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|The Awareness Center|
|Founder and CEO||Vicki Polin, MA, NCC, LCPC, ATR-BC|
|Website||The Awareness Center, Inc.|
The Awareness Center, Inc. was founded as an international, nonprofit, tax-exempt, educational organization, also known as the Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA). Its mission is to end sexual violence in Jewish communities.
History, goals and leadership
The Awareness Center was founded in 2001 by Vicki Polin, who is the organization's CEO. Its mission statement lists the organization's goals as the continued development of its international data base and web page, continued growth of its international speaker's bureau, and the development of its educational certification program for rabbis, cantors and other Jewish community leaders. At one point, the organization said it would develop self-help groups, hold an international conference on sexual violence, and establish both a healing/retreat center and a network of researchers.
In September 2009, the organization announced "an extended sabbatical", claiming insufficient funds to even maintain its list of confirmed, arrested, and rumored offenders. A few months later it was reestablished, after securing funding, and after the director made public statements that she had been assaulted.
Rabbi Yosef Blau, religious adviser at Yeshiva University and an advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct, has said that The Awareness Center's website is very valuable "[s]ince you can't get people arrested and there are no court cases, you have to use a standard that's reasonable and [disclosure] works in that context".
The organization's director says that she has provided educational programs to college students, Jewish youth and community groups, and at professional conferences. The Awareness Center is currently in the process of developing self-help groups for Jewish survivors of sex crimes in Brooklyn, NY and Philadelphia, PA.
The Awareness Center has been actively involved in the movement to abolish the statute of limitations for filing civil suit against alleged and convicted sex offenders. The director, Vicki Polin, has participated in press conferences and has provided testimony at legislative hearings across the United States, including Illinois, and Maryland.
Criticism and controversy
The Awareness Center has not limited itself to listing people who have been convicted of crimes. Some people profiled on its website have been charged with no offense in any criminal or civil court.
Rabbi Mark Dratch, chair of the Rabbinical Council of America's Task Force on Rabbinic Improprieties and founder of the organization JSafe, which addressess domestic violence and child abuse in the Jewish community, was once a supporter of the Center. At a Jewish conference on sexual abuse, he referred to Ms. Polin "as his own personal hero for creating the list of alleged and convicted offenders." He has since re-evaluated his position. He resigned from the Awareness Center's advisory board saying its list of "alleged" offenders was victimizing the subjects of false reports. "I wasn't satisfied with the threshold of verification. There are people who've been victimized and others who've been subject to false reports also being victimized."
Jeff Bell, writing in the July 2008 issue of Catalyst magazine says that director Vicki Polin's version of victim advocacy
...seems to have taken all the aspects of vigilante misanthrope, and the power of the blog is her weapon. Polin has a singular focus to not only expose, but to destroy the life and reputation of whatever person that falls into her sights, regardless of facts. Any Google search on her name serves up a fairly even return of Polin's attacks on rabbinical leaders, and pages written by victims of Polin's tactics.
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union and a trained psychologist, said that while the Awareness Center and the blogs "have served the purpose of keeping this in the public spotlight and keeping the pressure on established institutions to police their constituencies," nonetheless "I read everything with a grain of salt.".
- The Awareness Center Home Page.
- An Awareness Center webpage asserting Rabbinic Support
- Meyer, Eugene L.; Richard Greenberg (2007-01-18). "Awareness Center a clearinghouse of concern — and controversy". Washington Jewish Week. http://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/print.asp?ArticleID=6566&SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- "Clearinghouse of concern". The Cleveland Jewish News. January 19, 2007. http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/articles/2007/01/19/news/local/dcover0119.txt. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
- Rabbi Marc Dratch's address at the 2004 Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance conference
- Trial by Internet: An archetypal spiritual drama, by Jeff Bell, Catalyst magazine, July 2008.
- The Awareness Center, Inc.
- "Schools Try To Prep For Sexual Abuse" Baltimore Jewish Times, December 6, 2002.
- Washington Post - Sunday, February 2, 2003 "Rabbi's Odyssey Reflects Struggle on Sexual Abuse - Jews Begin to Confront Silence That Hid Clergy's Misdeeds". Mentions the work of The Awareness Center, Inc.
- "Defrocked rabbi's Jerusalem lecture cancelled after threats", by Daphna Berman, Haaretz, Israel, July 6, 2006.
- "Reining In Abuse: Awareness Center a clearinghouse of concern and controversy", by Eugene L. Meyer, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), January 10, 2007.
- "Rabbi Accused Of Molesting Bar Mitzvah Students", by Adam May, CBS News (Baltimore), December 19, 2007.
- "Pedophile suspect extradited from Israel charged in NY", by Michal Lando, Jerusalem Post, January 9, 2008.
- "Special Report: Sexual Molestation", by Barbara Pash, Baltimore Jewish Times, February 18, 2008.
- "Commentary - Vicki Polin: Church hurts victims of all faiths", Baltimore Examiner, March 3, 2008.
- Child Victims Voice, August 5, 2008, "Speech - The Child Victim’s Act of Delaware - One Year Later".
- "Child abuse survivors advocate for legal reform" by Ron Cassie, Frederick News Post, November 28, 2008.
- Vicki Polin's Testimony on Maryland's Senate Bill 238 - Child Sexual Abuse, February 5, 2009.Judicial Hearing in Annapolis, MD
- Testifying at Legislative Hearings - by Bob Russell and Vicki Polin