Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz and Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski brought the issue of domestic violence in the Orthodox community to light, and in doing so, saved the lives and impacted the futures of countless women.
In a time when domestic violence was a rarely broached subject, Rabbi Schwartz was willing to take a stand and use his voice about the issue. In support of survivors of domestic abuse, he gave permission for our help/crisis line to remain open on Shabbat and holidays because the phone line could save a life. He was willing to take a stand for what was right, even when others disagreed and ostracized him.
What Rabbi Schwartz did for SHALVA and the Chicago Jewish community, Rabbi Twerski did for the Jewish community at large. His book, The Shame Borne in Silence: Spouse Abuse in the Jewish Community, was the first book to openly address the subject of spousal abuse. SHALVA therapists continue to give this book to our clients, and his words educate and comfort many people. We display one of his quotes in our office as a source of inspiration:
“In the Torah, there is the concept of community responsibility. Some of the reasons why a woman cannot leave an abusive husband are due to the community’s failure to make this more realistic, in which case it is not the woman who is at fault for not leaving the batterer, but the community for not making it more feasible.”
Today, Rabbi Twerski’s family continues his mission. Lisa Twerski, his daughter-in-law, has also written a book on the subject, teaches and counsels women about domestic violence, and has spoken at several SHALVA events. Rabbi Ephraim Twerski, his nephew, is a member of the SHALVA Orthodox Rabbinic Taskforce* and frequently helps those suffering from abuse.
May the memories of these two men be for a blessing.