Friday, July 26, 2013

Watching the Jewish Community Watch and Its ‘Wall of Shame’

Tablet Magazine   Now 24, Seewald claims to have a database containing over 225 suspected sex offenders and a confidential eight-member advisory “board” made up of mental-health professionals, legal experts, and rabbis who, according to Seewald, refuse to acknowledge their roles publicly for fear of backlash. JCW’s Wall of Shame features 36 accused abusers, 21 of them arrested, according to the site, each added when the “board” has determined there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Like other Jewish blogs dedicated to sex-abuse awareness, such as Mark Appell’s Voice of Justice or Vicky Pollin’s The Awareness Center, JCW aggregates related news and offers referrals for legal advice or counseling services, but Seewald takes the job a step further. When a victim who confides in Seewald is unwilling—or unable due to the statute of limitations—to press charges, Seewald conducts his own investigation, selectively exposing alleged abusers on his “Wall of Shame.” [...]

According to Chaim Levin, 24, a Crown Heights blogger and activist who won $3.5 millionjudgment against his cousin on June 12, claiming years of childhood sex abuse, gaining Seewald as an ally was a relief. “The day I got a call from Seewald asking me about my story was the first time I believed that our community was actually making some progress in combating abuse,” said Levin. “I had been talking about what happened to me to anyone who would listen since I was 14, but everyone told me to keep it to myself and move on.”
Seewald’s confrontational style is evident in his latest project, Project E.M.E.S., an acronym for Educating Mosdos (institutions) on Eradicating Sexual abuse, launched this month, which aims to prevent sex abuse in religious summer camps. The project’s accompanyingvideo, titled “A Friendly Message to Camp Counselors,” warns them: “I don’t care who you are, what family you come from. If you touch a child, we will find out about it.”
But is Seewald—whose apparent irreverence for the hierarchies of Jewish institutions sets him apart from other crusaders in the field—helping or doing more harm than good? Seewald said he hopes the blog’s “Wall of Shame” will warn parents and instill fear in local predators, preventing the victimization of more children. “The only thing molesters are afraid of is being exposed and caught. They are more afraid of the Wall of Shame, than going to jail,” he told me. But the Wall of Shame has also proved to be deeply problematic; used irresponsibly, it can easily undermine the organization’s objectives and destroy an innocent person’s life. According to Ben Hirsch, co-founder of Survivors for Justice, an organization that advocates and educates on issues of child safety, Seewald is on a dangerous track. “Setting up a separate registry [from the law enforcement agencies] can be perceived as condoning a separate justice system,” he told me, “Which, in a way, perpetuates the message of the rabbis that we can deal with this issue in-house. The message must instead be that the only way to deal with child sex abuse is to report it directly to the police, without any prior consultation with a rabbi or other communal figure.”[...]


  1. This could backfire. Just like Rubashkin whose status as Jewish saint increased the more crimes he was charged with showing up on this "wall" could become a status symbol "proving" modern day persecution of Chareidim is a problem.

  2. Meyer Seewald is not consulting with rabbis or with any bias din. His methods empirically appear to be far more successful than any of the other CSA advocates. They can write articles until the roosters come home, but Meyer is out there apprehending molesters. Spineless does not catch molesters.
    I APPLAUD Meyer. We need more of him, in non-Lubavitch molestation cases.
    The Ben Hirsches of the world, (and I do not mean to pick on Ben) may be providing services, I do not know, but are they apprehending molesters??
    We need an army of Meyer Seewalds.....

  3. Thank you Meyer for your proactive work in the community. Other organizations are certianly great, however, they are responsive to situations after the fact. Meyer truly seeks to protect the community by warning us all of the dangerous people.

    Alternatively, Shea Hecht is a hack and part of the problem. In all his years being an "advocate", he has notified the community of NOBODY! Thanx for all your work.

  4. While his work seems to be effective, the Granvetter affair was a big let down.

    I'm not familiar with the beginning of the story so I won't comment on that part. However, when it became apparent that it was a mistake, and the accused was looking "where he can get his credibility back", JCW's response left too much to be desired. JCW posted in its defense, that it is "only reporting public information that's out there". And, get this, "can the NY Times be blamed for reporting a story that seemed true at the time of printing?".

    No! No! The wall of shame is not just reporting!! The reason it's so effective is that it's doling out hefty fines. Creating and maintaining the wall of shame is acting as judge, jury, and executioner!! While in the current climate such an institution seems to be needed, it can only be with tons of responsibility and humility.

    There should have been a multi part extensive and sincere apology.  It should have included...
    We're very sorry to Mr.... and the entire community...
    It was a mistake, that happened because of....
    We have taken the following precautions that mistakes don't happen in the future...
    Although this mistake happened please look at all the good we did...
    We are begging Mr.... for forgiveness and pray and beg that he should get back his jobs or better...
    This is not a small issue. It touches on the primary reason our community is so squeamish about exposing and routing out molesters. They say, "How do I know he did it?", "what if it's not true?", and now "You saw what happened in Crown Heights".

    Incidentally, to my knowledge, the only posting on "Matzav" that touched the molesters issue was this letter from Granovetter titled "I was falsely accused"!!  Shame on them!!  If the reason they didn't post the Epstein or Belsky (to the RCA) letters is because of "Nivul pen" or "lashon harah", the Granovetter letter should have been excluded just as well.

    While I'm disappointed at Matzav, I think it gives us a sense of what they perceive the "oilam" wants to hear.

    Lastly, please don't compare yourself, with all the good your doing, to The New York Crimes!!!


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