Isolated, her self-confidence eroded, it can be much harder for a Jewish woman to seek help when experiencing abuse.
“As a member of a minority group, it takes much longer for Jewish women to come forward,” explained Lynne Oreck-Wener, a member of the Ottawa Women’s Seder committee. “Women feel the burden of betraying the Jewish community and the concept of maintaining shalom bayit (peace in the home) has been a barrier to speaking out.”
“Some men are controlling; some use physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse,” said Women’s Seder founder Yaffa Greenbaum. “Abuse cuts across all socio-economic lines. People think if they have money, it’s not an issue. In reality, this is not what protects someone from being abused.”
The goal of the annual Women’s Seder – which takes place this year on Sunday, April 6 – is to bring awareness of the issue of domestic abuse in the Jewish community, said Greenbaum. “Research indicates that our statistics about abuse in the Jewish community mirrors those in the community-at-large, which is that four out of 10 women will experience abuse in their lifetime.”
The strength of the annual seder grows each year.
“It has taken a very strong education campaign,” said Greenbaum. “One of the things so powerful about the seder is that women express how meaningful it is to them. It’s remarkable to me that women from all walks of life come here and say, ‘I had no idea. How can I help my neighbour, friend or family member?’
“Every year, there are women who come forward and say the seder has brought them new awareness of the issue of domestic violence in the Jewish community. They have that spark of recognition that it’s closer to them than they realize.”
“It resonates,” agreed Oreck-Wener. “Women say, ‘I’m going to come back next year and bring a friend or relative.’
“Our goal is to have younger women learn and take the message back to their friends or families so they are able to help one another and get access to services.”
This year, Miriam cups, named for the prophetess Miriam and symbolizing her bravery and devotion to the Jewish people, will be sold at the Women’s Seder.
“Perhaps the presence of the cup will help open up a discussion on the roles women play in our history and liberation and in the search for freedom,” said Greenbaum.
The Miriam cups come in many different styles and materials, including glass, ceramic and wood.
“We are also asking women to bring pre-paid gift cards for us to distribute to local shelters,” said Oreck-Wener. “Shelters have given us a list of cards that would be greatly appreciated, such as long distance phone cards for those that have had to come down from the North, cards for drug stores and grocery stores, movie theatres and coffee shops.”
Greenbaum has created a Haggadah for the Ottawa Women’s Seder, which combines traditional seder ritual with passages from a wide variety of sources that explore the role of women from the perspective of oppression.
“We say to women, ‘It’s not your fault,’” said Oreck-Wener. “We’re hoping with the seder will come increased awareness of this issue and more women experiencing abuse will come forward or help a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship.”
The ninth annual Women’s Seder, including a full seder dinner catered by David Smith, takes place Sunday, April 6, 5 pm, at Agudath Israel Congregation, 1400 Coldrey Avenue. Tickets are $36 and all women are welcome to attend.
For information and tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jean Myers at 613-798-4696, ext. 242.
Sponsored tickets are available for those who can’t afford to attend. All requests will be kept confidential. You can also arrange to sponsor tickets for others.
Doors open at 4:30 pm for the sale of Miriam cups.