The survivors of child abuse who receive countless support and assistance from JCW often refer to it as a family, one in which a special unspeakable bond is shared. On that note, Sunday night’s Gala at the Rok Family Shul in Miami was somewhat of a family reunion as dozens of survivors, along with their families and hundreds of supporters, gathered to look back at the impact that JCW has made within the four short years since its creation. They also gathered to further commit themselves to JCW’s mission of protecting children from abuse and helping survivors heal.
Award-winning reporter for the Fox affiliate in Miami and probably the only Shabbat observant TV reporter in the country, Rosh Lowe, emceed the evening. He introduced the founder of JCW, Meyer Seewald, who started the organization as a blog in 2011 in order to expose a predator that he knew were abusing young teens in a Jewish community in Brooklyn.
Meyer Seewald listed all of the work that JCW has done over the past year to prevent abuse and help survivors heal. Among the impressive list were the many educational events that JCW had made that informed thousands of people within the orthodox Jewish community about the danger and prevalence of child abuse while offering tips to prevent it. He also mentioned JCW’s work of subsidizing therapy for over one hundred survivors, of logging hundreds of reports of abuse, and offering a wealth of information about the topic to the one million visitors their website has received. But Seewald made sure to caution the crowd, “How can we celebrate when there is still so much more to do? How can we celebrate when there are still thousands of victims in pain?”
Awards were then handed out to the honorees. Receiving awards were Ben Nash, a philanthropist and major supporter of JCW; Eli Nash, Ben’s brother and a survivor who has since become an active supporter of JCW; Benny Forer, a rabbi, professor and assistant district attorney from Los Angeles who was acknowledged for his counsel and assistance to JCW since the beginning; Doctor Mark Horowitz from Los Angeles; Abe Pasternak, the COO of PCS Wireless and Director of the Arora Nash Foundation; and Rabbi Yosef Blau, the Mashgiach Ruchani at YU and an invaluable member of the advisory board.
An emotional moment during the award presentation served to highlight the effect that CSA has, not just on the victim, but on the family as well. When Ben Nash was asked to say a few words, he tearfully apologized to his younger brother, Eli, for not being there for him in the past. He declared: “I failed you as a child, but I will not fail our children again.”
As each speaker took their turn at the podium it became clear that JCW does not only act to help survivors heal, but also empowers them to become advocates themselves. Despite suffering deeply from abuse, courageous survivors Sima Yarmush, Rivka Joseph, Baruch Sandhaus, David Schottenstein, and Eli Nash have each used their stories to help raise awareness and inspire others to work together to help prevent abuse within the community.
When Executive Director David Schapiro asked for pledges from the crowd, Mark Horowitz immediately pledged $50,000 on condition that he is listed on JewishCommunityWatch.org as a proud supporter of JCW.
A young father was the last speaker of the event, revealing publicly for the first time that he too was abused. He also related that a friend of his was recently exposed on JCW’s Wall of Shame, as an abuser. When he asked this individual, who is currently in jail for his crimes, what his feeling are towards JCW, the man surprisingly replied that he is grateful to JCW for exposing him and allowing him to now get the help he desperately needs.
The Gala Chairwoman was Dinie Shapiro and the committee members were Freida Bindell, Raizel Kahn, Devorah Kaplan, Nicole Kavana, Chani Laber, Dini Leeds, Henya Mizrahi, Eda Schottenstein, and Gabriella Shapiro.
Photos by Chaim Perl