Domestic Abuse in Jewish Communities

Behind Closed Doors           

              30 years ago, I converted to Judaism at a Conservative synagogue.  My conversion class was a group of six women, all of whom were engaged to Jewish men (except me of course).  Our rabbi explained the gender composition of the class saying that non-Jewish women (that wasn’t the word he used) often seek out Jewish men because they make the best husbands and fathers.  Jewish men, he continued, are good providers, attentive husbands, and kind, devoted fathers.  Above all, he said, they never hit their wives.

            Honest.  In 20th century San Francisco, he said that, and for years I went around repeating it like it was yet one more holy truth about the Jews.  Really, I think it doesn’t matter what religion or ethnicity, whoever we are we like to perpetuate this myth about ourselves:  Domestic violence happens over there and never here.

            There are other myths as well, like:

1.)    If it is happening in your family, the myth is that no one else must know.

2.)    If it is happening next door, the myth is that there is no way to know for sure.

3.)    If it is happening in your family, the myth is that the only one who is hurt is the one who is hit.

4.)    If it is happening next door, the myth is that it’s none of your business.

5.)    If it is happening in your family, the myth is that it might stop by itself.

6.)    If it is happening next door, the myth is that there is nothing you can do anyway; and, finally,

7.)    If it is happening to you, the myths are that there is no one who could understand and no where to get help.

Anyone reading this article doubtless already knows that Jews are like everybody else in this matter, some can get violent or abusive, others can become victims.  But do we know these other things, like:

            How to tell if what you are seeing is really abuse.

            What to do to help.

Rarely do we have the chance to gain a little information that can potentially help save another family, but here it is.  This year, our Social Action Shabbat is Our Service Against Domestic Violence: Smashing the Myths.  Speakers from Jewish Family Services and Alternative House will be joining us to teach and provide guidance.  T-Shirts from the Americorp Clothesline Project will be on display.  We will open the evening with a Jewish liturgy against domestic violence.

            Its time we all learned what we need to learn in order to truly be of use.  Please join us Dec. 13 at 8pm for a Shabbat that could change the way you walk through the world.