When I interact with congregants, when I lead services, I look around and take note of the smiles, fidgets, dazed looks, pensive expressions, rarely do I see the burn marks, bruising, or fear. A victim of domestic violence is often an amazing actor, capable of sounding, looking and acting like everyone else so that no one will suspect what goes on at home. I can only try to imagine their journey to this point and wonder how I can help them move forward.
For many of us, our home is our sanctuary, the place we look forward to returning to, the place we retreat to for comfort, the place we call our own. What if the place you felt most comfortable was in crowds? What if you craved witnesses in the middle of the night? What if your world was lined with locked doors? What if you tensed up when you heard that car engine turn off, the key turn? What if you held your breath until you heard the first word, the first hint of what kind of night this might be? What if you started to relax only to be jolted because you laughed too loud or not loud enough?
For the last couple of years, CJC has participated in a program called J-Safe run out of Chana in Baltimore. “CHANA offers a Jewish community response to the needs of persons who experience abuse and other forms of interpersonal trauma. In providing crisis intervention, education and consultation, CHANA advocates for community awareness, safety and healing.” J-Safe is a program for congregations to educate its clergy, staff, and congregants about the signs, effects of abuse and the resources to combat domestic violence. We have had powerful programs for our teens on recognizing teen rape, cyber bullying and domestic violence. Our Sunday school staff has been educated on what to look for and what to do if signs of abuse are suspected. We have had informative and inspiring healing services where survivors give voice to their pain and others in our community take steps to get help.
We now are at a new step in our involvement. On May 2nd, we will be holding another healing service allowing members of our community to give voice to their pain and receive the support and services they require. In February, there will be a full day seminar for all Howard County Jewish clergy (rabbis and cantors) on our legal, moral and ethical responsibilities. Concurrently, CJC and CJCS have developed a joint committee of congregants who will be developing a congretation-wide policy on how to respond when and/or if something comes to our attention. All of this is our attempt to become a place where all Jews can feel safe and secure in their religious community.
If you would like to learn more, or get involved, (there is always more we can do) please contact Rabbi Sonya Starr, firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-730-6044 ext. 1.
Rabbi Tarfon, Pirke Avot 2:21
"It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either."