By Naomi Dickson, chief executive of Jewish Women’s Aid
THE Jewish Women’s Aid helpline recently received a call from a woman who was so scared of her husband that she was sleeping with her mobile phone under her pillow, ready to call 999.
The 29-year-old mother-of-three told us that she was terrified of her husband, who regularly attacked her and, in her words, also “took his anger out on her eight-year-old son”.
Her two younger children, like their mother and older brother, were always scared of their father coming home.
She felt isolated and, although she had spoken to her rabbi, who had referred her to counselling, she did not feel properly understood or felt that they could really understood what she was going through.
She felt she had been made to feel that her husband’s violence was somehow her fault.
In her desperation she took a courageous step and, after seeing our number on a poster in the shul toilet, turned to Jewish Women’s Aid, and we were able to help her get the support she needed.
Sadly this story is not atypical, and domestic violence and abuse touches all parts of the Jewish community from the ultra-Orthodox to the secular.
More than one in four women is affected by domestic violence and abuse.
No part of the Jewish community is exempt with around 600 Jewish women contacting us last year and numbers are increasing.
Now in a ground-breaking cross-communal campaign we have partnered with the Board of Deputies to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Rabbis across the whole community are being asked by their movement leadership to speak out against domestic violence and abuse from the pulpit, or in their written communications with their congregations.
I am hopeful that this new initiative with the Board of Deputies will help spread our message and encourage more women to come forward and get the help they need.
It’s a privilege to be working with rabbis across the breadth of the community and their enthusiasm to be involved and speak out is a clear message that they understand that emotional and physical abuse affects everyone.
What is so encouraging for us is that this collaboration with the Board of Deputies shows how the community can really come together and help victims of abuse.
The response from rabbis has been really fantastic, with many sending messages of support for the campaign and some have even recorded short films.
As well as working with religious bodies, we are also increasingly involved in trainings for Jewish professionals, and in prevention work, running education and youth training in healthy relationships with our new Safer Dating programme outreaches to 16-25 year olds, the age that domestic abuse most commonly begins.
Saturday is the United Nations’ International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and we have launched a poster campaign to raise awareness in other ways apart from via the synagogues.
Our advert in this paper, highlighting the cross-communal initiative, shows the support of all the major synagogue movements and there is a roadside poster campaign in London, Hertfordshire and Manchester.
This collaboration with the Board of Deputies is a clear statement supporting women affected by domestic violence and abuse and hopefully something the community will continue to endorse and actively support.
Jewish Women’s Aid Freephone Helpline 0808 801 0500 or visit jwa.org.uk/idevaw2017