Abuse is a Jewish Issue

Abuse is a Jewish Issue

By Elizabeth Ury, Director of Jewish Community Engagement

Abuse does not discriminate. It impacts Jews and gentiles of every age, marital status, economic and educational level. Contrary to widespread belief that abuse is uncommon among Jews, it is actually present at the same level among Jews as in the general population and includes the entire denominational spectrum from the secular to the ultra-Orthodox. One of the biggest challenges to uncovering and addressing abuse in the Jewish community is that historically, many Jews have had difficulty acknowledging that the problem exists within the community. Survivors may also be hesitant to come forward. They may be concerned that their credibility will be questioned, feel they are somehow at fault or fear shame if their story goes public. Fortunately, that is changing.

Here are some alarming statistics about abuse in the U.S., including the Jewish community:

Child Abuse: Approximately 20% of the U.S. population are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Domestic Violence: More than one in three women and one in four men have experienced either physical violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Elder Abuse: At least one in 10 elders 65 and over are victims of physical, sexual, financial, verbal, emotional and/or psychological abuse.

Teen Dating Violence (TDV): About one in 12 teens experience physical and/or sexual dating violence.

For our synagogues to be safe spaces, it is important that our professional and lay leadership understand how abuse occurs throughout the lifespan and how this applies to synagogue life, including sensitivity to those who have been victims of abuse. To address this need, JCFS Chicago offers a yearlong program in partnership with SHALVA and CJE SeniorLife called Safer Synagogues.

Led by a diverse group of trainers, the program addresses abuse-related issues, along with other important topics such as addiction and recovery and mental health. The curriculum includes sharing of facts and debunking prevalent myths, legal obligations to intervene, approaches to sensitively offer support and community resources, inclusive rituals and prayers, ideas for integrating information around safe and healthy relationships into synagogue life and suggestions for protocols and policies.

If you would like to learn more about the Safer Synagogues program, contact Elizabeth Ury.