Rabbi Saperstein: “A Violence Against Women's Act that prioritizes some Americans over others is simply not acceptable; it would be shameful.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 26, 2012 — Today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, is a keynote speaker at the Stand Up for VAWA Rally on Capitol Hill. Activists were joined by dozens of elected officials as well as community and advocacy leaders to call for a strong and inclusive Violence Against Women's Act. Rabbi Saperstein's prepared remarks follow:
“Consider the consequences of a world without the Violence Against Women Act: a world in which intimate partner violence was neither criminalized nor frowned upon; a world in which a policeman called to the scene of a crime where domestic violence was evident would just walk the angry husband around the block to “cool him down”; a world in which there was no counseling, no housing, no services at all for victims of domestic violence once they were brave or simply desperate enough to escape. That is precisely the world to which we risk returning if VAWA is not reauthorized.
Houses of worship are often the first place that victims of domestic violence turn to, and as faith leaders we know all too well that the services provided through VAWA are crucial to victims’ survival.
While we absolutely cannot risk losing the provisions already detailed in VAWA, the improvements in the Senate version of this year’s reauthorization are both timely and essential. It is simply preposterous to assert that women shall be protected from violence unless they are immigrants –– or Native Americans living on reservations, or those in the LGBT community. The promise of the words of the Statue of Liberty is not “Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – but not free of violence in their homes if they are immigrant women. All Americans are equal, and all women are equal, but, according to the House version, some women are more equal than others. A VAWA that prioritizes some Americans over others is simply not acceptable; it would be shameful. Indeed, it would in itself be an act of violence against these unprotected populations.
We are inspired by Jewish texts that make clear that violence against women is unacceptable, whether in general or in the context of marriage. In the Talmud it is written, "It is forbidden for a man to compel his wife to fulfill the mitzvah [to have sexual relations]. And in the “Book of Women,” Maimonides writes: "And thus the sages commanded that a man should honor his wife more than he honors himself, and love her as he loves himself. And if he has money, he should increase her benefits according to his wealth. He should not intimidate her too much; he should speak with her gently, and should be neither saddened nor angry." (Sefer Nashim 15:19)
We call on Congress to resolve quickly the discrepancies in the different versions of the Violence Against Women Act, and to resolve them in a manner that ensures that all women – all women -- are protected. I would simply ask any Member voting on a less than inclusive bill a simple question: if it were your daughter who is now left out of coverage, would you want the law changed to ensure she was protected? I think the answer is obvious, and none of us should settle for anything less than every woman being protected.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.