Sheiny New, Vice Chair of JTAFV
Good Evening Dr. Diann Rodgers-Healey
The Hon. Mr. Gareth Ward MP,
The Hon. Ms. Pru Goward MP- Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister for Women
The Hon. Ms. Shelley Hancock MP- Speaker of the House
The Hon. Mr. Victor Dominello MP- Minister for Citizenship and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Ms. Katy McDonald of Minter Ellison
Ms. Eva Cox AO
Co-Nominees, Family and Friends
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence was established 18 years ago by professional Jewish women who were prepared to publicly speak out about the realities of domestic violence in the Jewish community. This was as courageous as it was groundbreaking because the culture of silence surrounding spousal abuse has a long, relentless history. When Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, a highly respected Rabbi, psychiatrist and author of “The Shame Borne in Silence”, asked his uncle if family violence occurred in the shtetle, the small idealized Jewish villages in Europe such as Anatevke, portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof. His uncle replied, “of course it did, my darling, we just closed the shutters.” Well, it was time to open those shutters.
There is no “one” Jewish community. There is much diversity among those of us who call ourselves Jewish. We are Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrachi. For some, Jewish identity is religious, for others it is cultural. For many it’s both.
However, no matter where a victim identifies herself, or places herself on the religious/cultural spectrum often she turns to her Rabbi in her desperation seeking guidance and wise counsel. So many have quizzed us:
“But do the Rabbis Understand? What do they say?”
I have to admit there are times that I am surprised when the question is being asked by someone who makes no claims to be observant nor do they seem to have a respect for anything or anyone religious. I think to myself, “Why do you care? Why is a Rabbi’s response important to you?
But they DO care.
Traditionally, Rabbis hold a unique position in our lives. Throughout the many years of the Jewish Diaspora and in our darkest moments, we have turned to our spiritual leadership to reassure us that we have not been forsaken. That the laws and customs we observe will link us together eternally. That we may still be considered “A Light Unto Nations” by virtue of the fact that intrinsic to our identity is a legal and ethical system based on compassion and justice. Compassion for the less fortunate and justice for the vulnerable.
That it what our book, “WILL MY RABBI BELIEVE ME? Will He Understand?” is all about, encouraging and assisting Rabbis to respond with sensitivity and care to those who disclose to them their terrible secret that they have kept carefully hidden behind closed doors.
On the holiest night of the Jewish Calender, the eve of Yom Kippur we beseech our Creator:
Hear my voice and behold the tears of my eye, plead my cause, heed my words and answer me.
Can we expect any less of ourselves, then, when it comes to the to the tears of our sisters? We must respond as though the world depends on our humanity and decency, for it does.
I will conclude by thanking the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women for including us here tonight and by expressing our awe at the accomplishments of our co-nominees. We are honoured to be considered amongst you all.
Side note to the members of the Taskforce: If we are judged by the company we keep- we did well Ladies!
As we here to mark International Women’s Day it is so appropriate that we extend our Congratulations to Dr Rodgers-Healey and the contributors to – “Considerations for Australia’s Next Woman Prime Minister”.
In another international bestseller, the Book of Genesis, G-d says to Abraham in reference to Sarah, that he would be well advised to “Listen to her voice”.
It may have taken 4,000 years for that recommendation to be heeded but if tonight proves anything it is that we are finally well on the right track!