Monday, February 28, 2011

The Foibles of Abba: yes, I still can't believe I was in a cult.

On January 14th of this year, one of my very best friends said, Dude. Remember when our parents wouldn't let us talk about that article that was posted about our "family" in 1982? Well I found it, and I think for your sanity, and for the sanity of your new family, and for the need to rid your life of guilt, you need to read this article! So stupidly, without thinking about the life shattering consequences, I read it.  And my life will never be the same.

Before I delve into a hysterical rambling of how one actually makes impossibly stupid things fit into their brain in order to believe them and why I feel like my life was stolen from me, let me say this: I'm not sorry for knowing the truth now.  I am better for it. I mean, really better. 

The truths of my life have been the perpetuated lies of a master manipulator, pedophile, and sociopath.  Please read below to understand and you will see why I have been a little strange this winter. Well, stranger than normal.
I would like to highlight a couple of interesting facts that may explain why I might start doing things "out of character."

1) I am not jewish. That was the biggest lie.  I will no longer be practicing any Jewish holidays forthwith. Please don't wish me a happy new year in the middle of September, and don't make me matzah anything. I will eat and make challah because I love bread and its delicious, but otherwise it's pretentious to continue to perpetuate a lie that pegs you as "God's chosen people" and I feel that I need to apologize to every real Jew out there right now! So Sorry.

2) I am actually part German (and that just explains SO much! lol) This is just one of many things my parents "left out" of my geneological history because they felt it didn't mash up with the "jewish" lie. I guess they've never really read the history of WWII.

3) I was severely damaged by my parents, my sister, "aunts," and uncles"( that weren't actually related), due to my family's involvement with this cult. This means that I'm not likely to be super trusting anymore. I was hurt by the people who were supposed to protect me and love me unconditionally. So that means  I also won't be putting up with the normal piddly bullshit that my "friends" put me through because I just won't allow myself to be emotionally manipulated anymore. So if you find that I'm not talking to you as much anymore, it's not me, it's you. And you suck. Stop treating people shitty and start being truthful and honest and actually friendly, and maybe we can talk.

4) I will no longer speak to my parents or anyone willingly a part of what these people are still doing. I will not allow them any more access to my life, my mind, my family, or my decisions.

5) I am no longer speaking to my sisters, either of them, because they are willing to forgive my parents for this. For endangering us. I am not. It went on too long. And my parents are not sorry.  They might say they are, but then suddenly, the truth comes out and you get told that you are "a radical" or "fucked up" (actual quotes of things said to Me and the older sister by my father) and really.... is that what parents say when they are trying to console you over the biggest issue you'll ever have to face in your life? No. That's what cowards say when they realize they are not willing to take responsibility for their actions.

 6) This group is still active all over the country. I won't even say what they are doing now.  Just stupid "the world is going end" religious nonsense.

7) I am borderline atheist now, but mostly totally agnostic, I have no idea what I think about the bible anymore, but Jesus was probably a cool guy, just don't expect me to drink his kool aid.

8) I may or may not be vegetarian anymore.  I agree with it in terms of health, but hate the idea because it came from these people. Since finding out I've had some Maine Shrimp and some venison. Both were tasty.

9) I still can't believe how much of this garbage I actually believed.

10) Even reasonably intelligent people can be taken in by belonging to something special, in search of God.  That makes people willing to search long and hard for God very dangerous, and people willing to be the trailblazers even scarier.

Please note, I didn't realize a lot of these things until I read the article below. It was horrible and earth shattering, and I had to face some real truths about my life and say, wow. I cannot and will not continue to live this way just because I always have, and I have spent the last 6 weeks taking my life back and figuring out what is true, and what was part of the lie. I think this process will take a long time, but I'm willing to work on it.

For the shock of a lifeline and more clarification on what the hell I'm talking about, please read below. This article was published in 1982 in the New York Daily News, 3 months after I was born. My parents did not read it, because they are sheep. They never questioned what was said in it or the validity of the statements because they are lazy followers who need other people to feel important and belong. Their pride and longing to be a part of something special overrode their responsibility as parents to question certain tactics and red flags of wrong doing.
They are no longer a part of this because they fell out of favor, and were not receiving the attention they felt they deserved and are now a part of a Wesleyan Church that has some scary similarities to what they had with the Abenseurs.

I encourage questions. I am not totally ashamed of this, partly ashamed though.  I feel like I am too intelligent to have gone along with it so long. But, I just keep telling myself... it was all I knew.  I was born into this method of thinking. I am all for breaking the mold, and I think I have, but did it have to take me so damn long? Stupid brainwashing.... I will be spending some quality time making my brain dirty again. ;) Thoughts, arguments, cartoons, and comics are all appreciated.


  1. After posting this, I realized this does not even begin to explain all that I have gone through. The article, is disgusting, and strange. But it only brings into the light some of the things that I was taught as time went on. The "teachings" of Abba, or Jack Hickman continued, particularly as his psychosis and mental illness grew worse with age.
    If you would like to see how other people have been affected by the cult of Jack Hickman, known as Shoresh Yishai, or to insiders "the family," go to this website. A lot of it is trivial with a few people who were really out to attack others in the group thanks to the paranoia associated with being in and being victimized by a cult. But a read of any of the threads will tell you that this cult was much worse underneath than even the daily news article describes.,65089,page=64

    I should also point out that there are over 600 posts, with 52,000 people having read through this thread. Can you imagine? Even if you suppose that the same person looked at it about 10 times... that's still a lot of views. There's a lot of angry people out there.

  2. As a former "family" member, this brought back a loy of memories, some good some bad...It is beyond belief there are still individuals following and believing this rubbish. Peace my friend and I wish you only the have been liberated.

  3. Hello! Thanks for posting the article here. I was there back in the beginning of this mess. I was close with Nancy and Richie and Dennis. Sweet Dennis and I were close childhood friends. I remember the 'hush hush' thing that Dennis DID....Jack Hickman would not tell most of us what that was but rather that Dennis, Dennis NOT Jack himself, committed some unforgiveable sin. My heart was broke. Dennis was not allowed near any of the youth and if we were known to be associating with him, we too would be 'thrown out' into the ....abyss! I cried for Dennis many times, attempted to go against the crowd and contact him and i was severely reprimanded--and therefore pushed out of the most inner circle -- imagine as a girl of 16 thinking for years that my salvation was hanging by a thread because I missed my dear friend!!! No one, not even his brother RICHIE, WOULD TAKE UP FOR HIM! And now reading this article again makes me sick. Dennis was THE VICTIM OF THIS SODOMIZING PEDOPHILE...thrown into confusion and forsaken by most that he loved. I remember Mrs Walsh, Dennis' mother, crying over what happened to her son, though she knew nothing of this, only saw the aftermath. I stayed with the 'family' till 1980 when my fiancee at the time turned away and I was given the ultimatum of being part of the family or staying with him. In the end I did neither. I broke it off with him and slowly drew away from the only family I had known, (having grown up in St John's...with my parents being dear friends with the Hoves and most of the principal players back then). It is so hard to believe how even after this came out....PEOPLE STAYED AND RAISED THEIR CHILDREN IN THIS! I am sorry that is your story! I am so glad that Nancy Gerdes Boles pulled away from it and yet so ashamed and FURIOUS that Richie would stay, betraying yet again his BROTHER THIS WAY. I pulled away and in 1983 took my children and ran away to Atlanta to be far from 'family' and have a new start. I still carry scars from these people...from the 'us/them' mentality, from always trying to be good enough for God. My children are now grown and having had raised them in a totally different environ am proud to say they are all healthy and safe...having families of their own. I still wonder about the initial group...Lou R, Gail G., Deb S., Nancy G-- those of us who held onto every word of Jack's. Those of us who gained self worth thru how he deemed to dole it out...and it makes me sick. I've searched for answers about the group and have looked for my dear friend Dennis over the years to no avail. I have since reading on a forum realized that my friend Dennis has passed on. I pray that by the time his life was ending he found some peace. I mean this is just ONE life of THOUSANDS this lunatic screwed up!! He was a TEENAGER....very confused. I do believe that Dennis was gay but Jack turned that into something DISGUSTING!!!! Dennis was a talented, sensitive, caring BOY who yearned for approval from a father-figure since he could never measure up in his own house to his older brother Richie or to his strict father who didn't 'like sissies'! He trusted Jack and Jack took that trust, violated it and then made Dennis the one to be shunned. Even 30 years later, I laid in bed last night and grieved for my friend. Grieved for myself and the lack of spirituality this sick man caused myself and thousands of others. I'm 54 and still wonder where I 'fit in' to G-d's plan, still feel at times less then...all because I cared and loved a young man who was violated.
    I wish you peace on your journey. I am so glad you are healing as you face the truth, even though it is hard, you are young and can do this.
    With freedom always comes a price...but the price of taking back your soul is worth every drop of blood and tears.
    Wishing you peace on your journey.

  4. Thank you anonymous. And thank you for sharing part of Dennis's story. What a horrible crime was committed to that young man, and Lou as well. To be told over and over again that you are exponentially special. To be shaped and molded and coddled and stroked and then spurned away for being the very person you thought you should be! I can't imagine a more horrible fate, disloyalty, and violation into a person's life. And also the desertion of the entire family! The mothers and brothers... how could they just walk away? I've spent hours trying to figure out how they could not have questioned! Wondering if they too were a part of things and "rites of passage" that instead of making them bold made them shameful and obedient! Richie and Phil are still around, zealous and pious idiots full of advise and admonitions. Their own children full of conflict and strife, always pushing for transient perfection. It's disgusting.

  5. I am sure I know your parents, I grew up with them in this cult. i do not know who they are or who you are though would love for you to say to me alone. I am as at best guess as old as your folks or your grandparents. There are many of us who find you and those like you alien children we should know and love and ye t do not know how to reach you all.
    I struggle as I realise today & daily with the anger and frustration that Shoresh brought me as this aging adult, s I lost my friends my family all becuz a Man we trust betrayed US all. YOu ME MY PARENTS..I AM A DANGER JUNKIE NOW.LET US BEGIN TO ALL HEAL TOGETHER.
    You are angry? Think on ME and those of my age who left...who ran...who are still dealing..
    thank you for still being open to share..we are here..we seem still afraid.

  6. Hey Freckle Face---I am the Anonymous (Call me KG)that made the entry of 5/10/11. I am curious as to how Lou ended up. Was he exiled too like Dennis was? How interesting (in a sad sick way) that both of their brothers, Richie and Phil were always jealous at first at how close Dennis and Lou were to Jack Hickman (I REFUSE to use the name Abba for this pedophile). To the poster of July 6 I believe I am of your generation from this cult. It is so disturbing to see ppl in their 50s still trying to heal. I am so thrilled that I had 4 beautiful children who knew NOTHING of these people...who have a spiritual walk and who were taught by me to QUESTION EVERYTHING!!! Freckle Face I hope you are doing well along your journey. Namaste and peace.

  7. Thanks KG. Lou is alive, and I believe he lives in NY. As I understand it, he is totally leery of anyone and anything related to this "group." Not that I blame him. As far as my other sources might reveal, he remains a homosexual with limited family (blood) interaction, considering they all deserted him for this group. I don't know anything else about him other than his brother is insane. If I could name 5 people that did their best to fuck me up in this group, sought me out to have conversations with me to be sure I was on the right path, but always confirming that I needed more "work" it was Phil & Carol, my parents, "Uncle" Jake, and Richie. Unfortunately, they all have kids my age that I think they used that against me to get into my personal life and perpetuate that feeling of altered perfection, and constant devotion.
    We all want to trust our "friends" don't we? Well I couldn't. Part of me knew that. The conversations that I've had with their kids have made my skin crawl to the point that I remember some of them verbatim!! Who does that? Not me, really. I remember not the words from a conversation, but how I felt about it. But these guys, I remember the words. It was so foreign, and so weird. I thought about their words for hours. As I now have a different perspective in which to process their words, they've taken on a whole new meaning!
    I would like to say that I pray for them, but I don't. When I think about them, I think they knew exactly what they were saying to me, and exactly how it might affect me. It always seemed aimed at questioning my inner judgment. Gee, wonder why? Could it be that I was telling that my inner judgment went against all we had learned? No. Not that. Right?
    Let me just say that these kids are some of the most repressed people I've ever seen in my life, and I work in healthcare, so I've seen a LOT of repressed people!
    But, they are also the most beautiful people you'll ever meet. They always know the right thing to say. They seem to always be surrounded by people, yet untouchable. They are angry, but not outwardly, not extrovertedly. It's inward. A lesser spirit would certainly take an inward shutter at an encounter with one of these people. I did, at one time. But not fully. There was always something wrong.
    How happy can I be that my parents took one of the paths less traveled by? Exponentially! Maybe they did it by accident. Maybe it occurred to one of them that they should not stick too near the "group," but it was enough.
    Thank God. It was enough for me to build a self-esteem not based on fear and manipulation but on how people actually deal with one another. Maybe my true sense of human nature helped me to sense that the people in this group are wrong, are tainted.
    I'll never deny about the still small voice. It not for that, then I would not be here.

  8. hey FF,
    i was 'in' from 1971-1981.
    firstly let me say- WOW!, nicely written.

    i'm sad, angry, frustrated, to read about this stuff after 30 yrs. (i also 'found' the RR site, about 6 months ago.)
    since i left in 1981(?), i've stayed close w/many of my friends who had also left. why?, cause we were in the cult together?... no, cause we actually like,(love) each other. liked the same things, music, books, movies, etc. you know, like normal friends; except, we all share that 'history' of trying to serve god, and finding out we were on the wrong path. led by a sick, delusional man.
    most are 'spiritual' people, but can no longer relate, believe, or trust 'organized religion'.
    me personally, i look at the history of christianity, and i see a small group, w/ a charismatic leader. the disciples were the inner circle. they found other converts, then grew and changed. they too were waiting for the endtimes. sounds a bit 'familar', eh?
    then, after centuries of 'persecution', they were finally decreed by Constantine, 'the official religion of the roman empire'.
    if the JH family doesn't die out, or worse yet, grows - in a 100 yrs, it could be accepted as 'normal'!!! SCARY

  9. Wow Rick....that last sentence will now keep me up at night. I am so grateful for teaching my (now adult children with their own families) to QUESTION EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING....not to be paranoid but to question as to what their inner instincts are telling them. Honestly as I said before, if there is a Hell, I hope there is a special place in it for Jack Hickman! ~KGJ~

  10. I can still remember with stunning detail the first time I found this article. 2:00 in the morning, reeling, trying to understand why I was so suspicious of what Gary and I had talked about earlier in the day, and why I suddenly felt as though I was about to lose the best thing I ever had.

    At the same time, I know it's good to know the truth. As painful as it was...fuck.

  11. I know this is an old post, but its very informative on the foibles of Abba, and your writing is extremely funny. I hope you keep it up!

  12. I was there. It's easy to say, from a distance and in hindsight -- especially if you're of a younger generation -- that people should have seen through the corruption at the center of the group. But at the time, there were many of us who were sincere, who had little or no connection with the inner circles, and who found a lot of meaning and support at St. John's. The times were very different. There were lots of cults -- many more than today -- because people felt lost and were searching for answers. After a decade or so of social upheaval, there was widespread exhaustion and a yearning for something to believe in. The dream of a social revolution was dead or dying. Young people turned to the spiritual -- or to the deeply personal -- instead. Especially after Kent State (1970) and the Watergate scandal (1974-ish). It's impossible to convey how different it was from today.

    Your posts about what happened with the ALC show that you don't really understand how it was. I met the visiting committee; they came to our house for a Shabbat meal. What's left unsaid in many of the surviving letters and articles about the ALC investigation is that the group was calling on the Lutheran church to recognize its institutionalized antisemitism, particularly its refusal to acknowledge its failure to stand against the Nazis in Europe 30 years previously. That's the real reason why we were expelled.

    Also, jurisdiction had little to do with anything. The people who came from a distance did so because their local churches were virtually dead; lame, self-satisfied social clubs. Most of the members who came from other churches found St. John's through a friend or acquaintance who told them about it. No one forced them into it; it was always a personal choice. The ministers and officials who complained were mostly upset about losing revenue and bodies in the pews. Their teaching was pablum, if it existed at all. Compared to them, JH seemed like a college prof. I'm just saying how it was.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not defending anyone or anything that went on. I remain damaged by the experience, like many other survivors unable to commit to any group or trust any teacher. And I have my own story about how my personal life was destroyed by one of the leaders. I just want to set the record straight. It wasn't all tainted by JH. There were some good people, especially away from the inner circles, and some very good times. If there hadn't been, the group wouldn't have grown and stayed as strong as it was (and still is, I'm amazed to discover). This is part of the dilemma of being a survivor of those days: anger at what happened, and deep sadness at the loss of a lot of love and connection -- as well as the fear of forming new connections.

    Try to bear in mind that, like most things, it was complicated. Avoid simplistic thinking and one-note perspectives if you really want to understand what happened. Peace and best of luck to you all.

    1. [From the same person who wrote the above post]: P.S. I am very sorry for your pain, and for what happened to your family. I was still a member of the group when you were born, and may have known your parents (don't tell me, I don't want to know who they are). Before the big split in the group, Nancy Boles approached me and questioned me in a very oblique way, to see if I were having any doubts about JH. I had no idea what was coming, and thought she was testing my loyalty. Just shows what the mindset was by that time. I left once I realized that I'd totally lost touch with the person I'd been before I joined... Try not to blame yourself for not seeing the truth of things, and have the best life you can. It's really the only way to go on.

  13. Anonymous from 12/6/12:

    I'm sorry. I don't care to hear the group defended. You joined and left as a part of your OWN searching. You chose that, just as you chose to leave. Because you were an adult, and you were responsible for yourself. Although you left for likely the right reasons, you also have remorse about what you left behind because a bunch of people whose interest it benefitted made you feel like you belonged to something larger than yourself. Congratulations, you found mob mentality.

    So consider for a few minutes if you hadn't left. Then had kids. Then told them that everything that Jack said was the absolute Truth. Then also altered parts of your history and failed to ever divulge that there was an incident where your self proclaimed savior was a pedophile... despite multiple complaints of abusive behaviors and lots of questions....

    Now your kids are in their 20's. How would they feel about this? How would they feel about years of abusive relationships they put up with because Jack told everyone they had to be loving or be cut off from the kingdom of God? How would you feel about allowing your children to be around pedophiles and rapists because you just wanted to belong to this great thing, this great churchy group that made you feel shiny?

    I might not understand how it was in the 70's, but you certainly do not seem to grasp how it was in the 90's and early 2000's.

    Everyone stayed because some part of the group made them feel good. Because there was LOVE in all of it. And the token guitar player and snacks and coffee. Of course there was. That's what there needed to be to get people invested. That is what is still continues to people stay in LOVE with the feeling of being a part of the group and can ignore those pesky rumors, and the questionable way things are handled, and those nasty allegations.

    Thankfully, I am ruled by more than pheromones.

  14. Some made profound, unforgivable errors in judgment that are compounded today by an unwillingness or inability to confront the deleterious effects association with this disfigured group promoted. Thank you for initiating this conversation. Appreciated.