I always used to associate the number ‘13’ with the bat mitzvah ceremony of my elder daughter Sari. I of course relived the joy three years later when my younger daughter Debra also handled the life-event with the effervescence and gifts they both manifest.
Both my daughters love life, are given to laughter, and are practiced creative artists.
It took indubitable courage for my daughter to reveal her private anguish into the glare of the American gossip culture.
So, thirteen was elation for me, their father. Now, since Sari Kamin has valiantly told her story of systemic sexual abuse on the part of a Broadway and film producer—letting the painful narrative bleed through her soul with quiet power and poignancy—thirteen is a bittersweet equation for me.
James Toback preyed on my little girl thirteen years ago, when she was a young (24 year-old) dreamer in the New York theater and he apparently despised innocence and eschewed any kind of moral rigor. As Sari continues to state publicly, “The time for being silent is over.”
What does a father feel when he reads and hears his daughter’s harrowing story in various media and watches her, through his tearful eyes, stand up on national television on behalf of her own dignity and that of so many incalculable victims of this plague-perversion?
The first thing he does not feel is any celebratory sense that his daughter is suddenly the subject of national interest and scrutiny. Pain should not derive fame; it needs to be released in the private corners of one’s subconscious, it needs to be mended with and by the mindful. It unequivocally needs to be reported—I’m proud of my child. But her pain needs more so to be redeemed. She needs to fulfill herself more than she is obligated to service CNN, NBC, and The New York Times.
So with the first of the tenderly eloquent and skillfully realized exposés Sari presented, I could only swallow in my paternal distress for my brave child. How could she have carried such a spiritual tumor for so many years—edifying, contemplative years of growth and transition? Where did I fail to be present enough for her, when she perhaps needed me more than ever? How do I process the unsettling descriptions of what that man did, or attempted to do to the child I used to fete at so many unforgettable theater trips and smaller, more important moments of school accomplishments and family adventures?
It took indubitable courage for my daughter to reveal her private anguish into the glare of the American gossip culture. It was altogether valiant and fitting to tell her story, thereby giving voice to voluminous other women who’ve also been cloaked in shame and self-contempt. Sari has turned the secrets scripts of Broadway into the transcripts of real-life dramas that must be reviewed.
But I’m not concerned about that anymore. I’m not thinking about the acclaim and the celebrity that she herself eschews. I’m thinking about my daughter’s soul, her inner being, and the beating of her heart.
And because I’ve watched her grow into the self-aware, transparent, charitable, and humble person that she is, I know she is in touch now with what she had to do and what she now has to avoid. I know that she is okay—she has told me so. And that’s the only report or commentary that I require.
So many years ago, a sweet bat mitzvah girl looked into the parchment-scroll of our tradition and chanted a lyric that gives me more hope than ever: “God gives strength to the weary.” Lately, that God has been working through my Sari.