Tag Archives: clergy task force

The Forward, take note: Voyeurism is violence

By Rabbi Marla Hornsten, West Bloomfield, Mich., and Rabbi Ari Lorge, New York, N.Y., co-chairs of JWI’s The Clergy Task Force Against Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community

The Clergy Task Force Against Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community of Jewish Women International takes strong exception both to the choice to include Rabbi Barry Freundel as one of the “Forward 50” and to Editor Jane Eisner’s defense of that choice. The shameful accusations leveled against Rabbi Freundel were considered serious enough for the civil authorities to place him under arrest. The disgraceful and abusive actions attributed to Freundel hardly warrant celebrating his notoriety. The editor’s recourse to technical criteria of “impact” established under previous leadership does not respond to the question of the appropriateness of a choice, which is surely to a large degree a subjective one. The Forward is not just any Jewish newspaper, and its choice of who to call attention to has consequences.

What is truly dismaying is that The Forward‘s defense of that choice focuses on alleged abuses in the conversion process, as if that were the issue. The issue is violence against women. As JWI Vice President of Programs Deborah Rosenbloom wrote in response to the use of “voyeurism” to describe Freundel’s actions, “voyeurism is part of the continuum of violence against women, a continuum with catcalling on the less severe end and violent rape on the most severe end.

Given the circumstances of Freundel’s arrest the choice by The Forward is regrettable in itself. The defense of that choice, which cites “breaking the cone of silence” around conversion and the increased awareness of the word “mikvah,” regrettably misses the point — which ought to be the abuse and violence against women that the actions of which Freundel is accused embody.

A Change in Leadership and Updated Resources for the Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse

JWI’s Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community is a diverse and interdenominational group of rabbis and cantors who are committed to ending violence against women and girls and to support families experiencing abuse.  Rabbi Richard Hirsh, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, recently stepped down as co-chair, but continues to be actively involved. Rabbi Ari Lorge, recently ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish institute of Religion, will be serving Central Synagogue, NYC, and joins Rabbi Marla Hornsten (Temple Israel, West Bloomfield, Mich.) as co-chair.

The Clergy Task Force (CTF) develops resources to promote healthy relationships and trainings to build skills for rabbis and cantors to support families experiencing abuse.  To celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, the CTF re-issued Rethinking Shavuot: Women, Relationships & Jewish Texts, a short guide filled with commentary focused on the Book of Ruth, which is read on the holiday, and prompts lively conversations about relationships. The “Rethinking” series also includes a guide for Purim and Sukkot; a Rethinking Shabbat guide will be released in the fall.

The CTF recognizes the critical importance of being trained on all aspects of domestic violence and this year received training on both elder abuse and on domestic violence generally. While these workshops were limited to members of the CTF, webinar-based trainings for all rabbis and cantors will be launched in the fall. If you would like your rabbi and/or cantor to receive information about these opportunities, please contact Deborah Rosenbloom.