THE issue of domestic abuse was thrust into the spotlight last week at the Preventing Violence Together community breakfast hosted by Jewish Care, Unchain my Heart and Glen Eira City Council.
Announced as Jewish Care’s new president a day earlier, Susie Ivany took to the stage, sharing her excitement in “speaking as the president of Jewish Care for the very first time, on a topic that is very close to my heart”.
The founder and former chair of Unchain my Heart has taken over from Michael Debinski, who held the role for the past seven years.
“Just as Jewish Care was important to my family when they arrived in Australia, I look forward to continuing our excellent services to the most vulnerable in our community,” Ivany said.
Last Tuesday’s breakfast followed on from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and was held in support of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.
The keynote speaker was Naomi Tucker, co-founder and executive director of Shalom Bayit, the first Jewish domestic violence agency in northern California, and one of the first of its kind in the US.
“Family violence is a societal problem, requiring a societal response,” said Tucker, citing that 40 per cent of those in crisis would first approach clergy for support, and are more likely to turn to friends, family members or co-workers before seeking professional help.
“And that’s why we need you, the individual person in our community, to know what to do when that happens. Your response matters profoundly in how we address the matter in our community,” she charged.
Tucker emphasised the need for change to occur on all levels – individually and communally – detailing the shifts required for forward momentum. She beseeched individuals to confront misuses of power; to be aware of gender inequities, big and small, and demand that women are treated with equality and respect; to create a culture of consent in all aspects of our lives; and to instil kavod, infusing kindness, honour and dignity in all that we do.
Tucker also highlighted the importance of taking accountability in ensuring safety for the abused, urging individual responsibility with teshuvah and no victim blaming. She advocated for enforcing consequences that are serious, meaningful and protective, and spoke on the necessity of getting men to “mensch up” in order to hold other men accountable.
She implored, “I truly believe that together we can create a new normal. We can make our Jewish community a place where abuse is not tolerated.”