The story took over [Phil] Jacobs’s career in a way that surprised him. Tall and lanky with a softspoken manner, Jacobs, 58, still lives in Baltimore and is still married to his high school sweetheart. The Baltimore native and University of Maryland alumnus had worked for the Jewish Times company for 30 years, and while he “never wanted to cover Bubbie and Zaidy at the Gefilte Fish Ball,” he says from his new Rockville office at Washington Jewish Week, where he became editor in chief last summer, “I also didn’t expect this.”
“Standing Silent” depicts a community struggling to come to terms with a problem that, Jacobs says, has remained underreported for years and seems only recently to have attracted the attention of advocates and lawmakers.
There are no hard numbers to document the extent of the problem, but Elaine Witman, director of the Shofar Coalition, a nonprofit agency that provides services for victims of sexual and other abuse in the Baltimore area’s Jewish community, says the center is seeing an increase in the number of Jews coming forward to report abuse. In 2010, 67 people requested help for childhood sexual abuse from the coalition. That number nearly doubled in 2011, to 132 people, said Witman, who attributes the increase to Jacobs’s articles and the coalition’s efforts toreduce the shame that has kept the issue quiet for so long.