Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer
As we prepare to light Chanukkah candles during this darkest period of the year, we are thrilled to announce that more than 100 rabbis and cantors have signed on to the Many Voices, One Message Campaign. By adding their names to this simple statement – "We join together in saying we will not tolerate domestic abuse in the Jewish community" – these members of the clergy have together shed a light on this dark issue and highlighted their own role as resources for survivors of domestic abuse. (We use the term survivor, rather than victim, to emphasize individuals' resilience and strength.)
While the Jewish community is broad and diverse, spanning a wide spectrum of affiliations and denominations, Massachusetts rabbis and cantors joined together to endorse this message.
You may ask, why this issue?
Domestic abuse is far more common in the Jewish community than most people recognize. Abuse occurs at about the same rate in Jewish homes as in the general population – 1 in 3 women will experience physical abuse by an intimate partner in her lifetime. Because controlling behavior is at the heart of domestic abuse, survivors also tell us about their partner's efforts to isolate them from friends and family; rob them of feelings of self-esteem or self-worth; deny them access to financial resources (including, in some cases, money they had earned); berate and undermine them constantly; blame them for everything; bully them and subject them to countless other forms of controlling, coercive, and intimidating behaviors.
We know that it can be incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship. People stay for many different reasons, including fear of physical harm, economic and housing concerns, custody issues, caregiving issues, and family pressure to name only a few. Abusive individuals often set out to make their partners feel they have no options and that leaving either is impossible or will have dire consequences.
An invitation to reach out and seek help can make all the difference.
Clergy voices matter. Research shows that people are more likely to disclose the abuse to someone in their faith community than they are to seek help from the police. The Many Voices, One Message campaign is just one of many ways that Jewish clergy can (and do) speak out against domestic abuse and let survivors know they can safely reach out for help and support.
Imagine (and we know many people reading this won't need to imagine) how you might feel if you were a survivor and you heard your rabbi speak and write about domestic abuse in a way that acknowledged the relevance of the issue in not only the Jewish community but in your congregation.
The #MeToo campaign shows us the power of individuals speaking out to demonstrate how pervasive sexual harassment and sexual assault really are. In a similar way, when voices across the entire Jewish community, speaking as one, send the message that domestic abuse won't be tolerated, we take a step toward real and lasting change. Looking ahead, we encourage everyone to reach out to survivors with resources and support and find other ways to convey that together we will not tolerate domestic abuse in the Jewish community.
If you have a controlling or abusive partner and would like to talk to someone about it, please consider making a confidential call. You can reach out to JF&CS Journey to Safety at 781-647-5327 (open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday) or SafeLink at 877-785-2020 (available 24/7).
The Many Voices, One Message campaign is a joint effort of Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence, the Jewish Domestic Violence Coalition, and Journey to Safety, the Jewish Family & Children's Service response to domestic abuse.
Elizabeth Schön Vainer has been the program director of Journey to Safety, the domestic abuse program of JF&CS, since March 2010. Elizabeth is passionate about Journey to Safety's commitment to prevent domestic abuse. She believes that we must work at the individual, community, and legislative levels to shift our societal view that allows abusive behavior to remain so prevalent and damaging. When we focus on speaking up, listening to, and collaborating with others we can have a real impact. Prior to working at JF&CS, Elizabeth worked for 25 years in victim services at both the Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorney's offices. Elizabeth holds a BSW from the University of Tel Aviv and a MS in organization and management from Antioch University.