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The Awareness Center
Formation 2000
Type Non-profit
Headquarters Baltimore, MD
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.[1]

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.[1] 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.[1] A few months later it was reestablished, after securing funding, and after the director made public statements that she had been assaulted.

The website claims that more than 260 rabbis from around the world have signed in support of the organization.[2][verification needed]

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".[3]

Activities

The organization's director says that she has provided educational programs to college students, Jewish youth and community groups, and at professional conferences.[4] 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,[5] and Maryland.[6]

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.[7]

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."[8] 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."[3]

Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman for the Orthodox Agudath Israel of America group, has also criticized the center, for using material from anonymous blogs.[3].

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.[9]

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."[3].

See also

  • Takana

References

External links

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