Shabbat at the Great – White Ribbon Day

November 26, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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Sydney’s Great Synagogue will deliver a message to its congregants this Shabbat about confronting domestic violence…a message it wants to share with Jewry throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Great president Michael Gold with Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

Great president Michael Gold with Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

In a show of support for the current community campaign, the shule will give each congregant a white ribbon, the symbol of the United Nations world-wide campaign to highlight domestic violence and to help those affected by it.

The Great’s message to its members this week will focus on the not too popular topic.

The text awaiting its members reads:

It is wrong to beat your wife!

Unfortunately the Jewish community is not untainted by domestic violence.  It is found across the board.  Affluence is no immunity; nor is education.  Even liberal husbands, prominent for their social conscience may be tyrants in the home; wives and children living in fear.

It is not something that we expect and certainly not amongst those in our close circle.  Only late in the day did I realise that when friends always cancelled social engagements ‘because of her headaches’, her head was aching but was also bruised.

Fear itself is a form of abuse.  So is controlling and bullying behaviour, pernickety monitoring of domestic expenses or forcing someone to live on a shoe-string.

Victims live in constant fear.  Often they are frightened to speak out because they are embarrassed; they fear they might not be believed; they fear repercussions or recrimination; they fear for their children if they leave.

When someone opens up and we hear the stories, it is easy to react with disbelief.  A friend’s violent home life seems so at odds with their placid and understanding exterior.  Maybe something is being blown out of proportion?  Maybe it is not our business…  Maybe it will resolve itself…  But it will not.

When someone reaches out and encounters scepticism they begin to doubt themselves, even imagining that they might deserve the abuse, resigning themselves to a bitter future.

God charges us to rescue the persecuted from the abuser, to alleviate suffering and to give people freedom and independence.

While we might not be equipped to counsel victims who take us into their confidence, it is important to show support and give them strength.  We should help to make them aware of the agencies such as Jewish Care which can offer professional guidance and support – even down to helping someone find safety where necessary.

Our community is marking the international day for eradication of violence against women; promoting awareness of the problem and also the agencies which are available to assist.  Please show solidarity with the community through wearing the white ribbon.   Please show solidarity with your friends through vigilance, a listening ear, a helping hand and an open mind.

Shabbat Shalom    Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

Rabbi Lawrence told J-Wire: “Every time the issue of domestic violence  or abuse is addressed, more and more people come out of the closet to confront the reality of their personal situations. It takes many forms from actual physical violence to one person exercising control over their partner. Men are usually the perpetrators…but not always. These cases occur far more often than I would ever have believed.”

Each member of the Great will receive a white ribbon to wear in support of the world-wide campaign.

16 synagogues in Sydney will commit one day each in the 16 day campaign.

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