I just can’t believe that a nice Jewish boy would do something like that’ – this, from an older woman who’d attended a synagogue Rosh Chodesh group I’d been asked to speak at.
I had given an overview of Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA), and told them the true story of a woman who we helped and who, like many others, credited the charity with her life and that of her children. From this, and several other similar moments, I realised that JWA needed to take steps to get our message out further and more comprehensively across the Jewish community.
How could we expect women who needed our help to reach us if the average Jewish person simply didn’t believe that domestic abuse was a Jewish issue?
Necessity being the mother of invention, five years ago JWA’s training programme was born. Its aim was to inform and educate professionals across the breadth of the community about domestic abuse, how people may be affected and how to support and signpost those who need.
We ask delegates what the signs and symptoms of abuse are, why they can feel stuck in abusive relationships, and how to help women who need.
Since the inception of the programme, we have trained well over 2,000 doctors, nurses, therapists, rabbis, rebbetzens and welfare officers.
We have debunked myths, confirmed facts, broken down assumptions and developed knowledge and understanding of domestic abuse across the community.
The impact has been huge – we now regularly take referrals from agencies and professionals, and are the community’s go-to service for tackling domestic violence.
We have experienced a sustained increase of 70 percent of women we are working with, partly thanks to referrals from professionals we have trained.
The communal buy-in to our service culminated last week in a development of our annual campaign to mark the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, when, together with the Board of Deputies, we ran full-page adverts asking community rabbis to speak out about domestic abuse.
The adverts were prominent in the Jewish press, with endorsements from the United Synagogue, Masorti Judaism, Reform, Liberal and the Spanish and Portuguese
At our annual day of action against domestic abuse at Brent Cross Shopping Centre, we had visits from representatives from all of these movements as well as the Chief Rabbi, the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council.
This was quite remarkable, and was something we don’t often see – the major synagogue movements speaking out together, in unity,
on one issue.
They understand that domestic abuse is something we must tackle together as one community. Their statement, that we must make our community a place where domestic abuse is not tolerated, is all the more powerful because they are making it together.
With their ongoing support, we can continue to work together, to ensure that our community is hostile to abusers, and is one that is open and receptive to abused women seeking support.