Cover image for Sins of omission : the Jewish community's reaction to domestic violence
Sins of omission : the Jewish community's reaction to domestic violence
Kaufman, Carol Goodman.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. ; Oxford : Westview, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvii, 238 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL625.9.V52 K38 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In a congregation of devoted worshippers gathered for Shabbat services at the local synagogue, it may be difficult to accept how many wives go home with their husbands to ongoing physical and emotional abuse. In Sins of Omission , author Carol Goodman Kaufman offers a compelling investigation of the Jewish community's reaction - or nonreaction - to domestic violence. Concerned with the sins of the community more than the sins of the abuser, Goodman Kaufman finds that the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis and community leaders are not doing enough and are not informed enough to help the abused women in their congregations get the support, protection, and guidance they need. Through her many insightful interviews with survivors of abuse, rabbis, and lay community leaders, the author takes a hard look at the Jewish community, its rules, regulations, and followers, and discovers the ways in which it helps and hinders victims of abuse.

Author Notes

Carol Goodman Kaufman is Visiting Scholar at the Brudnick Center for the Study of Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University, Boston.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
1 "Oh, That I Had Wings Like a Dove" Survivors Tell Their Storiesp. 1
2 "Wife Beating Is a Thing Not Done in Israel" the Myth of Shalom Bayitp. 27
3 "Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue" what Does Jewish Law Say About Abuse?p. 57
4 "The Errors of the Sages" the Rabbis and Willful Neglectp. 85
5 "Do Not Separate Yourself from the Community" Communal Leaders' Response to Abusep. 123
6 Conclusions and Recommendationsp. 173