How Long Till Jewish Community Watch Returns?

JewishCommunityWatch.org (JCW) combated child abuse (primarily within Chabad). It was founded and largely operated by Meyer Seewald, a victim of child abuse and an ex-Orthodox Jew who has little formal education, no college, and no professional training. What he does have is street smarts, courage, intuition, and passion for a project sorely needed.

JCW is controversial within Orthodox Judaism for many of the same reasons that The Awareness Center under Vicki Polin was attacked (it shut down circa 2006). Both operations were fundamentally lay-led with some rabbis signing on later and taking great heat for it.

Potential supporters didn’t want to be on the hook for everything Meyer Seewald and Vicki Polin chose to do and they didn’t trust that Meyer and Vicki were controllable.

Among Chabad Jews I know, JCW has been a major topic of conversation for over a year.

There’s no precedent in Orthodox Judaism for what The Awareness Center and JCW have done. Orthodox rabbis in particular are scared to support something that is run by secular Jews who by definition don’t obey Jewish law. Before they can sign on to something like JCW, they need assurance that everything will be done according to Jewish law. From the perspective of JCW’s biggest supporters, these rabbis are cowards.

JCW director Meyer Seewald wrote on Facebook February 6, 2014:

It is with deep regret and sadness that I write this letter. After more than two and a half years, we at Jewish Community Watch are forced to close our doors. It gives us great pride to know of what we have accomplished throughout our existence: raising awareness for child sexual abuse within the Jewish community, funding therapy for survivors of abuse, bringing to justice those who have destroyed the lives of our children, and countless other fulfillments.

Since Jewish Community Watch was established, thousands have contacted us seeking support. To this day, emails continue to pour in requesting assistance with matters of child sexual abuse. We have done our best to help anyone who has needed assistance and we believe that our efforts will not be forgotten.

Disappointingly, the time has come where we are no longer able to rely solely on the words of support we have so frequently received. Very few individuals have transformed those words into action and donated time and funds to help keep our operation going. The few that have served as the life support system for Jewish Community Watch.

Many mistakenly assume that there are minimal costs to running this organization – needless to say, that cannot be farther from the truth. The expenses of running Jewish Community Watch go way beyond the cost of maintaining the website. As the organization has grown and more and more professionals have been recruited to work with us, the costs of operating have increased substantially. A number of selfless individuals have forgone the safety and comfort of steady-paying jobs to commit their time nay, their lives, to JCW on behalf of the Jewish community as a whole; sadly, we have been unable to compensate them for all they have done.

Aside from the website hosting fees, there were also office expenses, phone bills, security, maintenance costs, and more, at times reaching thousands of dollars. Additionally, funding for therapy for numerous survivors of abuse who were unable to afford their medical bills and other programs that brought aid and comfort to survivors left us with overwhelming bills that we can no longer fund.

After countless fundraising efforts with minimal or no results, it is clear that moving forward will only sink us deeper into an already enormous debt. It is true that the cost of keeping the JCW website on the internet is only a few dollars; however, as long as it is up, we will continue to receive requests for assistance that we would be unable to fulfill.

Today, there is still nothing set up in our community to help victims of the devastating and heinous crime of child sexual abuse. Those who raped, molested, sodomized our precious boys and girls are still walking around the streets with their heads held high. Hundreds of ongoing investigations will now be terminated and any of the perpetrators’ names have not been revealed to the public will continue to go about their business exuding an air of arrogance and confidence while the victims live in the shadow of their memories of pain and defilement.

We dread the results that the closing of JCW will have on our children: young men who are suspected of or who have actually molested children will once again be free to work as counselors in our overnight camps; men in our community who have molested but were holding themselves in check will once again feel safe to groom and violate our children; would-be molesters will not feel the need to seek professional help because the fear of being exposed on the Wall of Shame will no longer be present. But the community has made their decision by their lack of financial support and we can only abide by it.

We leave now the opportunity in the hands of those who have condemned us. We leave this responsibility to the leaders of our communities who have stood for decades in silence. Perhaps, finally, those who have never seen our cause or have never stood for the countless innocent victims of sexual abuse will awaken to the epidemic that has plagued our community for ages.

Sincerely and regretfully,
Meyer Seewald,
Director of Jewish Community Watch

Here are my reactions to this announcement.

* It seems like a re-run of The Awareness Center. There’s a high burnout rate in this type of crusade. Everybody seems to want to stop child abuse but organizations that name predators get attacked and eventually they tire and shut down.

* It seems like JCW was biting off more than it can chew. It doesn’t take much money to operate a website. Funding therapy for child abuse victims, however, does cost a lot of money. Funding for a professional staff costs a lot of money. Funding Meyer so that he can avoid a regular job and make this his living costs a lot of money. JCW had such a big mission it became overwhelming. With a slimmed down purpose and operated on a voluntary basis, something like JCW could go forward without needing any money. You don’t need an office and special equipment.

* JCW had a confrontational our-way-or-the-highway approach that scared off many potential supporters. JCW didn’t compromise and bargain as much as it pursued its mission with great focus. Many Orthodox Jews who nominally support it weren’t willing to sign checks for a group that doesn’t yet have non-profit status and no Chabad rabbis on board.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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