Remarks for Domestic Violence Shabbat – October 25, 2013

Throughout the entire Metropolitan Baltimore region, clergy are speaking this weekend about the issue of domestic violence. The same message will be spread in every synagogue, church, and mosque. Domestic violence is never acceptable. It is never appropriate for spouses or partners to physically hurt one another. This message is especially important within our Jewish community because for decades, we denied that Jews engage in this kind of behavior. Let me share an ugly truth with you. Domestic violence occurs in all kinds of families- Jewish and non-Jewish, white and black, rich and poor. There are no class or socio-economic barriers to domestic abuse.
It used to be said that Jewish men are better husbands because we do not drink and beat our wives. Sadly, that is simply not true. We have become aware over the last twenty years that Jews and non-Jews engage in similar behaviors at similar rates. With each generation we live in America, the behavioral differences between Jews and other Americans evaporate. We are blessed as a Jewish community to have an agency of the Associated, CHANA, specifically dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse. No one needs to suffer alone. Anyone who has been hurt can come to any of our clergy, our social worker, or go directly to CHANA to receive the assistance she needs. It is not a shanda to admit that one’s spouse has beaten her. There is no good reason to endure it. If it happens once, it will happen again. The best thing to do is to get help immediately. CHANA will get you into therapy, help you live independently, and get you the life skills necessary to begin a new chapter in your life. Let me emphasize this point again- it is never appropriate for a spouse or partner to inflict violence on the other. We must never tolerate or accept this. If it ever happens to you, help is here. Take advantage of it.
Is it coincidental that this Domestic Violence Shabbat takes place as we read Parashat Chayei Sara from the Book of Genesis? I sincerely doubt that the Mayor’s office looked at the calendar of Jewish Torah readings when they selected this weekend. Much of Chayei Sara deals with Avraham’s mourning of his beloved wife, Sara, and his selecting and purchasing a burial plot for her. While Avraham may not have been the best husband and did not always consult with his wife over important decisions (that was simply not the way men and women inter-acted over three thousand years ago), he treated her with love and tenderness, in life and in death. It would be unthinkable for him ever to be violent with her. We can learn from their relationship. We should always be kind and considerate towards our spouses, consult with them regarding every important decision, and concern ourselves with their welfare even before our own. That is how Jewish married people, in fact how all married people, should treat one another.
May this week’s observance get out the message that domestic violence is never acceptable. It will not be tolerated. Help is always available. We pray that someday it will not be necessary for this message to be proclaimed throughout our community.

Kein y’hi ratson- May it be God’s will.


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