Friedman on Salzman: how she met Raniere and started Jness

Becca Friedman, left, talks about her three years of being a student of NXIVM in her home in Woodstock, NY on August 23, 2010. Her daughter Katya Bush listens in the background. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union)

Becca Friedman, an ex-NXIVM member recounts her time at NXIVM. [Previously published in Saratoga in Decline Sept. 2010]

In early Spring of 2006, I remember hearing that Nancy Salzman had
extremely painful lymph nodes and she was receiving an EM a day from
Keith Raniere as a cure.
Once in the cafe she said she was ‘not such an angry bitch anymore’ in reference to the EMs.
I was taking her Parenting Intensive at the time, and she was looking very old and run down and kind of bloated.
At V-Week [Vanguard Week] August, 2006 she was trim and happy looking.

She told us, at one of her forums, that she had been sick but that she
had been seeing her doctor, the same doctor as the Dalai Lama’s and he
gave her little pellets that tasted like dirt.

V-Week included a coffee talk with Nancy who told us a very detailed
story of how she went from a sad, lonely, angry, single parent to
working with Keith.

Coffee talks to me always meant cozy couches and women talking as a group.
Not this one. Salzman sat on a raised podium, complete with cameras, lighting and strategically placed tall flowers. The higher-ups were really uptight about making sure she looked amazing, and they kept fiddling with the plants, the tablecloth
covering the table, etc.
At one point a humming bird flew into the room through the opened door and Suzanne Kemp [later condemned for having breast cancer and basically scorned from the group] very gently and quietly led the little bird out by holding a plant in front of it.
At this talk Nancy told us all about how she came to be where she was.
I don’t remember the story word for word but it was quite a story. And
long. She loves attention.
She was divorced with two young kids at the time that she met KR [Keith Raniere].
I think she was an expert in NLP [Neurolinguistic Programming] and had been working with another motivational speaker and traveling the world to give lectures. She remembered noticing that people would leave feeling euphoric and then come back a couple months later with the same problems. And she wanted to find permanent solutions for people.
People in Albany kept telling her she needed to meet Raniere, ‘the smartest
man in the world.’ So she finally agreed.
He was working at a health food store, she said, and when she went in she saw this young guy in sweatpants restocking the shelves and later, when she found out it was
him, she just couldn’t believe it. She said they talked for hours non-stop, and I think he sold her some vitamins – not sure on that part.
She went back the next day and they talked more. And then again.
She just couldn’t believe how smart he was. She told him how she really wanted to help human being make permanent change and he told her he knew how. That he had the answer and did she want to know it[?].
And, of course, she said yes.
I think he didn’t show her at first. I think another day went by because I remember her saying, she kept saying, she wanted to see it. So finally he showed her his notes on what was to become the first Ethos class in NXIVM – Communication/At Cause.
She was pretty blown away. She started giving improvement lectures to big companies –
there was one, maybe NASA, where she had to go through a security check and she told us they always checked the 13th person, (or some specific number), and she was ALWAYS that number.
So then it gets a little weird, because I remember her saying that she would be giving her
lecture to these companies and they would ask her a question and she would excuse herself and go to the bathroom and call Raniere because she didn’t know the answer.
He would give her the answer and then she would go back to the room and tell the Suits the answer. And then! She talked about how sometimes she would go to the bathroom and cry and call Raniere and tell him something like ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ And
he would tell her to come over for dinner.
A bunch of people were at those meals, but the only one I know for sure of was Pam Cafritz. I would imagine Karen Unterreiner and Barbara Jeske were there, as well.
And Nancy said she would eat and then curl up under the table and cry and say she just wanted to quit her life. That she just couldn’t keep doing it, etc.
Now! Before all you angry readers start passing judgement let me tell you this: She was crying because he was ripping her apart with his Jesus like smile on his face and she just didn’t have a freaking clue.
I can relate – to an extent. I mean her Self-Esteem was nil. She was unhappy. Unfulfilled. She said she wasn’t a very good Mom at the time. So in her personal life she felt empty.
Let me make something else clear: When she told this story it was riddled with NLP language, used in such a way that you didn’t really question what she was saying. So she cried under the table – well that just means she was going through the growing pains that come with serious personal growth. She wrapped up the story by saying in the end
she did quit her life and she and Raniere began working together to create what we were experiencing now: NXIVM. Then she got teary and said she felt like we were all so close and had grown and learned so much that she wasn’t sure she fit in anymore.
Then she invited all of us to ‘quit out lives’ and create the life we wanted. That part really
resonated with me.
I think in that same forum, Salzman also introduced us to her brand new Origins class – Jness, an all women’s group. She invited all of us to try out the first class during V-Week and if we liked it we could sign up for the weekend seminar later on.
I went and it was basically Nancy sitting in front of the room talking about the importance of being a woman. We were given a list of questions to discuss and instructed to
break into groups. No one seemed to understand the questions, which Nancy and Sara Bronfman seemed to find amusing upon the group regathering.

I found the entire class to be wicked, boring and totally disengaging.

We had a Jness intro meeting at New World Cooking in Saugerties in April, I think, of 2007.

Barbara Jeske was there and she told the entire [fabricated] story of adopting Gaelin [actually Keth Raniere and Kristin Keeffe’s son] at that gathering. She attributed her
emotional strength of adopting a baby at her age to what she had learned about herself through Jness.

Esther Chiappone and Barbara Jeske both told me later that that Jness class at V-Week was a trial run and both strongly encouraged me to enroll in the weekend seminar.

I can’t remember how much it was or when, but it was a good chunk of change. The goal with Jness was to enroll as many as women as possible within and outside of NXIVM.
To buy homes throughout the state, that were specifically used for Jness, where women could gather and talk and eat and sleep. Jeske wanted me to cover the Woodstock territory and help enroll Hudson Valley women.
I  signed up for the class and it was a real waste of time. The curriculum was boring and most of it didn’t resonate with me. I remember feeling very upset about that, like I had failed. Like I had let Esther down, because she had guaranteed I would feel so different afterward.
The group was reconvening after a break, and Salzman was already sitting in her armchair, at the front of the room – most of us were sitting on the floor in front of her. I guess people were taking too long to settle down, and she said in this super self-righteous, somewhat bored tone: “I’m ready to start when you are.” It was a total turn off. At one point I asked Salzman a question and when she gave me honest feedback in front of the class, I sheepishly took it because it was the truth and it hurt.
Later she brought it back up and turned to her high-striped groupies, who were all sitting off to the side, saying something like, “I felt like when I gave her that feedback her response was self-righteous. Didn’t you think that?” And then she did a kind of quick imitation of how I had responded with body language. It was awful and untrue and I could tell that most of her groupies really didn’t know what she was talking about but agreed nonetheless.
During this seminar Salzman also talked about how men [fathers] become attracted to their daughters when they hit teenage-hood, because the kids look so much like their mothers. This was totally disgusting and really turned a lot of people off. Most of us could not understand what she was talking about, why and what it had to do with feeling empowered as a woman.
At the end of the weekend I was leaving and Siobhan Hotaling, a higher-up, asked me what I thought and I told her that I felt like I had failed because I hadn’t gotten anything out of it and didn’t feel any different. And she brightly told me, “Well, maybe that’s because you don’t really like yourself,” and then breezed into the bathroom.

Higher-ups often gave devastating feedback in this manner. The next day, at home, I made a mistake in my job and just completely lost it. I was crying uncontrollably and, so of course, I talked to Esther. Who else but a NXIVM member would be able to help?

I took a Parenting origins class, as well. Esther Chiappone highly recommended it and, at that time, I really followed all of her recommendations because she embodied, I believed, so many qualities I admired and strove for.

I think I took Parenting for 6-7 months. The first four classes were good and down to earth. We learned about why our kids push our buttons, talked about control and how we feel like our kids reflect us so we have a real vested interest in what they say and do.
Then the topics got harder to follow. I mentioned this to Esther and she said that the class was really geared for ‘higher-ups,’ and that I was allowed in because Nancy saw my potential.
At one point during break-off groups, Ed Kinum gave me an EM which resulted in me
questioning if I was a good person, or mean and selfish. Instead of sleeping over in Albany, which I typically did, I left early and drove home, wanting to be close to Adam.
I think in my last Parenting where the topic was: Does Santa Claus really exist?, I was the ONLY one who insisted vocally, anyway, that he was just a made-up mythological
character. And who would want to believe that some guy playing dress up could sneak into your house at night?

Salzman’s response basically implied that it was my own baggage getting in the way of seeing the truth, which was that if enough people believed something was true then
it was.

Since writing this, I have learned that the story Nancy Salzman told us about meeting Raniere and quitting her life was pretty much a fabrication. A friend in the know told me that she had asked Nancy for help regarding Raniere because he was really causing this friend a lot of grief and upset. Nancy met with Raniere and told this friend he was
a sociopath and that she would try to help. Instead she disappeared into the co-op, I think, for four days where he kept her up and talking the entire time and when she emerged she was utterly brainwashed. That friend can speak to this if she wants and I know another person on this board knows way more than I do, as well.

About the author

Frank Parlato

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About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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