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Working closely with [Jewish Community Watch], I have witnessed also a deep sense of responsibility and integrity that allows them to deal with questions of law and ethics in an effective manner. Specifically, they are humble enough to know their limitations and to seek counsel from others, including lawyers, psychologists, adult survivors, rabbis, and other advocates for children’s safety, and have done so on a regular basis. They are consistently concerned with the sensitive feelings of victims of abuse and are constantly learning more about the best ways to communicate with them and to help them. In dealing with the perpetrators of abuse, Meyer and the JCW are thoughtful, careful and cautious before publicizing a danger to children. I have reviewed their policies with them on several occasions and have personally vouched for them in communicating to families of the offenders.
The life saving work of JCW is a real Kiddush Hashem. At a time when other communities, such as the Catholic Church, Penn State University and unfortunately, B’avonosaynu Harrabim, even some of our own Jewish communities continue to struggle with the moral sins of covering up for and protecting adults who are criminals and who endanger children, JCW is showing the world the true way a community must deal with the problematic people who are halachicly considered rodfim because they do terrible harm to innocent and vulnerable children.
I urge the entire community, led by the Rabbanim and Askanim, to cooperate with JCW fully and to support them in every way possible. This includes public acknowledgement and promotion of the good that they are doing, financial support, sharing resources and information, and any other assistance that they request.
I am writing this letter in support of Mr. Meyer Seewald and JewishCommunityWatch.com. I am an attorney who specializes in representing adult victims of childhood sexual abuse against both their perpetrators, and the institutions that aided in their trauma. I have had the privilege to work with Mr. Seewald over the last year. In my experience, it is activists like Mr. Seewald that provide the impetus for institutional change, and ultimately, safer environments for our children. I will continue to support Mr. Seewald and JewishCommunityWatch.com, and firmly believe that he is worthy of your support as well.
Dear Jewish Community Watch,
I am writing this letter to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks for your tireless work in protecting our community. As an individual, parent, community member and a District Attorney, I appreciate all your efforts and praise your work.
Having handled, examined, reviewed and prosecuted thousands of cases in my career, I am thoroughly familiar with the requirements and standards necessary to implicate someone. I recognize the distinction between mere allegation and proof necessary to prove someone’s guilt.
After becoming aware of the internal standards utilized by JCW, I am abundantly content that you have thoroughly investigated your cases and have an impeccable review process before exposing any predators. I am also aware that the Board of JCW has received allegations of abuse regarding nearly 200 as yet unnamed predators. That those assertions remain undisclosed because JCW is not yet satisfied that it has been able to substantiate those claims beyond question, is confirmation that the principles to which JCW is committed are honorable, upright and moral. I am satisfied that the investigative process at JCW is sweeping and rigorous before the Board is convinced to publicize the name of an abuser. It is such careful standards that both ensure an innocent person is not posted and that only a predator is.
Your organization fills a much needed service within our community. For far too many years, our so-called leaders covered-up sex abuse. I am personally familiar with many cases of Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivos not notifying theirs or other communities regarding a potential predator. Consequently, their actions have put many communities and their children at great risk because the predator was free to strike again. It is due to these profound failures that an organization like yours is important and necessary.
In every State of the United States, our Federal Government and many other countries, there are sex offender registry laws. For example, the California Legislature, in enacting its registration laws, specifically provided reasons for its incorporation. They found that sex-offenders pose a potentially high risk of committing further sex offenses and that it is a compelling and necessary public interest to inform the public regarding these people and the risks they pose. Furthermore, in balancing the predators right to privacy (and potential rehabilitation) vs protecting a vulnerable population, the latter is much more important.
JCW fulfills this role in our society. Its admirable goals are to notify the public of predators and to protect the innocent. It also has a further, and much needed secondary purpose: due to various reasons, including rabbinical cover-ups and community stigmatization, victims are frightened/wary/anxious of coming forward. Victims often do not come forward because of perceived stigmatization of potential harm towards themselves and their family. They are worried that going forward to the police or to law-enforcement would publicly reveal who they are and remove their layer of anonymity.
It is also common for victims of sexual assault to wait some time before telling someone. When the person was assaulted as a child, he or she may wait years or decades. The reasons for this are numerous: victims may want to deny the fact that someone they trusted could do this to them; they may want to just put it behind them; they may believe the myth that they caused the assault by their own behavior; or they may fear how other people will react to the truth. As a result, the applicable Statute of Limitations has passed and going to the police will have no result at all.
JCW thus provides an outlet for a victim to reveal the truth about what happened, either to expose their harm, or to prevent their predator from effectuating this harm on others. They get to remain anonymous from the judgmental influences of our community, while achieving a much needed result. Moreover, in those situations where the victim courageously comes forward, but because of the statute of limitations he is prevented from prosecuting, the truth can still prevail regardless of the arcane laws preventing such prosecution.
Our justice system imposes a legal duty on many (particularly those in leadership positions) to report sexual harm, regardless of how strong or how weak the evidence is. Teacher, Rabbis or doctors all have legal obligations to notify all appropriate agencies if they suspects sexual harm. In Halacha and as frum Jews, we have an even stronger obligation.
I applaud you for your efforts and I bless you that you may go from strength to strength and never waver in your commitment to this great cause. I also call on all Rabbonim and leaders from the various communities to A) join your organization, B) familiarize themselves with the issues, C) publically issue piski dinim relating to sex abuse and D) condemn any and all predators.
There are many in our community who are stationary and unaware or unwilling to act. This mentality is often based on misunderstood halachos such as mesirah, loshon horah, etc. and for too long we have allowed predators to roam freely amongst our children. I therefore thank you for your bold and important step in protecting our communities.
March 20, 2013
The work of Meyer Seewald and the Jewish Community Watch regarding cases of child sexual abuse is invaluable to the good of the community.
Mr. Seewald’s dedication and integrity have been apparent from the time I first met him. Civic minded citizens and a District Attorney’s office need to work together for the common good of a community. Our work prosecuting sex offenders and other criminals is always made stronger when community activists like Meyer Seewald and the Jewish Community Watch participate.
In my personal capacity as an individual and as a parent I can tell you that I appreciate the service that your site, Community Watch, provides. It is a thankless job, and many of the people that benefit from the information that you provide, would not support it publicly, for reasons that may be expected.
You are pioneers in your field and it is impressive to see the dedication invested by your staff into this type of public service. It is a difficult job to say the least. It is the type of job that everyone wants in existence but only very few would take the steps and make the sacrifices necessary to provide. It is especially true for the frum communities.
I had the opportunity to meet with the director of Community Watch regarding the process applied when deciding whether to post an individual on the site. I am pleased to say that it presented professionally and that the degree of careful caution exercised by your office (as expressed by your director) exceeded my expectations.
Thank you for your service and thank you for caring about the community. You may never know the extent of your influence – and can’t know the many incidents and abusive relationships you have prevented. But it is reassuring to see an organization fighting for what is right, fighting for justice. Integrity is something that cannot be bought and cannot be learned from a book, it is an expression realness and struggling to do the right thing when the “right thing” is not convenient.
May Hashem bless you and the community you serve, with success and may we merit to see the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.
Dear Meyer Seewald,
I write this letter to extend my earnest support for the work you and your organization, Jewish Community Watch, have done and continue to do. Your work has been instrumental in assisting the Jewish community confront the issue of child sexual abuse.
Working with you and your organization on a number of cases has afforded me the opportunity to examine the professional ethics which you adhere to. You and Jewish Community Watch conduct yourselves in a manner associated with people who have been working in this field for decades. The sensitive way you communicate with victims and the confidentiality you attach to every case can be held to the same regard as the way in which a licensed therapist or an attorney are ethically bound.
I have personally been familiarized with the many professionals with whom you confer regularly and am impressed by your acknowledgement that certain things necessitate input from outside sources. Although your credentials may be lacking, it is made up for by your determination and overwhelming success.
Publicly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the mission you have undertaken. The work you have already done is unfathomable and with Hashem’s help you will continue to be successful and continue to combat the sickness and evil among the chosen people.
It has been a year since I asked you to help a young woman who had been abused by her father. You knew the people involved and immediately responded. Since that time I have had many opportunities to observe the work of the Jewish Community Watch and have been consulted on halachic questions. The JCW is a major force in protecting vulnerable young people from the Crown Heights Community from abusers. It is highly responsible, working with rabbonim and the secular authorities.
Any support provided by the Crown Heights Jewish Community will enable the Jewish Community Watch to assist more young people in need and help make Crown Heights a model for Orthodox Jewish communities in protecting children from this crisis which exists in all societies.
The month of liberation, 5773. March 2013.
Dear Jewish Community Watch,
In response to your request—as well as to the many other inquiries and requests for my reaction to the issue of child abuse.
First, I want to express my sincere gratitude and accolades for all the hard work you and various other organizations and individuals are doing to put an end to the devastating crime of CSA, which has wreaked utter havoc in scores of innocent lives over so many years.
Sadly, many people, including some in leadership positions, are ill-informed of the detrimental effects of child molestation. The average person who has not suffered through CSA doesn’t realize how so many of the abused suffer for years or decades from feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, shame, guilt, and pain. Many of the victims—due to their profound pain and skewed sense of self—find temporary relief in all forms of destructive behavior, including molesting a new generation of children. Many of them fall prey to terrible addictions in order to escape their agony. Untold numbers of these innocent souls are haunted by unbearable nightmares that won’t allow them to lead a normal life internally. Most of them struggle to maintain functional marriages, since their sexual boundaries have been brutally violated.
Though recovery is surely possible—for the soul is more powerful than all else, and the Divine infinite power within each of us can overcome all darkness—the pain they must endure is heart-wrenching.
Many people are equally ill-informed of how rampant the problem is, and of the great number of our youth that have been victimized over the years.
But, thankfully, a new dawn has arrived.
Ever since dedicated volunteers have taken action and established organizations to combat this ugly malady, the issue of child molestation has been brought to the forefront of the community’s attention. It is no longer possible to ignore the seriousness of this epidemic. At last, we have begun—and only begun—to take the necessary steps to eradicate this black stain for good.
Initially, when the efforts began to expose predators’ names and photos, I was concerned that some activists would become obsessed with “witch hunting” and would inadvertently accuse innocent people of committing these terrible crimes—forever tainting their reputation. I was afraid that these investigations might not be thoroughly reviewed and vetted with the hyper-sensitivity and professionalism that this issue calls for. (I still shudder at the thought of an individual’s life being ruined by some mean-spirited person who has an axe to grind.) However, after much scrutiny I have learned that these investigations are thorough and honest. I have also learned that in cases where a past abuser is ready to be fully accountable and to do what it takes to help the victim through the healing-process (and, obviously, with experts testifying that he/she no longer poses a danger to the public), the abuser’s identity is not exposed. Additionally, I am also aware of dozens of cases presented to Jewish Community Watch that are not brought to light due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
Given the above, it is my heartfelt hope that all parents, rabbis, leaders, community activists, educators, principals, spiritual mentors, therapists, social workers and counselors will begin educating themselves regarding the lifelong effects of child molestation. They will then come to understand the untold suffering brought upon victims of CSA. Just as we would do anything to stop a gunman from walking our streets and taking lives, heaven forbid (what Jewish law calls a “rodef”), so must we do anything and everything to stop the people who are murdering the psyches and emotional innocence of our children.
We must also begin educating every single one of our young adults about two critical factors: 1) If they have been molested, help is available. They must know that if they will break the silence and reveal their story, they will be embraced rather than shunned, and will be guided with loving care towards a life of wholesomeness and happiness. We must give all of them the names and contact information of approved professionals, so they can reach out to them if necessary. 2) Preventive medicine: If they might ever be prone to engage in these terrible acts themselves, they must know: A) the horrific impact of such actions, and B) that there are things they can do to help them avoid becoming potential monsters who will surely destroy lives. They must all know that help is readily available for people with an inclination toward touching children inappropriately.
Parents and educators must discuss these dangers with their children and students—both the danger of becoming a victim, as well as the danger of becoming an abuser. Every—and I mean every—Yeshiva bachur must be educated about these two items.
We must also educate the community—both children and adults—on how important it is to talk to someone if they are privy to any sort of abuse being perpetrated in the community. To withhold this kind of information is essentially akin to being an accomplice and an enabler of the unthinkable crime of destroying lives in this vicious cycle. Most victims are too afraid or ashamed to speak up—and surely it is not their fault. They are terrified of being shunned, not believed, and of the possibility of being rejected forever. That is where our community stands today. We must change that and teach all of our youngsters that they will be heard, listened to, believed, and embraced with a loving heart and open arms. They will not be judged or ridiculed. We will treat their pain with the deepest respect and empathy.
Lest you think that the above information is based on speculation, I must tell you that unfortunately that is not the case. I come here today after many years of learning firsthand about the tragic plight of victims, and the ugly plight of abusers—who in the process of murdering others, murder themselves, too. It is now abundantly clear to me that by educating every boy and girl in our educational institutions about the horrors of CSA as outlined above, we will literally rescue countless precious souls from untold years of misery.
One case in point: A young man asked to meet with me some time ago. His story is not uncommon: He had been sexually molested in a particular Yeshiva by an older student who had been studying in this Yeshiva and was serving as a spiritual mentor of sorts to younger students. As the victim grew older, he in turn began to molest children himself, including his own siblings. (One of the facts about CSA is that it is often committed by close relatives or friends, and sometimes by very religious-looking people.) Concurrently, he had also become addicted to viewing unmentionable smut, which became part of his daily routine. He completely lost his boundaries for intimacy. Though he was—and still is—an extremely good-hearted young man, he was trapped in the disease of addiction and paralyzed by endless shame and guilt. He got married, but his marriage inevitably soon became dysfunctional. Floundering to survive, he discovered addictive drugs and was soon using them every day—including Yom Kippur. Finally, after hitting “rock-bottom,” this shattered “abused-abuser” shared his story with me. It was the first time that he had shared his true story with anyone, and it took him more than twenty years for to open up! He broke down and wept uncontrollably.
So many lives were destroyed from the actions of that older student. And so many lives could have been spared if the young man, the initial victim, would have known as a young adult that help is available and that he didn’t have to suffer all alone.
The brokenness and utter despondency I observed in this young man—and in many others with similar stories–is typical of victims of CSA. Many of them feel broken and crushed to the very core of their existence. Having been violated in the most vulnerable, holiest, and most sensitive part of their being—the part within us that most reflects G-d, possessing the ability to create new life—makes them feel like their lives are worthless.
Too much blood has been shed on the altar of silence and fear without anyone uttering even a cry. Victims have lived far too long by the code of shame and silence, always blaming themselves for the cruelty of their perpetrators. The devil of abuse has been allowed to grow strong and rampant because of our silence. It is time to declare all-out war—a war of information and education—against the silent bullets that have claimed thousands of our holiest and most beautiful souls.
We as a community must—and will—come forward publicly to support every effort being made on behalf of our innocent and precious youth. With Hashem’s help, we will succeed.
For such is the nature of light: it dispels even the densest of darkness.
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