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The Primrose Path

The Primrose Path
by Carol Matas
Blizzard Publishing (73 Furby St., Winnipeg MB Canada R3C 2A2), $7.95.

At 13, Debbie thinks life is going well. She has a best friend and she’s deep into the youth group at her family’s Reform temple. Then her parents move the family across the country, and she is enrolled in a school attached to an Orthodox synagogue. The rabbi, who is her teacher, brings Torah stories to life, tells jokes, and, strangest of all, tickles and teases the girls.

Debbie’s new friends fill her in on inside jokes, teach her Orthodox customs (like covering her arms and legs even in hot weather), and decode the unfamiliar rituals. But one thing remains a mystery; the rabbi continually does things like touch the girls’ breasts, or put his hands in between their legs. Why, she asks herself, does the rabbi touch the girls in places that no person should?

Finally she tells her father what she’s been witnessing.

The synagogue’s board asks Debbie to testify in front of the rabbi. Before long, other grown women come forward and tell similar stories of when the rabbi molested them. The rabbi at first convinces the board that the women are lying. As the days go on, more people, including Debbie’s own mother, begin to tell stories of the rabbi’s misconduct.

This young adolescent, struggling with the difficult issues of whom to tell, how much to tell, and how to confront authority figures, realizes she has done the right thing because she helped prevent the problem from recurring.