by Julia Frankston-Morris

Giving Rabbis the Words to Talk About Abuse

Several Jewish organizations are now reaching out to rabbis as first responders on abuse issues. Rabbis, often the people who are in a position to notice abuse in families or individuals, or to hear about it from witnesses or victims, may not have either the training or the tools to help them make appropriate referrals. Miklat (shelter), an Israeli organization that maintains women’s shelters in Israel and supplies legal aid to women in need, asserted at a conference last year in New York that the key to ending domestic abuse in the Jewish community is the education of rabbis. In the past, Miklat leaders and others point out, abused women and children did not speak of their suffering for fear of not being believed; “Jewish men don’t beat their wives,” was the dominant and damaging myth. And some rabbis have encouraged women to return to their abusive homes to try to figure out what they themselves are doing wrong, in the name of shalom bayit, peace in the home.

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