Liberation from Egypt, Liberation from Violence Against Women

April 6, 2015
By Becky Wasserman Passover is a time to remember the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. It’s a time to remember slavery and celebrate liberation. It’s a time to reflect on the modern sources of oppression we still face today. As Jews, Americans, and as citizens of the world, that is our responsibility. I challenge everyone this Passover to discuss violence against women around your seder table. It’s a modern affliction that deserves attention from all of us. In a recent report, the United Nations revealed ‘alarmingly high’ levels of violence against women around the world. One in 3 women will be victims of physical violence in her lifetime. While this statistic is horrific, it is certainly not unbelievable to those of us that work in the field of sexual and domestic violence. What is equally horrific to this percentage is the percentage of people who underestimate abuse in their own communities. Many Jews are guilty of this misunderstanding. The more we dismiss the prevalence of intimate partner violence in the Jewish community, the more women and men will continue to suffer in silence. At Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence, we educate and provide resources for faith communities to address sexual and domestic violence and elder abuse. We believe that all Jewish organizations, whether a synagogue or a direct service or advocacy organization, can serve as an incredible resource for survivors to reach safety—to reach their Exodus from domestic or sexual violence. Everyone, rabbis and lay members alike, have a responsibility to shape communities where survivors feel comfortable speaking out and seeking help. As a Jewish community, we also have a unique opportunity to prevent future abuse. At the heart of value formation, Jewish communities have the privilege of educating young people about what it means to show respect, love, and humility. If we actively work towards supporting survivors now and shaping future values, we can be agents of long-term social change. We can make sure that we don’t just talk about tzedek, or justice; we act on it. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Use this month and Passover as a chance to recommit to ending violence. Hold yourself accountable to pursuing at least one new way to prevent violence in your community. While you may not have all the answers about sexual assault, you can ALWAYS be a supportive ally to survivors of abuse. With some safety information, knowledge of your local services, and comfort referring survivors to those services, you can be a “first responder.” You can help survivors reach safety and find healing. Explore our list of 10 things you and your congregation can do to build safe havens. We need all hands on deck to build a world where all people are safe in their homes, on the streets, and in their places of worship. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE if you or someone you know needs help.   [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"66801","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-21675 size-thumbnail","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"150","height":"150","alt":"The Author, Becky Wasserman"}}]] Becky Wasserman is a fellow through New Sector Alliance at Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence. She also works as the Boston Citizen Correspondent for Earth Street, a program of the Environmental Defense Fund found at earthstreet.tumblr.com. She graduated in 2014 from Middlebury College, where she wrote a senior environmental studies thesis on the involvement of Jewish synagogues in the U.S. Sustainable Food Movement.

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