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December 18, 2018 8:56 am

We Must Confront Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community

avatar by Tila Falic Levi

Opinion

An empty classroom in a public school. Photo: Wiki Commons.

I have always been a proud and active member of the Jewish community. I strongly believe in uniting Jews in the Diaspora with the people of Israel. I’ve constantly worked to support pro-Israel charities and projects that seek to unite Jews across the world in order to face the challenges to our future.

Now it is time to take on another aspect of this challenge: saving Jewish children from the horrors of child sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, the global Jewish community has failed victims of abuse. Innocent children have been hurt by teachers, family members, community leaders, and others — and all of this has happened as our community has stood by, often in silence. That is why I have recently joined the board of Jewish Community Watch (JCW), a leading organization combating child sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

The connection between the Jews in the Diaspora and Israel is something we should always recognize — but at times, this link gives sexual abusers an easy way out. Too often, an abuser flees to Israel either before they can be arrested or after serving a prison term. Sometimes, a suspect runs from Israel to the United States and other countries, as well. These criminals try to quietly rejoin a community by hiding their past, while they continue targeting children.

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JCW’s team — and others with a similar mission — seek to make it more difficult for abusers to flee from justice. We try to ensure that Jewish communities around the world are properly informed of the threat posed by child predators. With improved cooperation between US and international authorities — and the Israeli police and judicial system — abusers will no longer have the option to run away from justice, regardless of where they flee.

There are also many opportunities for learning and collaboration. Though there is still much work to be done, Israel has developed some innovative approaches to combating child abuse through legislation and social policy. Through JCW and other organizations, Israel can build bridges with the US, based on successful tactics and techniques — and also share some of its own.

We learn in the Talmud that saving a Jewish life is like saving the world. The world has been shattered for many of these children, and many of them carry the burden for the rest of their lives. We seek to ensure that the next generation doesn’t have to grow up as victims any longer. Our awareness initiatives prevent abuse, and save children from dangerous people around them. Through counseling and support services, we also help victims become survivors, drawing strength from each other to face the world and deal with their pain.

Sadly, sexual abuse happens in every community. Today, we are more aware of it — and with this awareness, it is incumbent upon us to support the survivors and stop the abusers from hurting more children. These are the future members of our community, they are the future of the Jewish people, and it is our responsibility to invest in a happy, healthy, future for them and all of us.

Tila Falic Levi is a Jewish community activist and leader and a mother of five.

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