All of us have a responsibility to create an environment where survivors can safely share their stories

Why has there been such a strong reaction to Sima Yarmush’s speech? In less than 1 week, her 30 minute speech in Los Angeles has been watched over 60,000 times.

Why has her speech gone viral and created such a strong response in so many? It has inspired so many victims to share their story with us for the first time.

Clearly, there is a long overdue discussion that needs to be had in our community and we hope that this will stimulate much needed positive change.

We strongly congratulate Sima for her courage, bravery and poise displayed last Sunday night while she shared the most intimate details of her life with the world. When a story of pain is shared, there is a tendency amongst some to point the finger and publicly blame others. Sima’s story is the story of hundreds of survivors and the response she received was in line with what was a widespread community belief at the time. The only option available was public exposure and our community is still coming to terms with this as an appropriate method.

While Sima’s message of pain did highlight certain community leader’s mistakes, recent events such as the Royal Commission in Australia have clearly demonstrated that the entire Jewish world (as well as other religions and institutions) needs to atone for our mishandling of child sexual abuse. JCW’s work on a daily basis is a public apology on behalf of the entire Jewish world for neglecting the most vulnerable among us. While we realize that some feel the need to protect themselves, we urge them to do so with extreme sensitivity so as not to further revictimize abuse victims. In the aforementioned commission, the community leader who took the approach of apologizing for the undeniable pain the victim endured, received the most positive response.

Certainly, publicly shaming the victim with information that is both untrue and claimed to be backed up by what could only be a breach of patient confidentiality only serves to perpetuate a climate and environment in which abuse thrives.

Stories like Sima’s are similar to what JCW hears on a consistent basis and it is these stories that are behind our board’s decision to publicly expose child molesters. Sima sharing her story in this fashion has also brought a new level of understanding to JCW’s work. The overwhelming support we’ve received in the last week is indicative of a major cultural shift in our communities and we trust that it will inspire many others to share their stories with us.

JCW is an organization that works from within the community to effect change, never seeking secular media attention and always exhibiting the utmost respect for our Torah and Mitzvos. JCW creates a Kiddush Hashem by promoting in numerous articles, blogs and emails, Rabbonim who have ruled that abuse must be reported to the police and Rabbis who have demonstrated support for abuse survivors.

As we embolden and empower survivors of abuse, which is JCW’s primary mission, we are allowing the whole world to see the truth. As more of us become aware of the dangers that exist within our midst, we trust that community leaders will have full communal support when holding abusers accountable for their actions.

JCW will continue to host events throughout the world bringing our message and fulfilling our mission of transforming darkness into light and pain into hope. As we near the holy day of Yud Alef Nissan, the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we pray to continue the Rebbe’s mission and directive to help every Jew in need.

Wishing everyone a joyous and festive Pesach and a blessing for a true liberation from the constraint of silence.

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