Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Becoming Tootsie

Hello Reyut Community!  We’re sorry for our absence, but we are back in blogging action.  Over the last few months we have had many family events, including Ari’s rabbinical ordination which brings him to New York City.  (Mazel Tov Rabbi Lorge!) So we are truly now bi-coastal, he will be blogging to you from NYC and I from Los Angeles. 

I was watching a video the other day of a Dustin Hoffman interview.  For those who haven't seen it yet I encourage you to watch.  He is discussing what it was like to make the 1982 hit movie, Tootsie, that most people consider a comedy.  Hoffman however, does not view the film in that genre.  The movie for him evolved into a commentary on society’s views on female beauty and the value of women if they are not beautiful. 

Hoffman was disappointed because the make-up crew made him into a woman, but they were unable to transform him into an attractive woman.  When he realized that what he saw was as good as it gets he became emotional:

Talking to my wife, I said I have to make this picture, and she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill physically the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order to ask them out.’ She says, ‘What are you saying?’ And I said, ‘There’s too many interesting women I have…not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.  And that [Tootsie] was never a comedy for me.’”

Hoffman’s interview has gone viral recently not because it is a new concept, (the unfair expectation of an idealized form of beauty placed on women) but the honesty he brings.  He never truly understood that to be female didn’t come with the attractive card, and if you are female and don’t fit into the stereotypes society says is beautiful then you are less valued.  The shame that he feels is something we can all relate too because even though everyone has felt shunned at one point in their lives because of how they look, we have also shunned others or made assumptions based on looks. 

This interview gives us the opportunity to reflect on the beauty standards we place on women and at the same time how we play a part in them everyday knowingly or unknowingly.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mother's Day: Elevating an Already Meaningful Act

So Mother's Day is coming up...we at Reyut know what that means...

Jewish Women International (JWI) is in the midst of its annual Flower Project.  If you are not familiar with JWI we encourage you to spend some time on their site.  They do important and meaningful work.  The Flower Project is an annual event of their which takes place around Mother's Day.

So what is it?  Below is a video, a link to the site, and a short description which will explain it all:

Video - 

Description - For the 35,000 women and children who will spend this Mother’s Day in battered women’s shelters, urgent needs like housing, safety and employment make the holiday just another day to survive. JWI sends bouquets and beauty products to 200 shelters across the U.S. each Mother’s Day, offering hope and encouragement to moms and their children. For every $25 contribution you make, JWI will send a Mother’s Day card to any woman you choose, letting her know that she’s inspired a gift that’s helping women in need. You can also include a card (anonymous if you would like) to women in the shelters.  Proceeds from the Flower Project also support JWI’s year-round initiatives to empower women and break the cycle of abuse.

 Link - go to the Flower Project site to begin the process.

These small acts make a huge difference.  Here is one of many quotes from directors of the shelters who received flowers and beauty products last year:
“It’s wonderful that the women in our shelters are honored in this way— many of them come to us with nothing but hope and courage (which is huge) and your efforts help them to know that this hope and courage are acknowledged and valued. We even had enough OPI products for our second shelter, our transitional housing program, and our support groups. We LOVE JWI!”

If you are already planning to send a card to an important woman in your life, this is an incredible way to do so while supporting JWI and their outreach to women in shelters all over the country.  We can help bring some joy to the 35,000 women and children who will spend Mother’s Day in a battered women’s shelter.

We hope you'll join us in this effort. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"When Teen Dating Turns Dangerous: The Scars From Abusive Teen Relationships can Last Into Adulthood"

We have heard many stories in the media recently about the outcomes of teen dating violence within relationships.  However, what often fails to grab the media's attention, are the long lasting effects of teen dating violence on survivors after an abusive relationship has ended.

Last week, in the Boston Globe, there was an article entitled, "When Teen Dating Turns Dangerous.”  What caught my eye was the tagline of this article, "The scars from abusive teen dating relationships can last into adulthood.”  

The article did not focus on the dangers of what can happen in an abusive relationship.  Rather it looked at the long lasting effects on the survivor.  Too often we look at teen relationships through the lenses of sweet young love; something full of naivete and innocence.  During a teen break-up we often say or think, “they’ll get over it.”  However Deinera Exner-Cortens, the lead author of a recent study from Cornell University, suggests we have to re-frame the way we think about a youth's early relationships.  Based on her study she comments: “A teenager’s first romantic relationship plays a critical role in helping an adolescent develop a sense of who he or she is — personally and sexually...If a teen’s first intimate relationship is abusive, it may skew what his or her view of what a healthy relationship looks like.”

These comments help us (adults, teachers, youth workers, clergy, parents, anyone invested in the health of a young person) see the importance of talking to our youth early on about dating violence and sexual violence.  We often worry that our youth are "too young" to be exposed to these issues.  However, perhaps we need to ask if we are reaching out to our youth too late, rather than too early.  Moreover, for some, a conversation with youth about healthy relationships, is never on their radar.  The article sites another study that demonstrates that parents feel a duty to talk to their children about alcohol and safe sex, but dating violence rarely makes the list. 

These studies demonstrate the need to talk to our teens about dating violence and sexual violence, because we KNOW that failing to do so could have impacts on their long-term health.  As we stated, it is not just parents who can initiate these critical conversations. It is our duty as aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, NFTY Advisors, Youth Group Advisors, Clergy, youth mentors, summer camp staff, etc to engage our youth in these conversations.  Someone said it takes a village to raise a child.  If we feel a responsibility to our youth, we must be proactive about healthy relationship education.  We must have this conversation early enough to make a difference. 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  Let's take this month to ask ourselves if we have had this conversation with the youth in our community.  If we haven't, it is time to rectify the situation.  It can be as formal as a program or a sermon, and as informal as a quiet conversation in the mini-van to Hebrew School or after dinner.  It is so important for us to educate the teens in our life about dating violence and sexual violence.  It can be a tough conversation.  Sometimes we may be embarrassed to engage.  Sometimes we don't have the words.  Sometimes it is hard to stop thinking of them as children.  No matter what may prevents us, we owe it to them to start the conversation.

Read a recent blog by JWI's Deborah Rosenbloom in the Huffington Post called, Time To Talk Seriously about Sexual Violence on Campus, that highlights some ways to start the conversation with your children about sexual violence.  For ideas on how to start the conversation about dating violence click here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pesach Edition - Next Year May All Be Free!

פסח/Pesach is fast approaching.  Jews around the world will celebrate this festival wherein we recount the story of the Exodus.  We will recount how the Israelites' attained liberation from the bondage of Egypt.  We at Reyut want to use this post to share with you resources and texts you can use to enhance your Pesach observance.  We can all spread awareness about domestic violence and violence against women during this season.  We can name this modern day plague which rests, not on any one nation, but upon all. As we celebrate our freedom we are called upon to remember that the world is still broken, and that we are God's partners in the work of repair.  There are many in our communities who wait for redemption and freedom from violence, intimidation, control, and abuse. Some may even sit silently around our seder tables. At this season the words from the Pesach Kavanah found in Congregation Sha'ar Zahav's Siddur Sha'ar Zahav speaks to me:

"Neither the work nor the remembering will ever be finished in our lifespan; may we remember that liberation is not a destination but an ongoing labor of love. No one is free until all the bonds are cut.  May it be so, speedily, and soon, and let us say, next year in-  No, not next year.  Not anywhere else but right here, right now, everywhere and always." (pg. 377)

Below are some resources for homes, for congregations, for communities.
  • Jewish Women International (JWI)'s Clergy Task Force has many creative prayers and blessings.  One is a dedication of a cup of wine meant to be used during the seder. Print the pdf and incorporate it into your seder. 
  • Ritualwell is an online source of liturgical Jewish innovations.  It has this reading which adds to the Pesach seder as well.  The reading is from a full haggadah called A Journey Towards Freedom: A Haggadah for Women Who Have Experienced Domestic Violence.
    • You can find the full haggadah here
  • This reading is also an original piece from the same haggadah and responds to the traditional liturgical component Dayeinu.
  • This reading also from the haggadah is meant to speak to the 4 questions section of the haggadah.
  • The Religious Action Center (RAC) has this guide for incorporating issues of justice into one's Pesach observance.   Domestic Violence is one of several social justice issues discussed in the guide.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

It has been about a month since NFTY Convention 2013.  We at Reyut: The Jewish Campaign For Healthy Relationships hosted two workshops.  It was a wonderful experience and we were so happy we could foster these great conversations with youth in the Reform movement.

We were very excited when we heard the NFTY Study Theme was renewed for another year.  Once again Jewish youth will be exploring the question that sprang from Cain's mouth in Bereishit:

"?הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר אָחִ֖י אָנֹֽכִי" "Am I My Brother's Keeper?"

We believe that when our society is ready to answer that question in the affirmative we will begin to create a culture of Active Bystanders.  That time cannot come soon enough.  The incidence of teen dating violence, intimate partner violence, and domestic violence boggles the mind. 

We focused both the sessions on the study theme, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” and our responsibility to intervene and act as peer leaders.  We encouraged the NFTYites to explore scenarios in which they witness a form of dating violence and to brainstorm whether or not they would intervene, and if so how they could do so safely?  We discussed the fact that violence need not mean physical violence.  We discussed the benefits of intervening before a line is crossed in a situation.  We acknowledged that it is uncomfortable to step in or to say to your friend that their behavior is problematic, but that as Jews we have an obligation to stand up for others, to challenge unhealthy behavior, and to intervene in order to prevent harm to another person.

We ended our programs discussing how NFTYites could bring these conversations and ideas home with them.  Active Bystanders are not created in 1 hour sessions.  However, we hope that over time we can begin to create a culture wherein we actively stand up to foster healthy relationships and challenge unhealthy behaviors, language, and mindsets.  The fact that 12.7 million people are physically abused, raped, or stalked in a year is intolerable.  It speaks to a fact that we have to make a cultural shift.  While education is an important first step, real change can only come from peer leaders willing to act as Active Bystanders.  We can work together to ensure our communities are truly sukkot shalom - shelters of peace.  The change begins with us.

What is an Active Bystander? (adapted from materials on the active  bystander approach created for military)
  • Active bystanders take the initiative to help someone who may be targeted for violent or unhealthy behavior
  • Active bystanders also take the initiative to help friends who aren't thinking clearly from becoming perpetrators of unhealthy behavior.
  • Intervention doesn't mean that you only step in to stop a crime in progress; rather, these steps are "early intervention" — before a crime or unhealthy behavior begins.
There are three components to Active Bystander Intervention.
  • Assess for safety. Ensure that all parties are safe, and assess whether the situation requires calling authorities. When deciding to intervene, your personal safety should be the #1 priority. When in doubt, call for help.
  • Be with others. If safe to intervene, you're likely to have a greater influence on the parties involved when you work together with someone or several people. Your safety is increased when you stay with a group of friends who you know well.
  • Care for the potential victim. Ask if they are okay.  Find way to get them out of the dangerous situation.
Active Bystander Intervention takes a number of forms (this list is not by any means exhaustive):
  • Talking to a friend to ensure he or she is doing okay
  • Making clear to friends that we wont tolerate sexist behavior or attitudes, even if they are "just jokes"
  • Making up an excuse to help the friend get away from someone
  • Calling the police
  • Pointing out someone's disrespectful behavior in a safe and respectful manner that tends to de-escalate the situation
  • Removing a friend from a risky situation quickly
 By creating a culture of active bystanders we can create a safer community.  By saying we are our brother's and sister's keeper we recognize that we have the power and ability to prevent violence. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tim Gunn says NO MORE

Just when we thought we couldn't love Tim Gunn more than we already did...

 Project Runway host, Tim Gunn, is taking a stand against sexual assault and domestic violence by adding to the voices of the NO MORECampaign.  The NO MORE campaign is aimed at raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence and yesterday March 13th was NO MORE Day where the campaign was kicked off.  Like the breast cancer pink ribbon, this symbol represents the need to spread awareness around the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. 
In Tim Gunn’s article in the huffington post he praised President Obama for signing into law the Violence Against Women Act Re-authorization.   However the sad reality is that a week later the two students from Stubenville, Ohio who are accused of raping an unconscious 16 year old girl have just started the trial.  Gunn speaks of the unconscionable acts of not only the offender but others watching and taking pictures and sharing on social media sites. Sexual assault and domestic violence do not go away after the signing of a bill, he says we need to do more, we need to change attitudes and behaviors across the nation.  We need to reduce the stigma around these issues and speak out and challenge our country to take this issue on like we take on other health issues, and only then can we end violence against women. 
“NO MORE challenges that assumption. I believe that by using the symbol repeatedly and widely, like any powerful brand , we can convey a powerful message: We all must play a critical role in preventing assault and abuse. On March 13 we are asking all Americans to take the time to:

KNOW MORE. Learn the signs of domestic violence and listen without judgment to the survivors of sexual assault. Get the facts and know the available resources.

Say NO MORE. Break the silence. Speak out. Seek help when you see this problem or harassment of any find in your family, your community, your workplace, or your school.

Share NO MORE. Share the NO MORE symbol with everyone you know. Facebook it. Tweet it. Pin it. Instagram it. Email it. Wear it. Help to increase awareness about the extent of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Ensure NO MORE. Get involved. Volunteer in your community, or donate to a local, state, or national domestic violence or sexual assault organization.

Visit nomore.org. Add your voice. Together, we can end domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reyut Pledge

In order to kick off the month of February, which is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, we have created the Reyut Pledge.  No matter who we are, no matter where we live, each of us can find small and large ways to make a difference on issues of gender violence, teen dating violence, and intimate partner violence.  Take a minute to sign the pledge.  Commit yourself to being part of the community calling for, and creating, change!

Then help us spread the message.  We will be a loud voice calling for change this month!  Make sure your friends and family take the pledge as well.  Share this link with others and on social media.  By raising awareness we make a difference!  We all deserve healthy relationships.  Join us in pledging to do our part.

Ari & Sari