As we begin the new year I am naturally inclined to reflect in introspection on 2013's pass. As I always say "it was a year of abundance" meaning I had plenty of positive as well as negative experiences. Personally, the year 2013 was one of achievement, creativity and exploration. I moved to Israel, ran the Jerusalem Marathon, volunteered, travelled and hiked, wined and dined, drafted into the Israel Defense Force and overall stepped over many personal boundaries. It has also been the year of the pen. I've published numerous articles - both in the United States and Israel - as a Journalist for the NYC-based Suit Magazine and started many expressive blogs. But one pivotal article written this past year changed the course of my life.
On June 12, 2013 The Huffington Post published the disclosure of my horrific history of Sexual Abuse within the Jewish community of Detroit, Michigan. The article shocked many in the United States and abroad but words cannot describe how moved I was by the outpouring of responses -from friends and strangers alike - full of love, support and encouragement. Dozens of previously "hidden" victims contacted me to share their silent pain, look for help and express their gratitude to me for speaking out on behalf of those who cannot find a voice. Some surprised me while others did not. I was contacted by rabbis and teachers, community leaders, child advocates and news agencies and received one message from a Jewish gentleman saying he was going to a friend's house to read my article because his internet filter detected the word "sex" and blocked the link. I found that flaw to be eerily symbolic to the current state of consciousness in many Jewish communities on the epidemic of child abuse.
Six empowering yet excruciating months have passed since the public disclosure. My article opened many locked doors allowing me to access previously inaccessible areas in both my personal and professional life. Although, the article has also left me feeling socially ostracized for my very public release of a very private issue. While I have allowed many toxic friendships to fizzle out during these past 12 months I have also drifted from many who have shown me great love and support and I truly miss them. In doing so, I have come to learn much about friendship as well as the sociological taboo of abuse in general. Thankfully, however, the past six months have brought the global Jewish community closer to a cure for their enigmatic epidemic of sexual abuse cover-ups and scandals. Below is a timeline of critical turning points that occurred within Jewish communities worldwide during the latter half of 2013:
JUNE 12, 2013 – Huffington Post publishes my story.
JUNE 12, 2013 – Jewish activist and sex abuse victim Chaim Levin is awarded $3.5 million in molestation lawsuit against his cousin Sholom Eichler
JUNE 12, 2013 – Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Director of Project Y.E.S. issues a series of videos on child safety and abuse prevention.
JUNE 16, 2013 – A letter from leading rabbi in Lakewood apologizing for publicly humiliating the victim of Yosef Kolko for involving the authorities is publicized.
JUNE 19, 2013 – Dovid Kohn, a Jewish man from Monsey, New York man is sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing his daughter's friend.
JUNE 23, 2013 - Jewish Community Watch produces a viral YouTube video warning summer camp staff about sexual abuse.
JUNE 27, 2013 – Menachem Levy, a Jewish man from London is sentenced to three years in prison for sexual assault of a minor.
JUNE 30, 2013 - David Cheifetz of Teaneck shares his story of sexual abuse at the Rabbinical Council of America's Annual Conference.
JULY 1, 2013 - In a letter of resignation, R' Norman Lamm, former Chancellor of Yeshiva University, acknowledges his failure to adequately respond to sexual abuse allegations in Y.U. in the 1980s.
JULY 8, 2013 - $380 million federal lawsuit filed against Y.U. by 19 former students claiming sexual abuse cover-up.
JULY 10, 2013 – A Jerusalem father is sentenced to 28 years in prison for repeatedly raping stepdaughter.
JULY 11, 2013 – Rabbinical Council of America issues guidelines to prevent sexual abuse in Jewish communities.
JULY 13, 2013 – 19-year-old Jewish counselor at Camp Dora Golding arrested for sexual misconduct to a minor.
JULY 21, 2013 – Brooklyn D.A. releases names of 45 men convicted of child sexual abuse in New York's Jewish community.
JULY 24, 2013 – David Kramer, an Australian man, is sentenced to over three years in jail for multiple accounts of molestation in Melbourne's Yeshiva College.
AUGUST 20, 2013 – Over 200 Jews gather in Los Angeles for a series of lectures to confront the epidemic of abuse in the Jewish community.
AUGUST 21, 2013 – A Hasidic man in New York pleads guilty to offering $500K bribe to silence sex abuse victim.
SEPTEMBER 10, 2013 – Rabbi Avraham Stulberger, Dean of Valley Torah High School in California issues a video statement urging the collective Jewish community to stand up and confront abuse.
SEPTEMBER 10, 2013 – Just days before the Jewish Day of Atonement, the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia issues a statement apologizing for previous mistakes to combat abuse and urging the collective Jewish Community to take action against child sexual abuse.
OCTOBER 18, 2013 – Yosef Kolko, a former Jewish education from New Jersey is sentenced to 13 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 12 year old boy.
OCTOBER 29, 2013 – Jewish Community Watch holds community-wide seminar to address the issue of sexual abuse in Jewish centers worldwide.
NOVEMBER 12, 2013 – A Haifa University study finds that 48.5% of all Jewish children and 67.7% of all Arab children in Israel experienced abuse or neglect.
NOVEMBER 12, 2013 – Vice Magazine publishes interview with child sex-abuse whistleblower Nuchem Rosenberg on systematic abuse in Jewish ritual bathhouses
NOVEMBER 18, 2013 – Michael J. Salamon, fellow of the American Psychological Association, pens an op-ed in the Times of Israel urging for new leadership in the Orthodox Jewish community to address the critical issue of child sexual abuse.
DECEMBER 20, 2013 – David Cyprys, an educator from Melbourne's Jewish community is sentenced to eight years in prison for rape and assault against a minor.
While it is true that dozens of other incidences of sexual abuse occurred in Jewish communities worldwide during the past 6 months, I have selected the more public ones that highlight improvements in breaking the Jewish taboo of abuse as well as steps taken to raise the global Jewish consciousness of abuse. Those not mentioned must not be overlooked and their powerful voices are contributing to a monumental paradigm shift in Jewish society and beyond. Together, we are an army of victims and advocates equipped with the weapons needed to slay the stagnant status-quo: hope, courage and the fervent desire to ensure that others don't feel the pain that we felt and continue to feel to this day.
2013 was a year of change for all of us. But the process of transforming a culture of secrecy into a culture of security is a steady evolution and our work is far from finished. Notwithstanding, the global Jewish community has come a long way and their efforts deserve recognition. I applaud their progress and am proud to have joined the revolution