“Some Abusers are Reading This Now”

To all who read this, we ask:

Look at yourself, at your partner, at your elderly parents, at your children, as images of God. Treat each of them with the respect which that demands.

Make your homes a haven. Instead of raising your hand or your voice, raise your own dignity and the self-esteem of the people who turn to you for love. You may not be able to perfect the world, but this much you can do.

Help your religious community to face the fact of domestic violence and to offer active support to those who have been enduring abuse threats, and humiliation. A house of God should be a place for teaching restraint, decency, and reverence; make yours then place.

Behave as though God made you worthy: it is true. Behave as though the world depends on your humanity and your decency. It does.

“Some people who are reading this were beaten yesterday, or terrorized, or kept in isolation. Some who tormented them are reading this now. And they are not strangers to each other; they are family. Intimates. People like us. Us.” On the day following Rosh Hashana, readers of The New York Times were surprised to see these words in a full-page advertisement sponsored by “friends of The Jewish Theological Seminary.” The ad, the Seminary’s annual High Holiday announcement, also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and, as part of the J.T.S. annual appeal, was sent to every Conservative congregation in North America and to major contributors to the Seminary.

The topic of the Seminary’s annual High Holiday message is chosen each year by a committee of faculty and administration, rabbinical students and lay leaders. In past years topics for the High Holiday message have included prayer, war and peace, and the preservation of the environment.

Although many readers were pleased with the ad, and perceived it as a step towards the recognition of domestic violence as a concern of the entire Jewish community, others were less impressed. A comment by one cynic; “Is this just a new way to raise money off of women’s bodies?” The same reader questioned whether J.T.S. has taken active steps to educate its rabbis and congregations about domestic violence and to provide support networks for battered women and children. Seminary spokespersons say that rabbis were sent, along with the message, supplementary information on domestic violence to assist them in preparing sermons and counseling victims.