A large crowd from the Miami Jewish community gathered at the Jewish Learning Center in Miami Beach for an emotionally charged evening to raise awareness about child sexual abuse (CSA) in the Orthodox Jewish community and learn what Jewish Community Watch (JCW) is doing to combat it.
The crowd heard from rabbis, survivors, and therapists. By the end of the evening, more than a dozen victims of child sexual abuse stood up and publicly acknowledged their abuse, some for the first time.
The emcee for the event, Rabbi Schneur Kaplan, introduced the opening speaker, Rabbi (and licensed therapist) Chaim Drizin. Rabbi Drizin shared some of his experiences working with victims of sexual abuse referred to him by JCW. Drizin also discussed some lesser-known facts about the types of homes victim of sexual abuse often come from.
Jewish Community Watch founder and director Meyer Seewald, himself a victim of child sexual abuse, told the audience that when he discovered the depth of abuse in the community, he realized his mission in life was to battle CSA.
The next speaker, Dr. Norman Goldwasser, spoke about the deterrent power of the “Wall of Shame” on JCW’s website – where confirmed abusers’ names and photos are posted. He recounted a number of occasions where the fear of being listed on the Wall of Shame caused abusers to agree to participate in breakthrough therapy sessions with their victims.
Miami businessman and philanthropist Eli Nash had many in tears as he shared his story of the horrific abuse he suffered from age 8 to 11. He spoke about the lasting effect it had on him into his adulthood. With the help of extensive therapy and the support of JCW he confronted his abuser and began to heal. He is now a leading supporter of JCW and a voice against CSA.
A short film produced by JCW titled “Speak up” was shown, and as the evening wound down kosher restaurateur Baruch Sandhaus, who was sitting in the audience, took the podium and revealed that he too had been abused decades ago. “By your being here,” he told fellow abuse survivors, “by continuing with your life, you have proven yourself stronger than those who hurt you. You have the power to live successful and meaningful lives.”
One of the attendees, Shainy Toron-Federman, posted afterward on JCW’s Facebook page, “Last night’s event was probably the most important one I’ve ever been to. The honesty, rawness, humanity and bravery shown by every single speaker and survivor affected me so deeply I really can’t describe it. Eli, Meyer, and Baruch, who were so courageous in sharing their stories straight up, just saved countless lives. I have never been prouder to be Jewish than I was last night, when we all stood together and sent a message to the abusers and cowardly murderers who will never again lay a hand on anyone with the help of JCW.”
Visit www.facebook.com/JewishCommunityWatch.Org for more information.