Beyond Candy Hearts: Reflecting on Healthy Relationships This Valentine’s Day

February 4, 2015
As Valentine’s Day approaches, many of us are thinking more and more about relationships. It’s hard not to, what with the never-ending stacks of pink and red candy lining grocery store aisles. Whether you’re planning a special date with a valentine or asking the age-old question, “Will you be my valentine,” healthy relationships are important no matter your relationship status. This February 14, as we must all year round, let us reflect on what a healthy relationship looks like—and what one doesn't look like. Jewish Women International’s Clergy Task Force to End Domestic Abuse, an inter-denominational group of rabbis and cantors working to end violence and abuse in the Jewish community, has created a toolkit of resources to help your community – large or small – discuss, explore and celebrate healthy relationships. These resources form the foundation of JWI’s Shamor L’Amour, or “protect love” program. The Clergy Task Force explains:
We tell our congregants that on Shabbat we hold two commandments sacred – shamor v’zachor – protect and remember. But to truly create a sacred space in the home for Shabbat, we must have a home that is at peace; a home of loving, healthy relationships and connections; a home where love is protected. During February 2015, we invite you and your congregation to celebrate a very special Shabbat – a Shabbat of shamor l’amour.
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"66731","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-21107 size-thumbnail","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"150","height":"150","alt":"Shamor L"}}]]Whether through a Shamor L’Amour Shabbat or through other programming with your synagogue’s youth group, women’s group or men’s club, consider integrating resources for combatting intimate partner violence and for ensuring healthy relationships. The Shamor L’Amour toolkit includes prayers for healthy relationships and for healing from abuse, as well as sermon starters for clergy to emphasize the importance of addressing abuse as a step toward a truly safe community. Jewish values shape our firm belief that relationship abuse in all its forms—physical, sexual, emotional—is a moral abhorrence. Maimonides teaches in the Mishneh Torah 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). Preventing and responding to intimate partner violence is an enormous task that involves not only changing individual behaviors but shifting cultural norms that perpetuate such violence. But, we must set a high standard for ourselves as Jews and as moral citizens to make progress in the fight to ensure that survivors of violence can feel truly safe as they go about their lives. It is crucial to advocate for state and federal policies to combat intimate partner violence, but the fight starts at home, right in our own communities.

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