Late last month, Phil Jacobs, executive editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times, was packing his bags and feeling anxious. He was on his way to the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Standing Silent, a documentary directed by Scott Rosenfelt—producer of Home Alone, Mystic Pizza, and Smoke Signals, among many others—chronicles Jacobs’ several-year quest to expose sexual abuse within Baltimore’s insular Orthodox Jewish community. The Atlanta film festival had been one of the first to accept it, and was the first Jacobs would attend.
“So this movie’s coming out,” Jacobs said. “I keep pushing it away and pushing it away and it’s almost time.” His articles on sexual abuse had named the names of perpetrators, a taboo in the eyes of some in the Orthodox Jewish community, to which Jacobs belongs. Some had accused him of lashon hora, the Hebrew term for negative speech that harms another, a serious sin. The documentary was bound to rekindle some of these feelings in his critics. But there was another, more personal reason Jacobs was feeling anxious. It was perhaps the same reason he’d pursued his sexual molestation series for so long and with such drive: As a young man, Jacobs was raped.