Former Student: My Observations of Brilliant Barbara Jeske, and Militant Lauren Salzman – in 2002

Barbara Jeske got cancer. Keith misdiagnosed her as having carpel tunnel syndrome.
By Sandra, a former student. 
I studied in Nxivm for a total of three weeks of very intense classes [intensives] and attended one Vanguard Week.  The time period was about 2002. Barbara Jeske was my instructor for both class intensives that I took.
Barbara Jeske was the second-highest-ranking teacher on the Nxivm stripe path. Only Nancy Salzman was above her. Jeske [along with Pam Cafritz] had the purple sash. Salzman had the gold.
I found her to be a brilliant observer of feelings and behaviors of her students and a detailed, conscientious teacher. I found her quite likable precisely because she was brilliant in her delivery of the material and coaching.
Jness is a women’s group founded by Keith Raniere. It teaches women to accept men as polygamists and women to be monogamous. The highest and most advanced women in Jness were invited to join DOS where they were permitted to be branded on their pubic area with Keith Raniere’s initials.
I was there when Jness was first introduced by Nancy Salzman and attended one Jness meeting. However, I did not feel I needed a woman empowerment group so I declined membership.
Lauren Salzman [right] with her mother Nancy. They followed the smartest and most ethical man in the world- Keith Raniere.
I was there when Nancy first introduced Lauren as an instructor of Nxivm classes. She said how very proud she was that Lauren was following in her footsteps.
I was then a part of a drill Lauren coached and immediately I knew I would never want her as an instructor.
Why? Her style was harsh, disciplinary and almost militant.
Lauren Salzman ranked high on the stripe path attaining the level of green with four stripes.
I had the thought that she was trying too hard to be powerful and that she overcompensated for a lack of it.
There were large groups gathered at the V-Week I attended. I noticed that Barbara Jeske was sitting alone. As a teacher, she was confident and attentive to the students’ progress. But privately, she looked very lonely to me. I watched her for ten minutes and could tell she felt isolated.
Then I saw her walk over to a group of other staff and sit down with them, in between a few men and women. They accepted her and one could see she was accepted by them.
Barb sort of sunk in, hugging and being hugged and took sustenance from the group, but hiding from a deep loneliness and sadness. Those were my thoughts at the time.
Barbara with fellow purple sash Nxian Pamela Cafritz


Keith Raniere gives a big hug to Barbara Jeske.


Barbara [r] with the Prefect, Nancy Salzman.
Because I admired Barbara, I wanted to go to her and connect to her and become a strength to her. But I knew that I was just a student and would not at all be considered someone she could confide in and that she would have to maintain her position with me.
But I never forgot her. I was upset to hear what happened to her.

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  • Since Natashka asked – Here are the main reasons I jumped ship:

    – I wasn’t learning much or improving my life.
    – The material was ok, but not much of it was new to me.
    – Keith was being sold as someone who knew everything and was perfect. I could clearly see this was not accurate.
    – Too much drama from people who were supposedly leaders and role models.
    – Albany sucked and the people in NXIVM were not much fun.

    It was a pretty easy decision for me. I stayed long enough to give it a shot and left quickly enough that it didn’t drag my life down. I honestly feel that I got value out of the classes. I only say this because much of what was new material to me had to do with spotting shifters and levelers and people who didn’t have good intentions. I feel Keith teaching this was him teaching us about him. I have used this information over the years to notice red flags in people I interact with.

    I’m glad I wasn’t a hot chick, cause who knows if I’d have been targeted by Vanguard and sucked in. This is probably why I tend to have more sympathy for the Allisons and Laurens than most people on FR do.

      • Keith pitted them against each other. They would talk negatively about others when they weren’t in the room, and then act as a best friend when they walked in the room. For a group that pretended to be led by a perfect person, it didn’t even seem like they tried very hard.

    • I have similar feeling about the material. I found some of it useful in business and in office politics. It gave me insight into what makes people tick. Projection, shifters, levelers and mismatchers are transparent. Life is very different seeing people for who they really are.

      I didn’t believe in Keith’s genius reputation from the very beginning. His physical achievements and musical virtuoso were clearly false. He doesn’t have the body of a runner and his piano playing was the level of a child who had some piano lessons. I was fortunate to have had a Dad that was a proven genius in science and an accomplished musician. He never bragged about his accomplishments because people that have these qualities don’t have to convince others!

      I could see Keith was a fraud on many levels. That’s it in a nutshell!

  • Sandra, thank you for writing about your observations.

    You said– “I found her quite likable precisely because she was brilliant in her delivery of the material.”

    Here, you are referring to her performance as a presenter of NXIVM ideas, correct? In addition to this, are you also saying that the NXIVM ideas, in themselves, were “brilliant”?

    I think many people have a difficult time understanding how NXIVM used its “ideas” to attract people to their seminars and other activities.

    Though I realize the time you spent with NXIVM was relatively short, what convinced you to take the classes and attend Vanguard Week? Did you stop attending because the ideas appeared increasingly less “brilliant”? Did you see or observe something else that made the organization less appealing?

    • “I think many people have a difficult time understanding how NXIVM used its “ideas” to attract people to their seminars and other activities.” That’s because:

      1. Most people can’t afford the courses; and
      2. You shouldn’t use the knowledge that we have now and project it into the past and use it to make decisions about NXIVM.

      • Oh Scotty, the blind one to the irony of the last statement when it comes to your criticism of certain members of NXIVM, famous or otherwise.

      • In reference to #2 of your statements, I do not think post hoc ergo propter hoc applies here. But in asking for additional information, I apologize if my question was not entirely without prejudice.

        In reference to #1, clearly, some people did not have the extra money for the exorbitantly priced seminars. They went into debt or made other sacrifices in order to attend.

        Some attendees have reported that it was the allure that was crafted around the Vanguard that attracted them to the group; others have said they believed in the claims the coaches made about there being a direct correlation between how much they spent on NXIVM courses and future “success;” still others seem to have been drawn to Raniere’s relativist, contrarian ethics-calculus.

        You may recall the incident, described in a previous post, of how someone at an Alaska seminar challenged Nancy regarding one of Raniere’s notorious (anti-) moral notions. “What if it was your daughter,” he asked. According to the post, the huge drop in numbers for the next seminar was probably due to how Nancy responded to the question, revealing herself to be the diabolical hypocrite that she was (and might still be).

        My point is that where some people saw red flags and jumped ship, others didn’t. For each, there is a story about when and to what extent NXIVM revealed its true nature.

        • I too find the stories of the people who saw red flags and jumped ship very interesting. I’d like to hear more of these

        • I find “nxivm revealed its true nature” a misunderstanding….If you are refering to Keiths true nature , that would make sense. When I left it was because Keith and several of his cronies were doing lots that was not upholding what was being taught . They were doing the opposite and covering up their lack of morality…or sucumming to his. Most trainers of the material were in fact honerable , kind, intelligent people…and we helped people. Most people who took classes never even met Keith. The entire organization and majority of the materials were not bad….Keith and his merry mob were!! I can always tell comments from people with no experience from their lack of knowledge.

          • I appreciate your input.

            Would you consider writing an article summing up “materials” that “were not bad”? I would very much look forward to reading it. Perhaps you and Sarah Edmondson could act as co-writers.

            Unfortunately, the “honorable” work well-intentioned people put into NXIVM did little to alter its status as an MLM, which many people find morally dubious in itself, and many of the people which you characterize as “intelligent” turned a blind eye to its cult-like nature. Some, of course, turned a blind eye longer than others.

            I venture to say there’s more wisdom in a quote-of-the-day calendar than what we might find in the hallowed verses of NXIVM psycho-babble. But, I assure you, I look as forward to be being proven wrong as right.

            In your article, if you choose to write it, perhaps you could begin with offering an account of the name of the organization itself. I suspect, for many critical observers, the red flags will become evident as you take that first step.

  • “Why? Her style was harsh, disciplinary and almost militant”.

    Interesting comment regarding an assessment of Lauren as a coach. Hm? I wonder who Lauren learned this coaching style from? Most likely Nancy. With a dash, or three, of our little baby boy Keith who is as of this moment enjoying his very own “intensive” at MDC.

  • It would have been nice for Sandra’s story to be published before the recent texting story involving the evil Salzman daughter.

    Sandra, what do you think of Jeske now, after all of the information about NXIVM has come out?

  • I always enjoy hearing from former NXIANS. So much of this story is still mysterious and untold. Articles like this begin to fill in the blanks.

    • I think it’s weird that Sandra watched Jeske for 10 minutes at a social gathering, alone. Why didn’t she at least walk up to Jeske after a minute or two and at least say “hi?”

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.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

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 premieres on May 22, 2022.

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