What emerges most clearly from “Standing Silent” are the costs of failing to report abuse, told largely through the experience of the man who organized the original Pikesville meeting that Jacobs attended, Yacov Margolese.
You only need to hear Margolese’s story, Jacobs explains, to understand how corrosive keeping quiet can be. These days, though, Margolese tells it more openly.
The oldest of nine children, Margolese moved to the Baltimore suburb in 1987 from Far Rockaway in Queens. He remembers as a 13-year-old wanting to increase his level of religious observance, to learn the skills required to sing the Torah like so many of his new neighbors had. So, Margolese says, his parents hired Israel Shapiro, a burly, jovial man known for having a way with children, as a Torah tutor. Margolese alleges that Shapiro soon began fondling him during the lessons. Margolese says he told a rabbi about the abuse and that the rabbi advised him to tell Shapiro he wanted to focus on his studies. He did so, but the abuse continued, he said, and after a few months, he told his parents he had learned enough.
For years afterward, Margolese says, he suffered from suicidal depression. He felt like he needed to cleanse himself, become more religious. “But as I grew up, I couldn’t reconcile the hypocrisy,” Margolese says.\
“To me, it wasn’t just sexual abuse,” Margolese says in “Standing Silent.” “It was spiritual abuse.”