Mother's Day Shabbat

May 11th, 2016

The following is a written summary of extemporaneous remarks made by Rabbi Jonah Layman in his shabbat sermon on Mother's Day Weekend 2016.

Attending services on shabbat provides us with internal satisfaction. We have the opportunity to leave the world behind and focus on our dreams and aspirations. We pray for good health, we thank God for blessings in our lives, we celebrate with community. Just as this morning we are grateful to be here as Charlotte and Maurice Potosky celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. We look to them and see their 4 children, many grandchildren and extended family and friends and we hope that we can celebrate "simchas" like that in our lives. And if we are experiencing sadness and tragedy in our lives we know that we have a supportive community to help us.

Especially today we are grateful that we are gathered here safe and sound as we witnessed a terrible series of crimes unfold Thursday and yesterday. A woman got a restraining order on her husband and in response the husband shot her outside a high school in Prince George's county on Thursday and continued the rampage on Friday shooting several people and killing 2 at the Montgomery Mall and outside the Giant in Aspen Hill. This horrific series of crimes is just of thousand such cases of domestic violence in the United States and it is a tragic coincidence that our local organization - the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA) - called on area rabbis to speak about this terrible scourge this shabbat.

Some facts we should know. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Females between the ages of 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. At least 1/3 of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. The cost of partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services.

Domestic violence is a Jewish issue too. Domestic abuse occurs in Jewish homes at nearly the national rate - 15-25%. Domestic abuse isn't just physical - it's emotional, verbal, sexual and financial. Domestic abuse crosses all race and class lines. 

The statistics are staggering and the cases are disturbing and all too real. Though it's difficult to hear I have to raise the issue so that we can ensure that our community is safe for everyone. We have the JCADA posters in the restrooms with a 24 hour hotline number on it. We have to be on the lookout for signs of erratic behavior in our friends that could signal such behavior occurring at home. If friends continually cancel appointments at the last minute or look like they've lost weight or have other physical changes something could be happening in their lives. Please come to me and I can help. Direct the person to JCADA. Provide a confidential and safe outlet for your friend. Be aware of the signs and let your friend know that you care. 

Domestic abuse is a hidden and unspoken plague in our community. Let's be aware and let's be sure that our synagogue community and the broader community be a safe haven for all.

Rabbi Jonah Layman is the rabbi at Shaare Tefila Congregation in Olney, Maryland.

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