cover image SINS OF OMISSION: The Jewish Community's Reaction to Domestic Violence: What Needs to Be Done

SINS OF OMISSION: The Jewish Community's Reaction to Domestic Violence: What Needs to Be Done

Carol Goodman Kaufman, Carl Goodman Kaufman, Carol Goodman Kaufman, . . Westview, $26 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8133-4088-3

There are few statistics about the incidence of domestic abuse within the Jewish community, but industrial and organizational psychologist Kaufman underscores that it does exist and that it must be acknowledged and dealt with openly within the framework of Jewish tradition. Covering the subject from sociological, religious and legal viewpoints, supplemented by an exhaustive analysis of interviews with survivors, rabbis and lay leaders in the Boston area, Kaufman argues that many abused women see their rabbis as unapproachable on the subject. Some rabbis have even invoked the Jewish ideal of shalom bayit, of maintaining peace in the home, as justification for sending a woman back to her abuser. Kaufman also notes that a divorce decree can only be issued by the husband—creating from the start an atmosphere that allows for abuse of power. But as Kaufman explains, the "overarching theme of the Torah," preservation of life, trumps almost every other commandment. It is therefore the responsibility of community leaders and congregants to actively prevent or, failing that, punish domestic abuse. The author notes that while a few organizations, such as Hadassah, have responded to this problem on a national level by, say, supporting the Violence Against Women Act, there is little action at the community level. Kaufman suggests that organizations work together to forcefully attack this problem by offering premarital education, encouraging rabbis to speak out and providing Jewish safe houses. While the abundance of first-person testimonials throughout this academically framed text may overwhelm some readers, the case studies humanize the problem, and this work brings into the open this sadly neglected issue within the Jewish community. (Nov.)