By COLlive reporter
Photos: Itzik Roytman
A standing-room only crowd of 800 packed into Lubavitch Yeshiva hall in Crown Heights Monday for a historic event to combat child abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community.
The “Night of Education and Awareness” organized by the Jewish Community Watch organization was a powerful and eye-opening event, which highlighted the effects of child abuse on its victims and educated participants about abusers.
Participants were called upon by MC Zvi Gluck, director of operations of Zaka International, to stand up and take action to prevent abuse against children, because “any precious soul that is lost is on the hands of those who did nothing to stop it.”
Benny Forer, a Deputy District Attorney for LA County who is on the board of the Jewish Community Watch organization, related surprising facts about accusations against an alleged abuser.
“People say it’s a ‘he said, she said’ situation, that one person makes an accusation and it ruins a life,” he said. “Not true. There are many steps taken and extensive investigation” before anyone is arrested, he said, noting that only 20% of the cases in California are filed, while the rest are rejected for lack of evidence to prosecute.
Brooklyn’s recently elected District Attorney Ken Thompson made an appearance, telling the crowd that he is “determined to keep everyone in Brooklyn safe, and treat everyone fairly – and protect all of our children.”
An emotional speech was given by a young woman who is a survivor of abuse, who urged victims to remember, “it’s not you who should be ashamed, but the animal who did this to you.”
“It may take millions of tears, but you will survive,” she said, to a standing ovation.
Renowned orator Rabbi YY Jacobson spoke passionately about the organization, saying that he attended the event to “ask forgiveness for the fact that so many of us have ignored, willingly or inadvertently, the silent cry of so many young beautiful souls whose lives have been affected, and sometimes shattered” by abuse.
Rabbi Jacobson implored victims not to remain silent any longer. “Speak up, we will not blame you,” he said. “Speak up – you will be embraced. And you will be loved,” he said.
Other speakers included Eli Nash, a survivor of abuse, psychologist Rabbi Benzion Twerski, Yocheved Sidoff, founder of Lamplighters Yeshiva and Chaim Drizin, marriage and family therapist.
The event marked the relaunch of the organization, founded and directed by Meyer Seewald, after it halted operations a year ago due to lack of funding. A crowd-funding campaign in July helped raise $150,000 in 24 hours to cover a major portion of JCW’s annual budget enabling it to recommence its services.