FailedMessiah.com spoke with Shannon Orand several times since the Tropper/Eternal Jewish Family scandal broke, and a couple times before that. Our most recent conversation took place yesterday.
Shannon converted to Orthodox Judaism in Israel in early January.
What follows is Shannon's explanation of how the scandal developed, put together from those conversations:
I was married to Charles Brady Orand. Brady had several affairs. I was very much a Christian. I believed if I prayed enough God would change him. That wasn’t going to happen.
My husband had wanted some sexual things that I wasn't comfortable with but did because they were important to him.
Brady was working in Ohio and coming home every other weekend. I decided to surprise him for Valentine’s one year and went up there and met all of his friends in a bar up there – a get-together party I went to.
We fought while I was up there and we decided to get divorced.
When I got back I got calls from two women. They told me I’d done the right thing. Brady had been sleeping with both of them and neither knew about the other or that he was married. So I separated, took the kids and went to an apartment.
I had kind of left Christianity and was not doing much at all religiously…There are rumors I had affairs. That’s not true … I started seeing a secular Israeli guy…very anti-religious, very against everything I now stand for.…He was also separated and going for a divorce.
He wanted to take me to Israel to meet all his friends over there.
When I was in Tel Aviv I contacted my mother. She was very religious, very Christian, and she was complaining I was spending all my time in Tel Aviv partying, going to clubs and meeting his friends and family, and on the beach. You’re in Israel and you’re not going to see the places Jesus was? So I decided to spend one day in Jerusalem. When I came back I started going back to a messianic synagogue – I had been involved in the messianic movement but not so seriously – and at the same time I started studying all the counter-missionary stuff. And then I started my studies [for conversion to Orthodox Judaism]. That started my studies.
During the separation Brady molested my daughter. She was mine before I married him. She’s from my first marriage. My son is from my second marriage to Brady. She knew him as daddy. So when we were separated, that was her house, too, and she wanted to go back to visit and she wanted to see him. We had two kids – she didn’t know him as a stepdad.
When she had weekends available, she would go visit just like my son would go visit, just like a normal visitation, even though she wasn’t his child.
She was ten. My son was five.
One of the times, she came back, and nothing happened. But the next week – it was vacation, it was the 4th of July – she was supposed to go with him because I had to work and then go with my mother for the rest of the week, but she said no, I don’t want to go to daddy, I want to say here. We tried to talk her into it. She got very upset and said she can’t go. She pulled my niece aside and said you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to tell grandma not to let me go to daddy’s.
The next day my mother called me and said we have to talk. The reason my daughter didn’t want to go is because on the last visit he got into bed with her and messed with her. He fingered her and he hurt her. She said, “Daddy you’re hurting me,” but he wouldn’t stop.
My son and my daughter were in bed together when Brady abused my daughter. My daughter got away from him by asking to use the bathroom, and she tried to stay in the bathroom for a long time hoping he would fall asleep. But then she went back in the bed. We asked her why and she said, “Because my brother was there, I didn’t want him to hurt him. He was going to hurt my brother.”
Brady was charged. We prepared for the trial. The prosecution had the doctor’s report of my daughter’s medical examination. It showed the physical damage. The first day of the trial he decided to take the plea bargain, which was ten years probation. So he didn’t have to serve time.
I was abused as a kid. I was so young, it wasn’t as if I was being violated – it was all that I knew. My daughter was old enough to know she was being violated. It started when I was three and I didn’t know anything was wrong until I was nine years old and there was a McGruff the Crime Dog program at school telling kids what’s wrong and what’s right. If anyone does this to you you go to an adult. That was the first time I knew anything was wrong and I right away said someone does that to me! A much older step-brother, my mother’s husband’s son.
My abuse was long-term. My daughter’s was one time, maybe. I thought maybe she wouldn’t suffer so much, but she did. She suffered terribly.
She chose to go to an all girls school just to avoid being around boys. She used to put up booby traps in her room when she’d sleep so no one could get in. She’s been affected very, very much.
It was a long divorce. He told friends that it wasn’t true, that he didn’t abuse my daughter, and that that this was all about me wanting to get half of the house. So I ended up dropping everything and signing the divorce papers right away and left with nothing and threw all of my focus into my daughter’s case. And then we went to the criminal trial.
He pled guilty in 2007. I agreed to the plea bargain that was in print. There were special restrictions for sex offenders. One of those was that he could not have any access to children under the age of eighteen.
While they were in front of the judge, his attorney said he wanted to add a line on there: “With the exception of my son, if the family court permits.” So he hand-wrote that on there.
The judge looked at that and said, that’s for the family courts to decide, and okayed it, not knowing there was already a standing court order – which was a divorce – which was a standard custody just like any other father gets, full access to my son.
So the DA took me out and said this was approved, this was put in there, you go to a family court right away and get this changed, so he can’t have access to your son. And that’s what I did.
He fought it and said he wants standard visitation. I wanted to leave Houston and get as far away from him as I can so he couldn’t have access to my son. My attorney said you’re going to have to take this to trial, and the trial is going to cost you at least $20,000. I went to friends. I went to advocacy organizations. I tried to find someone to take the case pro bono. She tried to bide time while I tried to come up with the $20,000. It wasn’t working and we had a deadline. She said: Either you come up with the money for the trial or we have to withdraw the case – and then it reverts back to the family court order and he gets full access to your son. And that is when I approached Rabbi Tropper, who was overseeing my conversion. He had access to money. He’s an organization and he had access to Tom Kaplan. He was a rabbi. I ended up crying to him about everything. I even told him about my husband's sexual demands. Tropper offered to help me. That was May 2009.
He created a job for me with EJF. He brought me to Monsey to meet everybody in the office, to have meetings with Rabbi Jacobs and Rabbi Medows about how I could help. I was going to raise money and I was going to run programs in Houston. That was June.
He started pressuring me.The video was the first recording I did. It was in Monsey on that trip. That’s when I bought the camera. I didn’t have time to set it up. The date’s wrong on the video. When I saw it I said, oh, that’s wrong.
He wanted to get me together with his wife. He said he wouldn’t touch me. I didn’t know if she was going to do it. He asked what it would take to get me together with his wife. I said it made me very uncomfortable. I tried to get out of it a little bit and Tropper could tell I was uncomfortable. He said: Maybe if I wasn’t there you’d be more comfortable. Then I talked to Leba and found out she’d never really been with a woman. She’d just been making up stories to please Tropper. They were just lies. She’s very submissive. She’s a victim in all this. So I told Tropper I’d be much more comfortable if he wasn’t there, and if it would be an ‘encounter’ we’d tell him about later. Tropper wanted to be there for the last five minutes. He still said he wasn’t going to touch me but I wasn’t so sure, so I went out and bought the camera. Leba and I didn’t do anything. We just rehearsed our story, the story we would tell Tropper. When he called to say he was coming we got undressed and waited.
I knew someone who was well-connected in Israel with the rabbis. The tapes were supposed to go to leading rabbis and everything was supposed to be handled internally. And it was working. Rabbi Amar broke with EJF and the European rabbis publicly condemned EJF.
But someone leaked the tapes.
I didn’t know my name was on one until you told me on the phone. It was horrible. The trial was supposed to conclude Monday. My daughter was supposed to testify in the morning and then the verdict would have been that afternoon. When we got to court my ex-husband’s attorney had copies of the New York Post article. Because it said the money Tropper was giving me was for legal fees, it was admissible. My ex-husband’s attorney had been terrible throughout the trial. We’d been living as frum Jews for years, and his attorney used that against us. He played up Orthodoxy as some kind of religious cult. He made Modern Orthodoxy seem like hasidim. He also kept saying it was only one time, and that’s horrific to me, because how many times is okay for a father to rape a ten year old girl?
There was child porn. I found a lot of it [before the molestation]. He came up with excuses why it was there I fell for.
My attorney pulled me aside and said I’d have to explain the article on the stand. I said, “No, I can’t. This is a different case. It’s not relevant. It has nothing to do with my children. Somehow you’ve got to get it out of there.” But she said, no, it’s totally relevant. In there it says the money you received went to the attorneys. My attorneys had been in touch with Tropper all the time. Tropper is a control freak. He had constant contact with them wanting to know what was going on, and he was sending the checks. And they knew all the money was coming from him. And that put us in a tough spot, because we’d have to say the money came from him.
This would have extended the trial, and I was already $10,000 negative – the money Tropper wasn’t going to give me. She said, “Gosh, you can’t afford this, another week or two or three at $2,000 per day for me to represent you. The audios are going to have to come out.”
She said, “Your only choice is to settle. You’re going to have to allow visitation.”
I’m looking at a picture of me and Tropper being distributed all over the courthouse. I panicked and I freaked. To me, settlement was the only option we had. There’s no way I could get on the stand and go through all this stuff. I didn’t know until the Friday you called me that my name was connected to it.
They wanted regular visits with his wife as supervisor. I said no way. She’s never going to tell if something is wrong and she has to sleep sometime. She can’t stay awake for seventy-two hours three days straight. My son and my daughter were in the bed together when he abused her, and he had a girlfriend in the house. So just because she’s there it’s not going to protect my kid. So then it was, he can have visitation but no overnight visits. That’s what it ended up being. He can have them for the three days and his wife is the supervisor but he can’t keep them overnight.
“It was horrible watching my daughter fall apart like that. She’s just now getting better.”
UPDATE 11:20 am –
Tablet Magazine has a story on Shannon Orand's journey from preacher's daughter to Orthodox Jew.
Tablet has also posted some of the audio tapes, and transcripts of portions of those tapes.
UPDATE 11:05 pm 1-25-10 – I spoke with Aaron Mandl and Binyamin Medetsky of Houston, Texas.
Both are prominent in the Houston Jewish community. Each contacted me separately with the same complaint: comments left here using their names (or a very close approximation of their names). Both pointed out they had left no comments here and said the comments left in their names did not reflect their views. Sockpuppeting – the impersonation of a person online – is a crime. It is also unethical and will not be tolerated. I have deleted those comments and banned the people who left them.
Both are prominent in the Houston Jewish community. Each contacted me separately with the same complaint: comments left here using their names (or a very close approximation of their names).
Both pointed out they had left no comments here and said the comments left in their names did not reflect their views.
Sockpuppeting – the impersonation of a person online – is a crime.
It is also unethical and will not be tolerated.
I have deleted those comments and banned the people who left them.