Rebecca, a Jewish woman who is a survivor of domestic abuse, moved the estimated 300 people who attended the recent Goodman Jewish Family Service of Broward County Kolot Chai Tea to tears by sharing her testimony.
Because of concern over Rebecca's (not her actual name) safety over the abuse suffered by her husband, the specific details over her ordeal could not be published.
"I came out to share my testimony so that other women could know and feel safe. I want to encourage all women who are survivors to come to Jewish Family Services for help," said Rebecca at the fund raising event that took place at the Renaissance Hotel in Plantation.
The deep emotions that Rebecca resounded with leaders and staff of Jewish Family Service who wish to spread the word that domestic abuse in the Jewish community is a fact and not a myth.
Statistics obtained by organizations such as Jewish Women's International and Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse indicate that domestic abuse within the Jewish community occurs at the same rate as the general population in the United States.
Moreover, the studies indicate that abuse occurs in every religious stream of Judaism, including those unaffiliated and equally in all economic categories.
"GJFS Kolot has been a coalition of voices speaking out to end domestic abuse in the Jewish community since 1999," said Randee Lefkow, chairperson of the GJFS Kolot at the event.
"We are dedicated to educating and engaging youth, women, men, clergy and survivors to take a stand against domestic abuse."
"The human tragedy caused by abusers have been all over the headlines this year and people like you are ripping the veil off this malady and bringing it out to public view," said Jacob Schreiber, Chief Executive Officer of GJFS.
Lefkow and Schreiber both continued to emphasize the need for greater recognition of domestic abuse as well as the need to provide protection and assistance to victims, whom GJFS prefers to be called survivors.
Brochures distributed by GJFS and other agencies on domestic abuse indicate what the category means. JCADA refers to domestic abuse as involving acts of emotions (constant criticism, humiliating remarks), physical abuse, economic abuse (withholding credit cards, money, or keeping a partner from work), sexual abuse, threats and intimidation among other behaviors.
Thalia Rydz, who heads the domestic abuse program at GJFS, indicate that domestic abuse survivors come to GJFS through a variety of channels, such as a GJFS 24 hour support line, rabbis and synagogues, Jewish teen organizations, schools among other sources.
"We place 'Don't Suffer In Silence' plaques in the bathrooms at synagogues/temples, Jewish community centers and other Jewish organizations buildings," said Rydz.
GJFS alerts other Jewish organizations about their services and survivors also hear about the program through word of mouth from other survivors, family and friends, among other sources.
Survivors of domestic abuse many also include children in the family.
"Witnessing domestic abuse does constitute as child abuse. In addition, many times children are directly victimized by the abuser," said Rydz.
GJFS currently serves 42 survivors of domestic violence in Broward County with service impacting 120 children of survivors.
"Through individual counseling, case management and support groups, we educate and empower our clients to make their own choices, given their unique circumstances. We guide them based on their wants and needs. It is extremely important that we allow our clients to use their own voices in making their own decisions, because often, abusive relationships deny them of that privilege," added Rydz.
There were over 100 donors who offered items for sale at the silent auction of the Kolot Chai Tea event.
To learn more about Goodman Jewish Family Services, 100 S. Pine Island Road, Suite #230 in Plantation, call 954-370-2140 or go to www.jfsbroward.org