Our community is one measure stronger and better equipped to protect our children and heal our living victims of child sexual abuse.
The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, which for fear the film “Standing Silent” might be interpreted as a “witch hunt,” as stated by its director in an Los Angeles Jewish Journal article, did not choose to show the film. “Standing Silent,” which ran this past week as part of the JFilm Festival, and was the subject of a lengthy feature article in The Washington Post, is a remarkable example of how survivors can have great power to help heal other survivors, educate an entire community and teach parents to show children how to recognize the signs of a potential child sexual predator.
After the film, planners took full advantage to maximize the impact of Phil Jacobs’ drive to report unspeakable acts occurring in Baltimore's Orthodox community by convening a panel of distinguished experts, two from the secular community and two from the frum community. All spoke intelligently, answering questions, informing the audience of additional insight and resources about secular and Jewish law, community and national resources, and trends affecting all parents and children.
Members from the Pittsburgh frum community, including Rabbi Aaron Kagan and Dr. Robert Lebovitz who were among the panelists, have been active members of the Jewish Domestic Abuse Task Force, which encourages the community to learn and work together on domestic abuse prevention education, including those affecting children and families. Rhonda Fleming, education director from the Pittsburgh Women's Center & Shelter, and David Spurgeon, assistant deputy district attorney, offered practical and important information that parents and those working with children should know.
This movie and panel was a bold show of respect and confidence, exemplifying a strong connection of trust among our city's Jewish denominations and between our secular leaders and our faith based community.
What a loss it was to the children and families of Los Angeles, whose film festival leaders turned away from this groundbreaking documentary featuring a heroic reporter, brave survivors and a publisher that valued a safer community over possible negative letters to the editor. If you have the opportunity to show gratitude, thank our JFilm board, executive director and supporters for this incredible gift and learning opportunity. I am proud and grateful to have community leaders who consider this artful festival much more than a night out at the movies.
(The author co-chairs Jewish Women International’s Council of Jewish Domestic Violence Coalitions and is a former interim director of the Jewish Domestic Abuse Task Force of Pittsburgh.)