I want to understand the Leah Kleim (her real name) phenomenon.
She seems to get more traffic than me on her blog. She posts the occasional topless photo to maximize her viewership and then uses it to out some sexual predator in the chareidi world.
A poster using the name "Rebbitzen" writes: "Leah Kleim is covered in tattoos, she chain smokes, and her language is about as foul as it can get. She dresses like she pulled two articles of clothing off the floor and it really doesn’t matter what they are. Throw a cap on top and a couple of chains somewhere and she’s got that ‘Leah Look’. Leah is loud and obnoxious and IN YOUR FACE. She does stuff "The Leah Way" and she acts like she doesn’t care what anyone says or thinks. And she makes poor choices.BUTLeah is kind and she is giving to a fault. Leah is gentle and loving. Leah doesn’t lie.Leah has got your back. She’s there beyond the call of duty when you need help. In a real way. As real as SHE is. Leah Kleim has a beautiful neshama. She tries very hard, and many think she succeeds, to obscure that neshama. But it pulls at her. She damages her keili thinking it will hurt her neshama. She tries to drown it out. She tries to bribe it into silence. And Leah self sabotages.Leah desires to fix the world, or at least her little corner of it. And Leah will try to do it "The Leah Way.""
The TRUTH about Leah Kleim: I know Leah Kleim. My family and I have spent the time necessary to get to know the “real” Leah. We now consider her “our” Leah, and I think she considers us “her” extended family. Let me tell you a bit about Leah. She has her own way of doing things. She likes to call it “The Leah Way!” No doubt, she does things “The Leah Way!” Now many people may be afraid of “The Leah Way.” Some people have come to have a misplaced hatred of Leah because of “The Leah Way.” People are distrustful of anyone who does things differently than they do them. But let me assure you. IF you’re not a hypocrite. IF you talk the talk AND walk the walk. IF you’re not a sexual predator preying on the weak (or worse yet, children). IF you can manage to keep yourself “zipped up.” IF you’re not perpetrating fraud in the name of some institution. Then… YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR!
As you can imagine all sorts of folks contact Leah for all sorts of reasons. She is kind of a “lightning rod” for all sorts of “stuff.” But unless the contactor is one of the types described above he/she/it has NOTHING to fear. Leah knows all sorts of things about all sorts of people. But since he/she/they/it are not included in the descriptions above she does not / will not EVER betray their trust.Believe me, if you think you have seen bad things here Leah has a ton more at her fingertips. BUT, she will not cause undo harm to those she feels are not deserving. Those whom she has “outed” did a lot to get her to out them. Even after they tried to prey upon her (thinking her weak and cheap), she still gave them the chance to change BEFORE she “outed” them. Disclaimer: I do not agree with the “outing” methods used. BUT I will tell you this, those folks who were “outed” had the opportunity to prevent it. One could argue, that by their bad actions and then their lack of good actions, “They asked for it.”What is to be learned from all of this?
Lesson 1: If you’re a predator… STOP preying on those whom you perceive to be weak and instead get yourself some professional help! Lesson 2: Leah’s silence CANNOT be bought. She won’t “out” you unless you “earn” it, but if you earn it nothing stops her from outing you. In fact, payoff offers typically have the opposite affect on her (she is NOT in this for the money). Lesson 3: Leah is honest (and sometimes painfully so). Lesson 4: Leah does not care about what anyone thinks of her. She is on a mission and will do whatever she thinks necessary to fulfill that mission. Lesson 5: Leah is neither weak nor cheap.
I email Leah Kleim for an interview May 6, 2008 and she calls me that night.
Leah: "So what is your mission?"
Luke: "I’ve been blogging for a living for almost eleven years. This is how I make my living."
Leah: "Are you frum?"
Leah: "What is your definition of frum?"
Luke: "I’m Modern Orthodox."
Leah: "Are you from somewhere else?"
Leah: "My dad’s from there."
Luke: "My dad’s a preacher."
Leah: "What does he think about you being Jewish?"
Luke: "I’m sure it’s a bitter pill."
Leah: "What is he?"
Luke: "Seventh-Day Adventist. I was raised an Adventist. I’ve never eaten meat in my life."
"I’m best known for my writing on the pornography industry but I mainly write on Jewish stuff these days."
Leah: "So what do you want to know about me?"
Luke: "When did you start blogging?"
Leah: "About a year ago."
Luke: "What prompted that?"
Leah: "I Googled myself."
"I grew up in Chabad in Crown Heights. I had gotten myself a very bad reputation because I was outspoken at a young age about the same things that I am now. Because of that, I was thrown away. So I decided, screw this, I don’t want to be frum. But I still lived in Crown Heights with my parents. My skirts got shorter and I smoked cigarettes and that got me the worst reputation you could imagine. I was a whore. I had seven black babies. I had this and I had that.
"At 19, I left and moved to Florida and married a non-Jew. I had three kids. We had a normal life. We had the white picket fence and the dog.
"Ten years later, I decided, ‘Let me Google myself.’ And I did. I found a comment on some blog that mentioned my name and it also mentioned a lot of other people who were in the same position I was in. The comment was that I would love to have a reunion with these people and get drunk. I left a comment saying I would love to have a reunion with them too and I would love to help them and give them a place to stay and the help that they need. At the end of it, I said, I don’t think you’re going to have the guts to publish this, so I’m going to publish it myself. So I started a blog."
Luke: "You still live in Crown Heights?"
Leah: "I was there up until two months ago. I went away for ten years. I lived in California with Chabad for a while. I lived in Miami with Chabad for a while. Then I went back. Now I’m in Illinois. My life, my friends, is all Chabad."
Luke: "You still go to shul?"
Leah: "There’s no shul where I am, but when I live in Crown Heights or when I live near a shul, yes. I don’t keep Shabbos just because I’m lazy and I smoke. I keep kosher. I light Shabbos candles. I wear pants and I smoke."
Luke: "When did you first pose naked online?"
Leah: "About eight months ago."
Luke: "What prompted that?"
Leah: "Sex sells. If you go on to my blog and to all the older posts, you’ll see that they’re [naked pictures] not there anymore. But when I have something to say and I want somebody to listen to it, I know that sex sells. I’m not going to use somebody else as my korbon (sacrifice). I use myself. So I post pictures of myself and I know damn well that everybody’s going to read the next post that’s after it. There have been tons of photographers who have photographed me. I’ve been in magazines.
"My stats are insane. I get 6,000 hits on a bad day. There have been days when I’ve gotten 50,000 hits."
Luke: "Which magazines have you appeared in?"
Leah: "Chabad magazines. I did Chabad radio also in California. You can watch it on youtube. I wrote for a Chabad magazine called Impact magazine in California under the name…"
Luke: "When did you do the radio interview?"
Leah: "About four months ago. It wasn’t an interview. I did a radio show for Chabad. I filled in twice because the rabbi couldn’t show up. I also watched his eight kids while him and his wife were putting out the magazine."
Luke: "And did they know about your blog?"
Leah: "Absolutely. That’s how they met me."
Luke: "You’ve kept a lot of friends in the Hasidic world."
Leah: "It’s not really that. I’ve written a lot of s— about Chabad, Satmar, and different religious sects. It’s all true and I back it all up. Right now there’s a lot of stuff going on between me and the Daily Yid but I haven’t published anything solid about him because I will not do it unless I’m 100% sure.
"I get hundreds of emails a day. Sometimes I feel like I need a PR person. I get emails saying this person did this to me and that to me. Unless I can prove it for a fact, I’m not going to do it."
"People say I entrap people. No. They contacted me. I gave every single one of them the same chance I give everyone else. Get help. I’ll fund it for you. Stop what you’re doing. It’s not right. It’s not right for your family and it’s not right for your community."
Luke: "You have this reputation for going out and seducing Hasidic men."
Leah: "The Hasidic community does not address these issues like men cheating on their wives and f—ing hookers and f—ing men. They don’t address that because it makes them look bad. So when someone like me is willing to step up to the plate and do it, no matter what people say about me, I can make you or break you. Everybody knows that when it comes down to it, there will be proof.
"I have destroyed Chabad houses. I have taken rabbis out of their positions. I have done crazy things. I’ve been offered immense amounts of money not to do it. I’ll turn them down no matter how badly I need it. It’s not about that. It’s about somebody abusing their power. It’s about an issue that needs to be addressed.
"When I do this, people accuse me on entrapment. But they come to me."
Luke: "They come to you because they want to have sex with you?"
Leah: "Yes. That’s exactly it. Each one of them has the ego and thinks that they’re better than the next one and I’m not going to do this to them because they’re better. And it all starts with offers of help. I was going through a divorce and a custody battle and a lot of people stepped up and said, ‘We want to help you.’ But when it comes down to it, that’s not what they want. They want to get laid.
"Rabbonim in Crown Heights drove me to two of these Satmar guys houses. I had my cell phone on in my purse and the rabbonim sat outside listening to make sure they didn’t do anything to me. At first they didn’t believe me but once they heard everything, they said, ‘Holy s—, take them down.’
"It’s not about destroying people. I always give people a chance. I always them the chance to go get help. Nobody has to know about it. Rabbis will stand by them and tell their wives that they’re on a mission somewhere helping people."
"There are girls out there in bad positions who are not as strong as me. And they are going to look to a rabbi who turns to them and says, ‘I’m going to help you but I also want to f— you.’ And they’re going to think to themselves, ‘If I f— him, he’s going to help me.’ And they’re going to do it."
Luke: "How many rabbis have you had sex with?"
Leah: "Two but they weren’t rabbis when it happened."
Luke: "How many people have you had sex with in your life?"
Leah: "I think eight, maybe nine. I’m extremely shy. I tell people I was married for ten years and have three kids and they ask, ‘With one guy?" and I say yeah, and they’re shocked."
Luke: "So how did you summon the courage to pose naked?"
Leah: "I’m also very scared of the camera. I have an ego the size of the Empire State Building. I always try and beat my fears. One of my fears is of the camera and every picture that was ever taken of me in my life, I look like s— because I’m scared of the camera. I look like a deer in the headlights. So I started taking pictures of myself. Photographers started contacting me. Out of a thousand pictures taken of me, four are good."
Luke: "Are those natural breasts?"
Leah: "No. They’re bought and paid for."
Luke: "Are you divorced?"
Leah: "It’s a work in progress."
Luke: "How has your blogging affected your real life?"
Leah: "A lot. It started off with me just saying my piece on something, and I started getting more hits and people started emailing me… I tried to ignore it for a while but really serious issues came up. I felt like I had to do something because if I didn’t, nobody else would. Many times I’ve wanted to delete the whole thing, change my email address and forget it. And I can’t because there’s always some kid who emails me, ‘Can I just talk to you?’ Or it’s an email from a rabbi who wants to help me by f—ing me.
"I feel like I started something and I have to continue it.
"I take a lot of s— for it. People try to do terrible things to me over it."
Luke: "Who is Daily Yid?"
Leah: "I don’t know his name. I met him once in a store and I didn’t know I met him until he emailed me later and said that he was the guy in the store with the payos.
"He emailed me when he first started his blog to see if I could help him with traffic. I said sure. He said, I can’t link you back because you have pornography…
"I tried to get all the bloggers I know to link to him."
Luke: "Do you have friends?"
Leah: "I have a lot of close friends. A lot of people in the community stand by me on this."
Luke: "Do you believe in G-d?"
Luke: "Do you believe that G-d gave the Torah?"
Leah: "I do, but over the years, the laws have been twisted and manipulated. I believe in Chabad and Hasidus. I’m not frum because I’m lazy. I don’t listen to non-Jewish music. I speak Yiddish. You can watch videos of me crying at the rebbe’s grave. I go to fabrengens. I learn with a rabbi every day. I learn halacos. In my backpack any day of the week, you’ll find a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a book of Hasidus and some Lubavitch book."
Luke: "Some people write horrible things about you."
Leah: "There’s a website called The Real Leah Kleim. I know who’s behind it. I can also have the person put in jail for it because it is all not true. The person comes from Monsey. It’s a long story. If I do speak up and prove my point, then this person and his children get damaged."
"My half-brother is a 17 year old frum yeshiva bochur."
Luke: "You’re accused of having your half-brother take photos of you naked. Any truth to that?"
Leah: "Absolutely not… I try to shelter him from most of the s— that comes my way. He is a writer on my blog."
"When I was in rehab this year, not for drugs or alcohol but because I was a cutter. Sixty thousand dollars was put down on me by Chabad. I didn’t ask for it. They came to me and offered it. I lived in a Chabad house in CA when I got out. I lived in a Chabad house in Miami after that. They don’t ask me to come stay with them and write for them because what I’m saying is a bunch of s—."
"There’s this one child molester in Crown Heights named Dovid Wachser. He’s been doing this for years. He got divorced. He works in a Lubavitcher yeshiva. he’s a rebbe. He also works for an organization in Crown Heights called FREE. There are so many people he has hurt, he has damaged, he has molested. Fifteen feet away from the rebbe during a fabrengen under his tallis, he molested somebody very close to me. One of the big rabbis in Crown Heights came to me crying his eyes out on Kingston Avenue and asked me to please destroy his life because of what he’d done to his son.
"I have a recording of his own daughter telling me all the dirty deeds he has done and who he has done them to."
"Now he’s a mainframe computer programmer. He’s the best at getting his name to the top of a Google search. Any time you search for him, you find a million things about computer programming. He gets rid of himself. He erases himself. There are no pictures of him. There’s nothing of him. When somebody writes about him, it goes away."
Luke: "How many rabbis have lost their jobs because of you?"
Leah: "Thirteen to sixteen."
Luke: "Can you list some names for me?"
Leah: "Number one is Mendy Cornfeld in Miami. There was Alexander Hirsh and Chaim Wertzberger. They got jobs in other organizations from Satmar. After that, I can’t mention their names because they did get help."
Luke: "How did you get information on all these child molesters?"
Leah: "People contacted me."
Luke: "How long were you a cutter?"
Leah: "Since I was 14. I’m 31 now."
Luke: "How long have you been free of it?"
Leah: "I stopped it for ten years, from 21 to 31. Then I started it doing it again. I was doing it for about a month when Rabbi Pinston contacted me and asked me to go to rehab for it. I did two stints in rehab for it.
"It’s not a kill yourself thing. It’s make your emotional pain into physical pain so you can deal with it better and make it go away.
"Fifteen years ago when I started doing it, my parents took me to the crazy house a couple of times. They would keep me for a 72-hour evaluation and say I was suicidal. Now it’s something that’s recognized. Medical professionals understand it is not a suicidal thing. It’s not a cry for help. It’s a f—ed up way of dealing with s—."
"I put it all out there. I put my own issues out there. I don’t want anybody to think that I’m better than anybody. There are a lot of Lubavitcher kids doing that too and it’s something that needs to be addressed."
Luke: "Do you suffer from suicidal depression?"
Leah: "No. I’m very happy. I’m very go lucky. I’m very positive. You could throw me in jail and I’ll find a way to laugh. There have been times in my life when I’ve been suicidal. It’s not because something bad happened to me. It’s like they told me in rehab, it’s a craving that kicks in. It’s like an addiction. It runs in families. My father committed suicide when I was six.
"My biggest problem is ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. A lot of the time I forget to take my medicine. Then my mind goes all hyperactive and I start getting out of control and being wild and doing crazy things. Can you relate?"
"Do you have access to your kids?"
Leah: "I just put them to bed before I called you."
"Have you heard of The Awareness Center blog? They don’t get the s— I get because they’re not attached to a person with the sh—-y reputation I have. If I have a rabbi stood up and reproduced my blog, he wouldn’t get what I get. He would get shunned because how dare he speak against community. When its money, when its about who gets what with property, they have no problem with being on the front page. When it’s child abuse or child neglect, no, no, no. We don’t do that. Especially if it’s a good teacher who’s doing it."
"So of course I’m the sh–head. So fine, I’ll wear the sh–head crown."
Luke: Your naked pictures.
Leah: "Sex sells. I’ve gotten a lot of emails about them. They’re all from men. But my point is to make them read something. I don’t do it often. I don’t do it a lot. When I do it, I delete them."
Luke: "How do you think it might affect your children?"
Leah: "How? A lot of people have said that to me."
Luke: "Other kids will say, ‘Your mommy is half-naked on the internet’."
Leah: "Who are these kids? My children live in a place that’s population 800 in a world where there are no Jews. If they were in yeshiva, other kids would see this and say it to them. My children have nothing to do with that world because of the things that go on in that world. I’d love for them to go to yeshiva if it wasn’t such a double-standard, yichus-infested situation."
Luke: "Yichus means lineage."
Luke: "What’s wrong with yichus?"
Leah: "When you’re looking to make a shiduch (marriage match), it’s all about yichus. Rabbi Shemtov and Rabbi Goldstein, they have great names, so their kids can go out and get married regardless of what they’ve done. Their kid can go out and bang hookers, snort coke, and play around and then he can get frum and learn in the Beis Midrash again. If a baal teshuva’s (penitent) child does that, he’s shunned for life. The things I did at 15, and they were nothing. I wore a short skirt. Now if you go to Crown Heights, my skirt was longer than all of theirs. I smoked cigarettes and I did it in public. That’s what killed my reputation and made me into a zona (whore) and a drug addict. I don’t do drugs. You can pass around a joint or a line, I don’t do them.
"If I went back to Crown Heights and walked into a rabbi’s house, you know what they would tell me: ‘If people see you in our house, it’s going to look bad for us.’
"Yichus kills a lot of people. Geshy Korvitzky, my good friend, jumped in front of a train this past summer and killed himself. A week before, when this guy’s shiva ended, Noah Plaskman jumped in front of the same train and killed himself. There are suicides and drug addictions and drug overdoses that all boil down to yichus — being rejected because of what you did when you were a child. The law says you’re not responsible until you’re 18.
"I was punched in the face when I was 15 by a Lubavitcher rosh yeshiva (head of a Jewish Talmudic academy) in Crown Heights. Rabbi Bryski (or Brisky from Yeshiva Chanoch Lenar) of Montgomery Street. This was the first time I understood why in cartoons when someone falls down, he sees stars. I saw them.
"I wasn’t doing anything. I was just standing in front of the yeshiva saying goodbye to my friend who lives two houses away. The rosh yeshiva came out and punched me in the face and told me I was a f—ing whore and I had no right to stand there.
"I went home. My face was swollen. It was bleeding. My parents said, ‘What happened?’ I said this rosh yeshiva punched me. Call the police.
"My parents called their rabbi. The rabbi said, ‘Don’t call anybody. It makes the community look bad.’
"That’s wrong and it f—s kids up. You do that to a child and the child feels, ‘Holy s—! Even my parents don’t give a s— about me.’
"This guy punched me in the face and my parents don’t care? They told me to go to sleep. Then if I say anything to anybody, they scream at me.
"Then the vicious cycle begins and continues. Kids rebel. They run away. They do f—ed up s— to get away from that.
"I can keep you up all night telling you disgusting stories about rabbis in Crown Heights that wanted to help me.
"My parents, being baalei teshuvot, have no say."
"My real father wasn’t Jewish. My mother ran away from him when I was three years old. She ran to Chabad of LA. Rabbi Shlomo Boruch Cunin. Rabbi Naftali Stolman.
"I went to Yeshiva Har Cholnan in Fairfax, LA. Rabbi Shochet is the rosh yeshiva now. I was there from first to fourth grade. Then I went to Beis Rivkah in Crown Heights. My last year in yeshiva was when I was 16. Morristown, New Jersey."
Luke: "After that?"
Leah: "I didn’t go to school. My parents wouldn’t send me to public school and no yeshiva would take me. To save my family from having a bad name by having a child in public school, they kept me out of school."
Luke: "Do you think the Torah makes people better?"
Leah: "It can. It makes many people into amazing people but a lot of people abuse it."
Luke: "Do you want to get married again?"
Leah: "Right now I don’t think so. I have trust issues."
Luke: "What do you need to have sex with someone?"
Leah: "That they don’t have some other agenda. That it’s not about my name and who I am and to be a conqueror but there’s something real there.
"Right now I’m with my children. I’m in my ex’s house. Honestly, I have slept with him because I know he doesn’t have some ulterior motive. I know I look damn good, especially for my age. I get a lot of people who want to bang her and leave. I’ve put my guard up extremely high and I push everybody away."
"On Tisha B’Av, somebody called me up and offered to bring me $10,000 in a brown paper bag to my door. I told them that today is the day the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) was burned down to the ground and you’re calling me to cover a Satmar’s ass and give me $10,000? Are you meshugenah? Go put it in a pushka. And I hung up.
"I could’ve used it."