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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Urges Congress to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Rachel Orkand, (202) 387-2800

Saperstein: "Domestic violence and sexual assault are not problems that will simply disappear from our homes and communities; they are evils that we must work every day to eradicate."

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2000 - At a Capitol Hill rally today urging congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Time is running out for victims of family violence. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) -- landmark legislation that provides over $1.5 billion in funding for services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims - will expire next week unless Congress acts immediately to reauthorize funding for the life-saving programs which VAWA ensures.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly one in every three adult women - our selves, our mothers, our sisters and our friends - experiences at least one physical assault by a partner during her adult years. What is the impact on society when a woman is forced to remain with an abusive partner because she has nowhere else to go? What does it mean for a child to witness the beating and humiliation of a mother - his protector, her provider? Studies show that children who witness violence are at a high risk of anxiety and depression, and exhibit more aggressive, antisocial, inhibited and fearful behaviors. We also know that girls who witness their mothers' abuse disproportionately grow up to be victims of abuse themselves, and that boys who are exposed to violence too often become perpetrators of violence.

We have a moral and ethical responsibility to work for a world without violence. Our tradition teaches us that mental anguish and moral degradation are the equivalent of physical murder, and that the sanctity of human life is a primary value. We are commanded not to stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds, and we read in the Talmud that "he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe." When we ignore violence, we are complicit in perpetuating it.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are not problems that will simply disappear from our homes and communities; they are evils that we must work every day to eradicate. And yet Congress continues to let reauthorization of this important measure languish. VAWA itself is now a victim - caught in the stranglehold of election year politics. We refuse to stand idly by while that happens.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.



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