The effort to address the problem of domestic violence remains a profound challenge for the organized Jewish community, as well as for our many coalition partners. We are particularly concerned that silence, denial and shame within our community have proven to be serious obstacles to increasing awareness and knowledge of the issue.
With domestic abuse being the source of so many of the crises we face today, the NJCRAC stresses the importance of working toward a society that, as a whole, regards this problem as significant and unacceptable. To that end, the Jewish community relations field should work with the courts, law-enforcement agencies, legislatures and social service agencies to develop strategies to combat domestic violence and to protect all victims of domestic abuse.
At the federal level, the NJCRAC supports increased funding for the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which, among other things, provides money to the states and grants to individual law-enforcement agencies to enable them to deal more effectively with domestic abuse. More generally, the field, working in cooperation with Jewish and Family Child Service agencies and coalition partners, should participate in efforts which bring to light the impact of federal budget cuts on victims of abuse.
As the new welfare reform law is implemented in states across the country, there is mounting evidence that large numbers of women either are currently or were previously abused. The NJCRAC believes that it is therefore critical that states, when implementing their welfare plans, take into account the role that domestic violence plays in the lives of women trying to move from poverty to self-sufficiency.
The new federal welfare law provides an opportunity for states to address the related issues of poverty and abuse by adopting specific options, including the Family Violence Option — which would temporarily exempt welfare recipients who are victims of domestic violence from federal block-grant requirements and would provide referrals to counseling and supportive services — and an option to provide transitional assistance to battered immigrant women and children who are fleeing domestic violence.
In addition, the NJCRAC supports the establishment of legislation at the state level that would: 1) make repeated domestic violence offenses felonies (“pattern of practice” legislation); and 2) establish family law safeguards to preclude the batterer from using custody, child support, or other court processes as a means to control or harass the victim. The field, moreover, should encourage law-enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators of violence even when the victims, in fear for their own fives or the lives of their children, are unwilling to testify against their abusers in a court of law.
Looking to the long term, the field should: 1) organize local Jewish domestic violence coalitions, bringing together professional and lay leaders to evaluate existing resources and create effective prevention, intervention and treatment strategies for the Jewish community; 2) participate in interfaith, multi-cultural coalitions and government round tables on domestic violence; 3) work with the denominational movements, and organizations specializing in training religious and lay community leaders in the area of domestic violence, to develop educational workshops for synagogue staff.
Through continued advocacy and education, the NJCRAC resolves to stay in the forefront of this fundamental human rights issue.