Over the past several decades, we have made great progress in moving beyond the days when domestic violence was considered a “family matter” and deliberately ignored by police, courts, and communities. But intimate partner abuse remains an epidemic in the United States, and we are now confronting a type of violence that has evaded scrutiny for far too long: the dangerous intersection of guns and domestic violence, and the lack of legal protections for women who are not married to their abusers.
The following Thursday was Rosh Chodesh. All the women of the town and many visitors filled the kitchen and hallways of the Rebbetzin’s home, so that the entire house shone with the blaze of their white dresses.
At the far end of the town of Tiflus, in a small house built upon the foundations of Torah, piety, and loving kindness, lived a soft-spoken boy named Beruri. His teachers praised him and he was a comfort to his mother in her old age, for he had been miraculously born many years after the way of women had departed from her. When he squeezed out of her womb with the loud cries of a child who does not want to leave the world of souls for the world of bodies, the midwife told Shulamit that she had given birth to a son. The other women in the room said it was a shame, after struggling for so long to become pregnant, that she had only conceived a boy. But Beruri’s mother said, “This boy will be better to me than ten daughters,” and refused to let the other women console her as if having a son were a great misfortune.
Recently, the National Women’s Studies Association voted to endorse “the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of economic, military and cultural entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel,” making it clear that in their opinion, true feminists should not support the State of Israel.
My 10-year-old son, Micah, came home from school earlier this week humming a familiar tune. “The Place Where I Belong” by the Jewish band Journeys is a song about the destruction of the Jewish community in Kiev from the perspective of a Torah scroll. I recognized the tune right away because I also learned it as a child. It is a soulful song. It is a beautiful song. It is a bittersweet song about what we as a people hold dear and try to preserve, yet at the same time we understand that the communities of pre-war Eastern Europe of which it speaks can never be reclaimed.
Everybody wants the best for their children, especially when it comes to marriage. The choice of a spouse by a son or daughter is a validation of a life lived and a child’s upbringing. Moreover, it is an endorsement of the future of the family. Little wonder then that parents pay special attention to the future partner that their son or daughter chooses for themselves.
So much of what Rabbi Steven Pruzansky (an Orthodox rabbi in Teaneck, New Jersey, who has a history of making controversial statements) actually says is disturbing and offensive. But the more troubling part of his arguments, for me, lies in what goes unsaid. His assumptions — the way that he presents complete untruths as fact — are so much more damaging to us as a community.
This past week I came across the most recent post on Rabbi Pruzansky’s blog about date rape culture on college campuses. Normally, words come rather easily to me when I feel passionate about something; but this time I found myself simultaneously overflowing with words while also at a loss for words. While I definitely believe that this post was about a man in power trying to assert moral superiority, I think this was not his entire motive. I see him as a man presenting an inability to acknowledge, learn about, and respect women.
Steven Pruzansky, an Orthodox rabbi in New Jersey who has made numerous problematic statements in the past, recently posted a highly controversial blog about rape. This is a response:
Gentlemen, as Passover approaches, I thought you would appreciate the following advice: