However, there was one particular theologian whose concepts were (are) central to the Family, and probably Jack's main influence; Johannes Pedersen.

Jack was very well read, and extremely well versed in Pedersen's works. His concepts were integrated into a large portion of Jack's teachings, especially to the youth after 1996. But they were also a central theme long before that, in teachings and even in the structure and context of the "Covenant of Shoresh Yishai". He specifically taught from Pedersen's work "Israel, It's Life and Culture" which is an English translation of the original four volumes published in Denmark in the 1920s and 30s. This work was the subject of a series of teachings by Jack called the "Israel" teachings. he taught these to the youth in Colorado while he still lived there, and the lessons were printed and distributed to all of the other youth in Maine and elsewhere.
Jack envisioned his group as the ancient Israelites, and modeled it after Pedersen's perception of the social structure and politics of ancient Israel, as well as it's traditions. This was the framework of the family; it's political structure, the hierarchy and the formation of Mishpachot. All of the other beliefs and practices of the Family are incorporated into that framework.

I want to get into Jack's interpretation of Pedersen, and the Family's progression in relation to it, but first I want to mention a little bit of Jack's ancestry. I researched this awhile back, but honestly, I lost interest. I thought about the comment that asked if it really mattered who Jack was, and i realized it didn't. What if he was really a secret Jew? What if he was somehow a descendant of Jesus (along with every other narcissistic cult leader)? Who cares? No matter who he is, he is still a liar, a fraud, a sexual predator and a glutton.
But, I said I would post what I found, so I'll begin with this:

Jack's mother's maiden name was Pedersen. That doesn't mean anything, but I often wonder if Jack's fascination with Johannes Pedersen had anything to do with the shared surname. Jack fancied himself many things, such as a prophet, a Jew,  a descendant of Jesus, the reincarnation of  Jacob, blah blah blah. No doubt he also fancied himself a relative of Johannes Pedersen. Did this fascination begin after he became interested in Judaism because some one mentioned that he looked like a Jew? Or was he already familiar with Pedersen, and his interest was rekindled with his new preoccupation with all things Jewish? I suppose it doesn't matter, but I still wonder.

Is Jack related to Johannes Pedersen? No, almost certainly not..  It is very improbable. For some perspective, here is a little something about The Pedersen name in general, as well as all surnames in Denmark:
Pedersen is the 4th most common surname in Denmark, and 164,629 individuals there carry it, as of January 2014. * It is essentially equivalent to having the last name "Brown" in the US. Few of the thousands of "Pedersens" are related, just as few "Browns" are. You will find individuals with those names in every town, in every phone book. They are generic names. The only thing all people with the Pedersen name share;  they are related to some one from their family tree who bore the name Peder (Peter).  And just like in the US, Peter is a very common name.

In Denmark, the assumption of inborn family names didn't take place until 1828 when naming acts were issued that applied to the whole population. The majority of the existing surnames then and now, follow the patronymic tradition, which means the suffix "sen" ("son") is attached to the father's given name. So, if your father's name was "Peder", you were "Pedersen", literally meaning "Peter's son", or "son of Peter". In earlier times, daughters would have the suffix "datter" attached to their father's name. Peder's sons would carry the name Pedersen, and his daughters would be called Pedersdatter. While the suffix "datter" still appears, it is less common today.
The remaining names that do not use the patronymic tradition use occupations (such as Schmidt (smith) or Fisker (fisher). Even fewer use location names after the villages of their ancestors.
Before the 19th century, surnames didn't exist among the general population. Any attempt to trace lineage prior to that is extremely difficult unless a person has access to personal family records, as well as access to any existing local village and church records.

As far as Jack Hickman, where does Pedersen appear in his family tree?

Jack was born on December 13, 1931 in Barton, Oregon. He was the first child and only son. His parents were John Lovell Hickman and Adeline (Pedersen) Hickman. At the time of his birth, Adeline was 20, and John was 29. Seven years later, Jack's sister Joanna was born.  Jack's father worked at a general store in Barton, but the store closed due to the depression. The Hickmans moved to a logging camp at Bridal Veil on the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon for employment. It was essentially a logging camp that consisted of approximately 50 other families. John was employed as a fireman on a log-hauling train. According to the 1930 census, John and Adeline were married and living in Barton with no children. By the 1940 census, they were living in rural Multnomah county (the logging camp) with their 2 children. By the mid-1950's, the family was no longer there, and were living in Portland, Oregon.

Jack claimed that his grandparents were ship builders in Denmark. I have not found any evidence to support that, though his maternal grandparents did, in  fact, emigrate here from Denmark.

Jack's mother, Adeline Pedersen, was born in the United States in 1912, in Minnesota. In 1920, she was still living in Minnesota with her family.  Her parents were Lena (Jensen) and Jens Pedersen.  Lena was born in Denmark in 1875 or 1876. She emigrated to the US around 1891-1893. Her parents were Lars and Marren Jensen (born 1850, Denmark).
Adeline's father Jens (Jack's maternal grandfather) was born in Denmark around 1867. He was a farmer. He arrived in the US in 1892 or 93.
In 1896, Jens and Lena married.
According to the 1900 federal census, Jens and Lena lived in Meadow, Iowa. Their household consisted of the two of them along with their first child, a son named Nohe, born in December of 1896. Also living with them was Lena's mother, Marren, who was widowed by 1900, and Lena's 10-year-old brother Anton.

Jack had claimed that his maternal grandparents were shipbuilders in Denmark. That isn't true.
Interestingly, Nohe (Noah), who was Jack's uncle, was the only shipbuilder to turn up in the family. He married, but had no children. He lived in Virginia and was employed by Newport News Shipbuilding. He died in Virginia in 1987. I don't know if Jack knew him well growing up, but he must have been aware of his profession. Like most liars, he incorporated little bits of truth into his tales. According to the records I have seen, Jack's grandparents from Denmark were farmers and laborers, as they were here in the United States.

By 1920, the household had grown. Noah was an adult on his own, but three of their other children were still at home; Lorina, age 19, Adeline, age 8 and Eleanor, age 5. At this time, they were living in Knife Lake, Minnesota.

The 1930 Federal Census shows that Lena is now widowed, and living in Barton, Oregon with her only child still at home, Eleanor, age 15. They lived near another daughter, Adeline and her husband John Hickman. Adeline would have Jack less than a year later.

The Foibles of Abba article was very well researched, and it's authors Joseph Berger and Alan Finder reveal a lot of Jack's early and family history. We learn that Jens Pedersen passed away in 1926, years before Jack's birth, and is buried in Oregon. Jack never met him, despite his claims that Jens was the "48th Abba" and instructed him on his secret Jewish history and Kabbalah. In fact, Jens and Lena were devout Baptists. According to the article, Jack adored his grandmother and he told her he was going to be a minister when he grew up. This must have been the motivation behind Jack's choice to attend Bob Jones University.
Eleanor Whalen, Jack's maternal Aunt, was quoted in the Foibles article. She lived nearby while Jack was growing up, and knew him well. She insisted that Jack never even met his paternal grandfather, who also passed away before Jack's birth. His sister Joanna concurred. They also denied any knowledge of Judaism in their family history. The name "Goldhammer" was mentioned; apparently Jack claimed to have a Jewish grandmother by that name. That name has never appeared in any of my research into Jack's genealogy, on either his maternal or paternal side. jack's sister and aunt also admitted that they never heard that name except from Jack himself. I have also researched the name itself, and found absolutely no link to any of the names that appear in his history, nor any of the areas Jack's family descends from. The fact that Jack needed to make up a Jewish-sounding name to convince people he had a Jewish background is further evidence that there was no Judaism connected with his Pedersen ancestors.

The only Judaism found in Jack's family tree is through his sister Joann. She married an Iraqi Jew and apparently converted to Judaism. Jack claimed that he often referred to her regarding Jewish law (why? Wasn't he trained and brought up as a secret Jew?). She denied he ever asked her anything relating to Judaism.
It is interesting to note that Jack's sister Joann came to Maine and attended Jack's funeral in Corinna. The funeral was held and attended by Family members only, and John Hove conducted the service. It struck me at the time as strange that she was there. It actually confirmed the validity of the Family at the time. I still wonder why she came to Maine and participated in this after confirming that Jack had lied about his entire family. As his only remaining next-of-kin, why didn't she have his body brought to Oregon and buried with his family? I wish now that I paid more attention to who she was with, who she spoke to and what her demeanor was like.

Jack's Great-grandmother's maiden name was Hansen. There is a great deal of information on that surname in Denmark, and geneology, however it is irrelevent in this context. jack never knew these relatives, nor has he ever mentioned them. In addition, Judaism doesn't appear in that family tree either.

I will post information about Jack's paternal family in another post. There is nothing too interesting there, but will post it anyway for the sake of being thorough. I will also post more about Pedersen's work in the context of Jack and the Family in the near future.

Below are some links sourcing some of the information I posted.

Johannes Pedersen

Danish Surnames

Jewish-Danish Surname Information

Baptism record:
NAME:Jens Pedersen
BIRTH DATE:16 dec 1867
BAPTISM DATE:2 feb 1868
BAPTISM PLACE:Kolstrup Sogn,Odense,Denmark
FATHER:Lars Pedersen
MOTHER:Karen Hansen

1930 census:

NAME:Lena Pederson
[Leva Pederson] 
BIRTH YEAR:abt 1876
HOME IN 1930:Barton, Clackamas, Oregon
CLASS OF WORKER:Working on own account
NEIGHBORS:View others on page
Lena Pederson54
Eleanor E Pederson15

1920 Census:
NAME:Adeline M Pedersen
[Adeline W Pedersen] 
BIRTH YEAR:abt 1912
HOME IN 1920:Knife Lake, Kanabec, Minnesota
FATHER'S NAME:Jens Pedersen
MOTHER'S NAME:Lina Pedersen
NEIGHBORS:View others on page
Jens Pedersen52
Lina Pedersen45
Lorina Pedersen19
Adeline M Pedersen8
Eleanor E Pedersen5

1900 Census:
NAME:Jens Pedersen
HOME IN 1900:Meadow, Clay, Iowa
SPOUSE'S NAME:Lena Pederson
OCCUPATION:View on Image
NEIGHBORS:View others on page
Jens Pedersen32
Lena Pederson25
Nohe Pederson3
Marren Jensen50
Anton Jensen10