Many in the Jewish community would prefer not to address sexual abuse or even discuss it openly. Asher Lovy, director of community organizing for Za’akah, which raises awareness about child sexual abuse in the Jewish community, and the editor of Neshamas, a website of anonymous personal essays, is making it much more difficult for them to ignore.
“I’m a survivor of both physical and sexual abuse, and so my need to advocate for others is personal,” said Lovy, 25. “Advocacy is often the first step toward any real tangible action.”
Lovy’s journey to the forefront of advocacy began when, years ago, he started commenting anonymously about his experiences on internet forums like Yeshiva World News, eventually publishing a more formal essay with Ami Magazine. “After many years of struggling, it gave my life meaning to put pen to paper,” Lovy said. “That others found solace in my words gave me comfort as well.”
“Advocacy is often the first step toward any real tangible action.”
But by that point, Lovy was done with anonymity. Finally ready to “step out of the shadows,” he began his involvement with Za’akah (Outcry), founded in 2012 by some members of Footsteps, an organization that helps people transitioning from chasidic and black-hat Orthodox communities to mainstream society. Impressed by his tireless dedication to the cause, Za’akah’s founders appointed Lovy director of community organizing, a role in which he regularly arranges protests and rallies to raise awareness about sexual abuse in Jewish communities and lobbies lawmakers to change policy. Lovy is most focused on getting passed into law the Child Victims Act, a bill that’s been pending in the New York State legislature for over a decade. The bill would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sex abusers and extend the civil statute of limitations. Currently the victim must file a complaint before the age of 23.
“While Za’akah has yet to see the Child’s Victim Act passed into law, we’ve certainly gotten a lot of press and people’s attention,” said Lovy, who has had to grow comfortable with seeing his real name in print.
“When it came time to hand the reins of Za’akah over to someone, we knew it required an insider who is passionate about the plight of victims and unafraid to speak truth to power on their behalf,” said Eli Mandel, one of Za’akah’s founders. “We found that person in Asher.”
A telling talent: Lovy is an expert marksman with a bow and arrow, and enjoys practicing his archery skills.