By COLlive reporter
The head of an organization that was both praised and criticized for taking a combative approach to fighting child abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities is stepping down from his position.
Meyer Seewald, 27, announced this week that he is leaving the Jewish Community Watch (JCW), the anti-abuse organization he founded 5 years ago and made headway in the U.S. and abroad.
“As many of you are aware, I will, thank G-d, be getting married shortly and at this point, I feel that I must move on to the next chapter of my life in order to focus on, please G-d, building a family,” Seewald wrote.
“While I will sit on the board of directors, I will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations,” said Seewald, who grew up in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights area and now lives in Miami, FL. As a young boy, he was molested by a camp counselor, he said.
Under Seewald’s leadership, the organization provides therapy to abuse victims (currently paying fees for 80 people, it said this month), and held public awareness events across the U.S., Canada and Israel. Most notably, it publishes a “shaming” listing of abusers.
Seewald wrote to friends and supporters that “once I have settled into married life and a new profession, I hope to implement a number of anti-abuse projects which I have been wanting to do for a while in order to help more people.”
His statement elicited many good wishes thanking him for his advocacy. “You’ve changed the way yiddishkite sees abuse,” wrote Shoshana Wise. “Thank you for everything and everyone you’ve touched so far. May you have a Bayit Neeman Be Yisrael!”
The organization is financially supported by businessmen and brothers Eli Nash and Ben Nash who have donated about $1 million over the past two years, according to the JTA.
Eli Nash told COLlive.com that in addition to himself and Seewald who sit on the organization’s Board of Directors, “There are a few others (not all wish to be named) and we are actively growing our board.”
In a statement to COLlive, the Board of Directors thanked Seewald for his leadership and stated, “Meyer will be leaving the organization in the able hands of our dedicated staff.”
They cited an in-house attorney who is handling legal matters, licensed therapists they work with and a retired police detective who runs the in-house investigative division.
“Part of that overhaul will include a new page, the “Child Safety Alert” page, on which we will post known offenders in our community as well as, upon the approval of our legal counsel, others who are found to have had an association or involvement in an act or cover up of abuse,” they wrote.
The organization’s CEO and Executive Director is David Shapiro, who formerly worked at The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Humane Society of Greater Miami. JCW has a staff of 12 people.
“Four years ago we were attacked beyond everything to show we weren’t credible,” Seewald said in a recent interview. “It was 10 percent of people supporting us. Now it’s 80 percent.
“Leaders of the community have changed. Now they realize there are so many kids at risk, problems with marriage because of sexual abuse, they are supportive. Not yet publicly, unfortunately, but behind the scenes, they will support the work we do.”