Leading Reform rabbi: ‘How I found meaning in pain’

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Leading Reform rabbi: ‘How I found meaning in pain’

Laura Janner-Klausner reveals how she coped with the ordeal of unproven sex abuse allegations against her late father in a new book, Bitesize Resilience: A Crisis Survival Guide.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner

Britain’s leading Reform rabbi is launching a book that deals with resilience in which she draws on her years of coping with the child sexual abuse accusations made against her late father Lord Janner.

Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner launches ‘Bitesize Resilience: A Crisis Survival Guide’ on Thursday evening with journalist Katie Glass before it goes on sale from Friday.

Janner-Klausner’s second book, it is designed for “anyone who needs help surviving crises” and proceeds will go towards the Molly Rose Foundation, a young people’s suicide prevention charity.

On Sunday she told an online Limmud audience that the past few years had been exceptionally hard for the family, and that it was “touch and go” as to whether she would come through it, having had suicidal thoughts at time.

Speaking to Jewish News this week, she said she started writing the book six years ago with Gabriel Pogrund, now a journalist for the Sunday Times.

“We’d go to my kitchen for three hours at a time, I’d lay out all this food because I was so anxious, and I’d sit there eating and talking, and he say there typing out what I said,” she explained.

She said the book was “not really about dad at all, it’s about what happened to me, what I learned and what others can learn,” acknowledging her lack of in-depth public commentary to-date regarding the effect of Janner’s accusations on the family.

Whilst she would not be drawn on whether “people are less resilient today than they once were,” she says there is “a big flag around young people’s mental health,” adding: “It seems like we’ve seen a spike in young people’s ill health. Where is that coming from? Why is that happening?”

Janner-Klausner’s book is written in a 365-day diary format, offering thoughts for each day, and said that her plan had been to release this just before 1 January but that the coronavirus pandemic meant that “it felt like we needed it now… We’re in a massive national crisis”.

After a “six-year ongoing crisis defending my father,” she said: “I have to find meaning in pain, and this [book] was a way of finding meaning, and I hope it gives other people resilience, because other people helped me be so resilient. I’m resilient because other people stepped in and looked after me.”

Asked whether she had taken risks writing it, she said: “I talk about very difficult things, not just my dad but also mental health. I’m very honest for good and for bad about relationships. I use my life as a kind of laboratory and feel quite vulnerable about it, knowing that by Friday people will be reading that. So was it brave? Yes.”

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