Alumni YJ Alum Spotlight: Miriam Schler
Read about Miriam Schler, Young Judaean and Executive Director of the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Center.
[Warning: this article contains discussion of sexual violence.]
Growing up, Miriam Schler lived and breathed Young Judaea: each summer, all summer long, from Sprout Lake Kesher to Tel Yehudah MH, while active during the school year in Gesher Shalom and serving as AVP of the region. A daughter of Holocaust survivors, Miriam was raised knowing the importance of fighting for justice and against evil. Her experience at camp and in the YJ movement transformed those ideas into something one could and should actively pursue. Ani v’ata neshaneh et ha’olam became her rallying call and shapes her worldview to this day as Executive Director of the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center.
YJ opened Miriam’s eyes to life being less about scholastic achievement and material gain and more about envisioning and creating a better world. Strong madrichot and Golda Meir as the first woman prime minister of Israel got her thinking about gender roles and equality. When she decided to make aliyah, after graduating from the University of Michigan she knew that simply putting down roots in Israel would not be enough. It was cardinal for her to take an active part in tikkun olam, in making Israel, and the world, a better place.
Upon graduating with a law degree from Tel Aviv University, Miriam actively sought to volunteer. At the sexual assault center, she was excited to work on micro and macro levels: on the micro, impacting individual lives by validating experiences and providing medical, psychological, and legal aid; and on the macro, bringing a hushed-up problem to the forefront and effecting social change. In 2004 Miriam became Executive Director of the Center, and she points to skills such as contemplating problems and planning solutions cultivated in Etgar, creating community as experienced in MH, and the inspiring leadership examples of her madrichot and madrichim as lighting her way for the past two decades.
Under Miriam’s stewardship, the Center transformed from a tiny NGO into a powerhouse bringing the subject of sexual violence into the mainstream collective consciousness; facilitating groundbreaking programming for women, as well as for male survivors and survivors across the spectrum of Israeli society; fielding 12,400 hotline crisis interventions; conducting educational outreach; and managing 250 volunteers.
The horrors of October 7th have shined an unbearable spotlight on sexual violence and brutality. The Center is dealing with a precipitous rise in interventions for October 7th survivors, witnesses, citizens exposed to graphic evidence, and especially for rape survivors triggered by evidence that continues to emerge. With Israel’s government in disarray, the Center has become an ER for psychological help and is pioneering resilience training for first responders, ZAKA volunteers, and therapists bearing witness to the unbearable. Miriam’s childhood vision of justice and fighting evil has been brought to bear in the most extreme circumstances.
Special circumstances require special measures. The Center’s annual Weekend Fashion Bazaar fundraiser, which raises 20% of the Center’s annual budget could not be held. And in September 2023 the government inexplicably cut 30% of state funding for all of Israel’s rape crisis center’s, and despite the current strain has not reinstated the cut budget. In these heart wrenching times and in honor of the important role Young Judaea played in inspiring Miriam’s life work, we would like to give readers the opportunity to contribute.
In Miriam’s words, may we all share in rebuilding this broken world.
The Center is not only working hard to aid Israeli survivors, but we are also trying to raise consciousness worldwide regarding the deeply disturbing trend to “question the veracity” or even to justify the rapes that were perpetrated that day. Please read/watch and share:
- Op-ed Times of Israel: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-obscene-betrayal-of-israelis-who-survived-and-didnt-survive-rape/
- November 29, 2023 on I24 News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbxdRLrN3lA
- December 5, 2023 on I24 News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwPtsEvM1bA
- December 29, 2023 on NBC Nightly News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mEjPe6S4Xo&t=85s
- January 7, 2024 on I24 News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b47hRpm5ul4