Since 2012, I have been trying to attain justice for the crimes that were committed against me during my childhood by my older cousin, Sholom Eichler. During this pursuit I’ve faced unimaginable challenges, including homelessness and multiple visits to the psych ward. But I have persisted and continue to push onward with the hope that justice will be done soon.

 

From the ages of 6 to ten years old, Sholom Eichler repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped me at various locations including in our shared shul “synagogue” that both our families attended, his parents’ house, my parents’ house, in the bungalow colony that we shared, and lastly, in Jerusalem when our families were on vacation together in 1999.

 

In 2011, when I was 21 years old, I finally mustered the courage to attempt to file criminal charges. I had a meeting with assistant district attorney Olatukumbo Olaniyan and Hannah Wudowski, Wudowski was a liaison for a no longer existent program called Kol Tzedek. After about an hour long meeting, Olaniyan and Wudowski thanked me for coming in and told me that they would be in touch. A few weeks later they contacted me and insisted that I come back to their office for an in person meeting. I reluctantly obliged but I really just wanted to know if they were willing to charge my abuser or not. I returned to their office and they told me that because the date of the last offense that Eichler committed against me was when he was 15 years old, they could not prosecute him. They explained to me that because he was under 16 at that time, this case would have had to been tried in family court and that at that point it was too late for that. I think that at the time I was too stunned or felt too defeated to really think more seriously about what they were saying and discuss it with other legal experts. Most of what I remember from that day was walking out of that very big building in downtown Brooklyn and feeling like once again, my abuser had won.

 

In 2012, a member of the Eichler family approached approached an immmediate family member via an intermediary and tried to offer them the possibility the resolving the “issue” before I went public. At the time it had not even occurred to me that I could go public or that I had any leverage against the man who violently and mercilessly violated and sexualized me during my purest years of childhood. I contacted a lawyer and over the next six months, the six months that were left for me to file a civil lawsuit according to NYS statute of limitations, I attempted to negotiate a private settlement in the hopes of resolving everything in a way that helped me achieve the closure and vindication that I so desperately need, as well as the opportunity for Mr. Eichler to take responsibility for the very real harm that he inflicted upon me.

 

Per the lawyers in that case, I am not allowed to discuss the specific details of why those negotiations failed but what I can say is that I attempted to resolve this with dignity and civility and within the confines of the law. Mine and my attorney’s attempts were not met with the same courtesy and we were forced to file our lawsuit which we did on July 3rd of 2012. After ducking service for over a month, the papers were finally served to his wife in middle of the summer. Eichler, to date, has not responded to that lawsuit and I was granted a default judgment of 3.5 million dollars against him for damages. The transcript of my testimony for that judgment can be found here.

 

A few months after filing that lawsuit, Eichler and his family moved to Israel. At some point in the beginning of 2013, I started looking into what my legal options were in Israel. At that point I discovered that since the last time Eichler abused me was when our families were on vacation together in Jerusalem, the statute of limitations for a criminal case against him had not yet run out there and that I was within my legal right to press charges against him. Indeed, a few weeks later, at great personal and financial sacrifice, I travelled to Israel and filed a complaint against Sholom Eichler.

 

A few days later I was called to the jerusalem police station and while I knew to expect this call, I had not yet known what exactly would happen. After about a half hour of waiting I was brought into a room where Eichler was sitting, accompanied with three Israeli police officers. Eichler was in shackles. They seated me directly across from him, with about one foot of distance between us. After all this time, there I was, face to face with the person who had caused unimaginable damage to my life and I STILL wasn’t sure why I was there or what would happen next. That became clear when suddenly, one of the three officers barked at me in Hebrew and told me to tell Eichler what he did to me.

 

Israeli criminal procedure calls this a confrontation. My understanding is that this is done in order for the police to determine who is telling the truth and whether the case being alleged is true. Honestly I still don’t fully understand what the point of such a process is or how it helps - I certainly know that in this case, it was not a factor for the Jerusalem prosecutor's office not to proceed with the case.

 

What I do know I that this was probably one of the most traumatizing incidents during this entire quest. To be sitting in such close proximity and directly across from the person who caused me so much harm was in and of itself a moment that I hope to never relive again, but to have to actually tell him about the things he did to me as he sat there and denied it was even worse. The Israeli government did not treat me, the victim, with any amount of dignity or even sensitivity. At frequent points during this confrontation, we were forced to stop talking so that they could translate what we were saying from English into Hebrew as they slowly typed our conversation into their computer. There was no stenographer or court reporter, just three police officers barking directions and orders at both of us and at times it became hard to tell who the accuser and who the accused was.

 

In an even more sickening turn of events, the prosecutor’s in Jerusalem eventually decided to drop the case but never informed me of their decision as they were required to by Israeli law, but to add insult to injury, records that they recently turned over to my lawyer show that they were in contact with Eichler and his attorneys. It is hard for me to convey the anguish I feel when I become aware of the fact that the laws and people who were supposed to protect me did the exact opposite. The only thing I can do is to continue fighting to fix this in justice and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Currently, the case is pending appeal in the Jerusalem prosecutor’s office. Their decision will be forthcoming in due course and my lawyer laid out a very strong case as to why they should try Eichler, you can read that letter here.

 

What most of the world doesn’t know is that I pursued this case then and continue to support it now with virtually no support. For most of my 20’s I’ve advocated on behalf of people and causes that I care about and have volunteered hundreds if not thousands of hours to this specific cause. In other words, I did most of this while I was completely broke and at various points, homeless. My decision to pursue chargers in Israel led to more debt that I still owe money on today. Some friends were kind enough to lend me just enough so that I can fly back and forth at that time as the case against him was being pursued. Aside from that, during the negotiation period with them, friends and others supported me through loans and donations in the hope that I’d be able to repay them once the Eichler matter got resolved. Obviously that’s not what happened. When I had to file that lawsuit, I lost my apartment, was hospitalized multiple times, and ultimately wasn’t able to keep the dog that I had raised for almost a year. (Thankfully he’s in a great home with great owners but there still isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him).

 

For me, pursuing justice has come at an incredible price but I am not ready to stop just yet. In fact, after I found out a couple of weeks ago that I’m going to need rectal surgery to repair the physical damage done to me by Eichler when he sodomized with a pen, I found a renewed sense of anger and motivation to continue pursuing this case until the bitter end. I’ve also decided to do something that I held off on for a long time because I was ashamed of the vicious cycle of poverty that I found myself in and blamed myself for it. My hope is that anyone reading this will be outraged enough to even donate 1 dollar towards this fund. Every penny will go a long way in helping me repay some of those debts from the past as well as towards any translating expenses that have started piling up since preparing for my upcoming trip.

 

I feel grateful and lucky to have easily raised 5 thousand dollars in a few days to finance this upcoming trip. I am hopeful that anyone reading this will understand that my request for financial assistance is one that I’ve really held off on making because of shame and the stigma associated with asking people for money. I’ve moved past that point and am ready to open up and be vulnerable to the world in the hopes that any of the people I’ve helped or inspired along my own journey will be inclined to support me in this crazy, frustrating, sickening but necessary quest against a man who must be held accountable for his actions.

 

Thank you.

 

Chaim Levin