Our focus on the elections and on the local issues that engaged us on the Rhode Island ballot was intense. We are, though, in a "no rest for the weary" situation as we enter into the Sabbath whose Torah reading is so infused with the images and lives of women: In parashat Hayyei Sarah we will mourn for Sarah and welcome Rebecca into the family as Isaac's wife.
As we look at the young loving couple, Isaac and Rebecca, it behooves us to remember that too many marriages lock couples into relationships of pain, emotional and physical abuse, and life-threatening violence.
At the beginning of October, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he said:
"Despite considerable progress in reducing domestic violence, an average of three women in the United States lose their lives every day as a result of these unconscionable acts. And while women between the ages of 16 and 24 are among the most vulnerable to intimate partner violence, domestic violence affects people regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, or religion."
The reality of President Obama's last statement was brought home to me in a most palpable way when, as a rabbi in Jerusalem, I was invited to conduct the seder for the residents of a shelter for battered women and their children in the neighborhood in which I served. As we began the seder, I saw that I was sharing the table with women with advanced degrees and women with an elementary school education; I was sharing the table with women born in Israel and Russia and the United States and Morocco and France. I was sharing the table with over a dozen Jewish women whose Jewish husbands beat them. Another comforting myth down the drain.
The Violence Against Women Act, (VAWA), enacted in 1994, recognizes the insidious and pervasive nature of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and supports comprehensive, effective and cost saving responses to these crimes. VAWA programs, administered by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, give law enforcement, prosecutors and judges the tools they need to hold offenders accountable and keep communities safe while supporting victims. VAWA must be swiftly reauthorized to ensure the continuation of these vital, lifesaving programs and laws.
VAWA expired over 660 days ago and in fewer than 50 working legislative days the act can either be reauthorized or become history.
I encourage you to inform yourself on the issue of the importance of Congress reauthorizing VAWA and to contact directly Senators Whitehouse and Reed, and Representatives Langevin and Cicilline to convey to them your desire that they act on your behalf to establish the authority and capacity of VAWA before the act's final expiration date.
For more information: www.4vawa.org
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.