Tablet Magazine has a brief profile of sorts of Meir Seewald and Jewish Community Watch.
Jewish Community Watch started out as Crown Heights Watch and suddenly became the more generalist sounding Jewish Community Watch when Seewald wanted to expand its reach to perpetrators who were not part of the Crown Heights Chabad community.
Rabbi Shea Hecht, Crown Height's go-to child sexual abuse man, had already adopted a strategy of vigorously pursing a tiny number non-Chabad predators with no yichus and no good haredi protection while at the same time covering up most Crown Heights and Chabad abuse.
Hecht was able to make it appear as if Chabad was cracking down on abuse when, in reality, Hecht and other Crown Heights leaders were covering up abuse cases, just as they always had done.
At the same time, Henna White, a Chabadnik who is a key aide to District Attorney Charles Hynes, allegedly helped Hynes reach a deal with Seewald that saw many of these Chabad pedophiles given sweetheart plea deals or be drastically undercharged. (Pedophiles outside of normative Chabad circles and outside of Crown Heights targeted by JCW or Hecht apparently got much harsher treatment from the DA.)
This allowed Seewald to look like he was accomplishing a lot when, in fact, he really wasn't. Hynes also publicly praised Seewald – praise Seewald was all too eager to accept – and this helped to kasher Hynes in the eyes of the public because it backed up Hynes' false claims about his own "vigorous" pursuit of haredi sex offenders.
In February, Zaki Tamir, the head of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, wrote a glowing letter of endorsement for Jewish Community Watch and Seewald.
Earlier this month, Tamir was publicly promoting a Crown Heights fundraiser for Hynes' campaign, causing a leading activist with some ties to JCW to ask me why this was happening.
I told him Hynes' purpose in praising Seewald was always to use Seewald's 'work' as a shield against the mounting evidence that Hynes and his office are corrupt.
Not many DA's in America have federal judges excoriating their top prosecutors for cavalier prosecutions of men who are clearly innocent, and excoriating them for (clearly intentional) mishandling of evidence that would exonerate those convicted men. Brooklyn's Charles J. Hynes is one of that tiny, inglorious number.
On top of that, there is at least a decade of evidence showing Hynes mishandling of haredi child sexual abuse cases – mishandling that protected both the perpetrators and their rabbinic enablers.
Hynes shenanigans with haredi abuse cases had recently been exposed, and his wrongful prosecutions were about to be, when Hynes suddenly made his deal with Seewald.
None of this information about Hynes' use of a very willing Meir Seewald is in Tablet's story, a story that is itself full of name misspellings and other problems.
But Tablet's piece does show some of Seewald's thuggish behavior and it does allow Rabbi Shea Hecht to, again, make an ass of himself in public and essentially admit that he covers up certain child sex abuse cases.
“The last time I remembered, I was ordained as a rabbi. If the person [victim] came to me, I have at least the responsibility to decide if it’s true or not true, because they want guidance,” Hecht told Tablet.
A police investigation conducted by trained forensic child sexual abuse investigators is the only correct way to determine whether an allegation is true or false.
What Hecht does ends up protecting pedophiles and damaging victims, even if he doesn't intend for that to happen.
What Tablet also fails to note is that the cases Hecht has publicly championed are disproportionately not Crown Heights cases, most not even Chabad cases. The cases dealt with quietly and internally, keeping pedophiles free and unnamed, are disproportionately Chabad cases.
Tablet does note that only two of the three rabbis on the Crown Heights Bet Din actually signed the beit din's much-ballyhooed letter allowing the reporting of child sexual abuse cases to police. The the, Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba, the senior rabbi on that panel, refused to sign – a fact I was the first to report when the letter was issued two years ago, and a fact Seewald and others in his circle have tried to obscure since then, no matter how many times I have reported it.
It is, I think, no coincidence that Seewald's patron, Charles Hynes, has repeatedly praised Chabad for issuing that letter. He did so most recently early this week in a 20 minute infomercial-style interview with Zev Brenner, never mentioning that Osdoba had not signed and, as such, the letter has no real halakhic validity.
As for Osdoba not signing, to say that indicates a schism in Chabad is only partially true. One of the two rabbis who did sign only did so reluctantly, and that happened only after Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg told him in very graphic Yiddish what the actual physical and mechanical details of child sex abuse are. Before that, he was adamantly opposed to signing the letter.
Seewald and others claimed Osdoba would be signing the letter any day now, and said my reporting was incorrect.
Two years have passed and Osdoba still has not signed.
Apparently referring to Seewald's penchant for threatening alleged pedophiles and demanding they get into therapy and agree to stay away from kids or end up on JCW's Wall of Shame, and Seewald's secret registry of alleged pedophiles, Ben Hirsch of Survivors for Justice explained his reasons for being leery of Seewald.
“Setting up a separate registry [from the law enforcement agencies] can be perceived as condoning a separate justice system. 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,” Hirsch said.
I'll add that there are two more problems that are equally important.
The first is that Seewald's behavior easily leads to its own abuses.
His 'board' is secret. His entire operation is secret. There is no transparency and no accountability.
No one can ever really be sure that Seewald isn't misusing his position.
That is a claim many in Crown Heights justifiably make.
And there is also another problem: the alleged relationship of Seewald and JCW to certain attorneys who bring child sex abuse civil suits, and who allegedly 'donate' money to JCW for each viable case referred or who place ads on the JCW website as a form of compensation for those referrals.
I stopped dealing with Seewald years ago after it became clear to me that he was thuggish and, for want of a better term, ethically challenged.
At any rate, a secret organization which publicly shames alleged pedophiles who have not been arrested or indicted, and whose victims refuse to come forward publicly is extremely problematic and unethical, even if the person running it is a saint – something Seewald certainly is not.
Tablet captures this aspect of Seewald and JCW fairly well.
What it does not do is explain why Brooklyn's allegedly corrupt district attorney is enabling it.