October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an annual campaign that was begun in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to connect battered-women’s advocates who were working to end violence against women and children.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence has scheduled a series of special events this month across the state.

Girls Achieve Grapeness

Jewish Women International (JWI), the leading Jewish organization working to end domestic violence and empower women and girls, worked with OPI to create the limited-edition nail polish ─ which is purple, the color of the movement against domestic violence ─ to support its programs that empower girls and women to be safe and independent. OPI manufactured and donated 10,000 bottles of the custom nail color, and the sorority Sigma Delta Tau will distribute the polish through its 65 chapters on college campuses across the country including the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State and Rutgers (New Brunswick and Camden).

More after the jump.
“Girls Achieve Grapeness is a statement color – and that statement is that girls can and will achieve great things. At the same time, it’s helping to fund JWI projects that give girls the resources to do just that,” said Lori Weinstein, executive director of JWI. “We are excited to be working with OPI and SDT, both longstanding partners of JWI, to provide a beautiful, high-quality product with such a noble mission.”

“OPI is excited to be a part of this winning partnership. Thousands of women and girls across the country will be wearing an OPI color that stands for the greatness that girls can achieve when they are given the tools for self-sufficiency and self-esteem,” said Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice-president and artistic director of OPI Products, Inc. “People use nail color to express who they are; this color makes the statement that girls can be anyone, and accomplish anything.”

“I am very proud of Sigma Delta Tau’s partnership with Jewish Women International. Girls Achieve Grapeness is a fabulous way for college women to make a visible statement against domestic violence,” said National Sigma Delta Tau President Michelle Carlson. “JWI continues to provide relevant programming and opportunities for young women to have an active role in raising awareness on key issues affecting the lives of women everywhere, furthering SDT’s mission of empowering women.”  

In addition to SDT’s distribution on college campuses, the polish will be available at JWI events throughout the month of October.  

Jewish Organizations Applaud Obama’s Gun Violence Reducing Plan

In a speech at the White House today President Barack Obama has announced a plan with 23 executive steps for reducing gun violence:

I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe [Biden]’s task force. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.

And I’m going to do my part. As soon as I’m finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.

We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system. We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans. We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence — even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.

More after the jump.
In response, B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:

B’nai B’rith International praises President Obama for his plans to introduce a legislative package next week that, among other things, would include reinstating the assault weapons ban, limiting the number of rounds in ammunition magazines, implementing universal background checks for those purchasing firearms and enacting new gun trafficking laws.

B’nai B’rith calls on both parties in Congress to work with the administration to swiftly pass effective gun legislation.

The shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., a month ago and several other gun related tragedies in recent years have demonstrated a growing need for reform of the nation’s gun laws.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, B’nai B’rith was quick to call on the president and Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban, believing there is no sane, acceptable, reasonable need in a civilian setting to fire off large rounds of ammunition.

On Jan. 14, the B’nai B’rith International Executive Committee passed a formal resolution that called for a ban on assault weapons, as well as a limit on ammunition magazine capacity.

This country needs meaningful, bipartisan gun regulation. B’nai B’rith pledges to work with all political parties, interest groups and coalitions to make these regulations a reality.

“We thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for these thoughtful and comprehensive proposals to prevent gun violence in America,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

We recognize that this is a complex issue. In the month since 26 first graders and educators were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, over 900 Americans have lost their lives from gun violence. The memory of Newtown is still fresh, and so is Aurora, Tucson, Fort Hood and other massacres that remind us that something must be done — and that there isn’t a single solution to preventing mass violence. We appreciate the Administration’s understanding that there are multiple causes which must be addressed. It is crucial that passions not ebb nor our country return to complacency. Gun violence claims new lives every day. We encourage the President to continue to move this conversation forward during his State of the Union address, keeping the protection of Americans front and center. As a community that has experienced mass violence, we appreciate the careful consideration that is being given to this issue. It is a national priority and we must keep up the momentum.

Lori Weinstein, Jewish Women International (JWI)‘s executive director issued the following statement:

JWI applauds President Obama’s bold leadership on reforming gun laws in an effort to reduce gun violence in our nation. JWI has pledged its commitment to support the banning of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as well as strengthening and expanding background checks for gun purchasers. The executive orders announced by the President will give us added tools and strategies to further gun violence prevention. JWI calls on Congress to follow the President’s lead by enacting effective legislation.

As an organization that works every day to prevent violence against women and girls, we have seen all too often the devastating effects of gun violence. We and our network of more than 25,000 pledge to work with the Administration to make gun violence prevention a priority for the country. This issue will be of primary importance to JWI throughout the 113th Congress, and we hope for quick passage of gun laws to curb gun violence.

American Jews Support Gun Law Reform

Since last week’s massacre in Connecticut, Jewish politicians and organizations have showed their support of reform in gun laws.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the co-chairman of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. Following the event the coalition has launched the Demand A Plan campaign:

Our efforts cannot bring back the 20 innocent children murdered in Newtown, CT — or the 34 people murdered with guns every day in America. But we can prevent future tragedies by passing common sense legislation that will:

  1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America.
  2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime, including real penalties for “straw purchasers.”

Demand that your members of Congress and the president support these legislative priorities.

More after the jump.

Over 300,000 Americans have already signed the campaign’s petition, and the coalition itself has over 750 mayors as members.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has announced on her website that she will introduce a bill to ban assault weapons on the first day of the new congress.

“Who needs these military-style assault weapons? Who needs an ammunition-feeding device capable of holding 100 rounds? These weapons are not for hunting deer — they’re for hunting people”.

Additionally, over 10,000 Americans have signed a Jewish Council for Public Affairs petition to make access to guns and mental health care a national priority.

“There has been an immediate emotional reaction across the entire country of shock, horror, and deep sadness. But this was not an isolated event. In the past few months, we have seen shootings at malls, theaters, and places of workshop; each one followed by a return to complacency and status quo,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The grotesque shooting at Newtown and the massive outpouring of support for this petition mark a tonal shift in our country where the need for a comprehensive approach to guns and mental health care are urgent priorities we can no continue to ignore. The thousands of signers are the beginning of a national and sustained effort to make sure future tragedies like this are unimaginable.”

The Jewish Women International organization applauded yesterday president Barack Obama’s announcement of gun violence task force:

“JWI strongly supports the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden in reforming our nation’s gun laws in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We applaud the creation of an interagency task force to address gun violence and urge Members of Congress to enact tough restrictions on guns, most urgently banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. JWI also believes that Congress must improve the quality and accessibility of our nation’s mental health services. As an organization that has worked to address the devastating effects of gun violence and domestic violence for decades, we applaud the Administration’s efforts and urge thoughtful and decisive action from all levels of government.”

In a speech in the House of Representatives, Rep. Alysson Schwartz (D-PA) stated:

We have seen far too many moments of violence and loss. This loss is too devastating to ignore. I believe that even in this time of deep sadness and grief, we must resolve to end such violence. We must do better to understand and treat mental illness. And we must come together to move our nation towards common sense, responsible gun laws. Laws that recognize the responsibility of gun-ownership, and ensure safety and security in our homes, schools, communities, and public spaces.

Jewish Women Leaders Endorse Barack Obama

— by Max Samis

Three prominent leaders in the Jewish community wrote an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel endorsing President Barack Obama for reelection. Nancy Ratzan, past president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Millie Sernovitz, past president of Jewish Women International, and Barbara Dobkin, founding chair of the Hadassah Foundation, made it clear that for both women and the Jewish community, Obama has proven to be the right choice.

Op/ed follows the jump.
Ratzan, Sernovitz, and Dobkin wrote:

No one doubts that the 2012 election will define the path forward for this nation and for each of us. The next president of the United   States will nominate one or two Supreme Court justices, thereby defining the balance of the Court and our fundamental rights for decades to come. He will lead us to either secure health care access as a universal right or throw those who can’t afford care under the bus. He will determine whether middle and lower-income Americans will have opportunity or whether that will be the privilege of only the exceedingly wealthy. He will lead our foreign policy agenda, including the intensity of our response to Iran and the depth of our alliance with Israel. And he will advance, or not, the fundamental rights of women to economic security, equality and reproductive rights.

The good news is that all the cards are already on the table…

President Obama’s cards are on the table too – best reflected in his record. With respect to Israel, our security assistance has increased every year, we’ve quelled attempts to isolate Israel, and Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. With respect to domestic achievements, his historic health care reform has created access to better and more affordable health care for millions of Americans. Now, being a woman is no longer a pre-exiting condition. And despite pressure, President Obama maintained his commitment to women’s health, ensuring women can have access to preventive care, regardless of where they work or if they worship.

He nominated two extraordinarily wise, judicious and universally respected women to the Supreme Court. He has devoted his presidency to restoring economic security for all, acknowledging both the need for spending cuts and new revenue.

And women’s cards are face-up too. We won’t tolerate turning back the clocks. We won’t retreat on our rights to contraception, determining for ourselves when and whether to bear children, or on non-discriminatory access to health care, including no co-pay for preventive care like mammograms and contraception. We won’t abide by a policy that cuts taxes for the rich and guts spending on student financial aid, Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start and environmental protection. We won’t accept packing the Supreme Court with those who would rubber-stamp partisan policy. And we will not be persuaded by misleading sound bites from candidates about Israel, for we know this country’s and this president’s unwavering allegiance to our Jewish homeland.

We will vote for the candidate whose words and deeds reflect our values and our interests. This year, we will stand up for ourselves and vote in record numbers that will determine the outcome of this election.

Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: Reproductive Rights

This is Chapter 3 of a 3-part series on the War on Women.

Chapter 3: Reproductive Rights

Women are losing ground in many states on the reproductive rights front. Indeed, women are at risk of losing the choice of whether or not to become mothers by banning common forms of birth control, fertility treatment like in-vitro fertilization, and all abortions (even in case of rape).

Last month, the Senate voted down a bill that would have allowed employers to deny women coverage for birth control and any “objectionable” medical service, possibly even flu shots. Senators Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio’s amendment would have allowed any employer — not religious institutions, because they are already exempt — to make this call on behalf of their female employees. That means a woman’s boss at a restaurant, retail store, law firm or anywhere would have control over what health care she could receive. After an hour during which he was on the record opposed to it, Mitt Romney said, in typical flip flop fashion, “Of course I support that amendment.” Of course he does. And we can thank him for paving the way — he also said he would have supported a “personhood” amendment in Massachusetts, which could have banned abortion in any circumstance, some contraception, and even fertility treatments like IVF.

In the video on the right, Dr. Mildred Hanson explains how she and other U.S. doctors worked around the law to provide abortions before the procedure was legalized in 1973 through Roe v. Wade. We don’t want to have to go back to this.

More after the jump.

Romney and Corbett are too extreme for women
Less than a day after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett endorsed Romney, the Democratic National Committee is up with a 1-minute video highlighting his comment at a press conference that women who don’t like forced ultrasounds before receiving abortions could always “close their eyes” during it. “But women aren’t closing their eyes to Romney and the GOP’s extreme positions on women’s health,” a DNC official emails.  

Special Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: Equal Pay

This is Chapter One of a three-part series on the War on Women.

Lilly Ledbetter explains why equal pay for equal work is a civil right, and Mitt Romney should listen.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill President Obama signed into law. When asked whether Mitt Romney supports the Act, Romney’s campaign replied, “We’ll get back to you on that.”

US Gender Pay Gap By State

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Vote Tally

Chapter 1: Fighting for Equal Pay

From the very beginning of his administration, President Obama has worked to ensure that women are paid fairly for their work. The President is committed to securing equal pay for equal work because it’s a matter of fair play, and because American families and the health of our nation’s economy depends on it.  April 17 was Equal Pay Day, which marks the fact that, nearly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the average woman still has to work well into the calendar year to earn what the average man earned last year.

In conjunction with Equal Pay Day:

  • The White House released the Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report:  Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace.  The Equal Pay Task Force brings together the best expertise of professionals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, who work daily to combat pay discrimination in the workplace.  The report details the significant progress that the Task Force has made to fight pay discrimination – including improving inter-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure that the full weight of the federal government is focused on closing the gender pay gap once and for all.
  • Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the winners of the Equal Pay App Challenge.  In January of this year, the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched this challenge, inviting software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications that accomplish at least one of the following goals:  provide greater access to pay data organized by gender, race, and ethnicity; provide interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring or to help inform negotiations.  A solution to the pay gap has been elusive, in part because access to basic information — e.g., typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay — is limited.  Because of the enthusiastic response to the Equal Pay App Challenge and the creative apps that were developed, anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer can access answers to these basic, but important, questions.  This challenge represents just one more way that women can empower themselves with the tools they need to make sure they get equal pay for equal work.  
  • Finally, in an ongoing effort to educate employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under our nation’s equal pay laws, the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau today published two brochures that will help educate employees regarding their rights under the existing equal pay laws and enable employers to understand their obligations.

From signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to creating the National Equal Pay Task Force, to proposing minimum wage and overtime protections for home-care workers – 90% of whom are women – President Obama has made clear his belief that there should be no second class citizens in our workplaces and that making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone.

If only women had a coupon like this, they wouldn’t suffer from the wage gap!

Presidential Proclamation follows the jump.
Presidential Proclamation of National Equal Pay Day

Working women power America’s economy and sustain our middle class. For millions of families across our country, women’s wages mean food on the table, decent medical care, and timely mortgage payments. Yet, in 2010 — 47 years after
President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — women who worked full-time earned only 77 percent of what their male counterparts did. The pay gap was even greater for African
American and Latina women, with African American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man. National Equal Pay Day represents
the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.

At a time when families across our country are struggling to make ends meet, ensuring a fair wage for all parents is more important than ever. Women are breadwinners in a growing number of families, and women’s earnings play an increasingly important role in families’ incomes. For them, fair pay is even more than a basic right — it is an economic necessity.

That is why my Administration is committed to securing equal pay for equal work. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill I signed as President, empowers women to recover wages lost to discrimination by extending the time period in which an employee can file a claim. In 2010, I was proud to create the National Equal Pay Task Force to identify and combat equal pay violations. The Task Force has helped women recover millions in lost wages, built collaborative training programs that educate employees about their rights and inform employers of their obligations, and facilitated an unprecedented level of inter-agency coordination to improve enforcement of equal pay laws.

Working women are at the heart of an America built to last. Equal pay will strengthen our families, grow our economy, and enable the best ideas and boldest innovations to flourish — regardless of the innovator’s gender. On National Equal Pay Day, let us resolve to become a Nation that values the contributions of our daughters as much as those of our sons, denies them no opportunity, and sets no limits on their dreams.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 17, 2012, as National Equal Pay Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize the full value of women’s skills and their significant contributions to the labor force, acknowledge the injustice of wage discrimination, and join efforts to achieve equal pay.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

— BARACK OBAMA

Special Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: VAWA

What do the 31 Republican Senators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act all have in common?

This is Chapter Three of a three-part series on the War on Women.

Chapter 3: The Violence Against Women Act

On April 26, the United States Senate passed S. 1925, a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), by a vote of 68 to 31. S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), ensures a continued federal government response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking while making significant improvements to the law. To celebrate the passage of this critical legislation, Jewish Women International (JWI) Executive Director Lori Weinstein released the following statement:

The Violence Against Women Act is a historic law that has benefited millions of women across the country. Today, the Senate passed a strong, bipartisan reauthorization bill and sent a strong message to victims of violence throughout the country: You are not forgotten. This bill not only continues VAWA’s successful programs and services for another five years but also improves access to services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and immigrant victims, and gives American Indian women equal access to justice.

For the last two years, JWI has worked closely with our colleagues on the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women and our allies on Capitol Hill to pass a reauthorization bill that strengthens and improves VAWA. After today’s victory, we turn our attention to the House of Representatives and call on them to renew and strengthen this lifesaving legislation in a bipartisan manner.

Barbara Weinstein, Legislative Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Since its enactment in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has been an invaluable tool for preventing, investigating, and prosecuting violent crimes targeting women. Studies have shown that incidents of domestic violence have decreased as more women report attacks and law enforcement has improved its investigation and prosecution of the crimes.

The bipartisan Senate vote reauthorizing VAWA will help continue this trend, providing better tools to train law enforcement and victim service providers, focus attention on addressing the high rate of violence in the tribal and LGBT communities, and redirect funds to the most effective programs.

Even as Maimonides reminded men of the imperative to treat women with honor and respect (Sefer Nashim 15:19), our Jewish sages recognized that violence comes in forms that are both physical and emotional.  The Violence Against Women Act helps prevent and respond to such tragedies when they occur and is worthy of reauthorization. We call on the House to follow the Senate’s lead and swiftly pass the Violence Against Women Act.

 

Special Mother’s Day Report from the War on Women: Introduction

Viral Music Video That Every Women (and Man) Should Watch

The video Bad Romance: Women’s Suffrage is Soomo Publishing’s moving music video parody of Lady Gaga. The video pays homage to Alice Paul and the generations of brave women who joined together in the fight to pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in 1920. (See Lyrics)

This Sunday is Mother’s Day when we honor the women in our lives.

However, in politics, the place of women can not be taken for granted. Just as our matriarchs fought for Women’s suffrage a hundred years ago, we must continue to fight to ensure the women in our lives the same rights that men enjoy.

Today, the gender war is being fought at a fevered pitch. As I see it there is action on at least three fronts:

  • Women made gains on the front for pay equality.
  • Women held off an assault on the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Women are losing ground in many states on the reproductive rights front.

Indeed, women are at risk of losing the choice of whether or not to become mothers by banning common forms of birth control, fertility treatment like in-vitro fertilization, and all abortions (even in case of rape).

Over the days leading up to Mother’s Day, we will publish a series of report showing the progress women are achieving and the setbacks women are contending with on each front.

Purim Study Guide: 1st in Women, Relationships, Jewish Texts Series

Rabbi Goldie Milgram in Purim Mask— Ann Rose Greenberg

Washington, DC – Jewish Women International (JWI) announces the release of the first in a series of study guides related to Women, Relationships and Jewish Text. Rethinking Purim is designed to spark new conversations about relationships by offering a fresh look at old texts. The guides are a project of JWI’s Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community, a group of prominent clergy committed to promoting Jewish responses and resources that end violence against women. Three more guides will be released in the coming year, each relating to a Jewish holiday.

More after the jump.
Rethinking Purim takes a thematic approach to the story of Purim, and uses text of the megillah, midrash, and modern commentary to encourage conversations about relationships. Each section of the guide discusses a characteristic of healthy relationships: developing a voice of one’s own; cultivating the conscious use of self; and striving for parity. The guide is designed for use in both formal and informal settings including synagogues, study groups, book clubs, or simply by a group of friends getting together.

Rabbi Richard Hirsh, co‐chair of JWI’s Clergy Task Force said:

This guide combines a respectful reading of classic texts with provocative and perceptive insights, questions and ideas that can help shape healthier relationships. It can help raise awareness of the ways in which issues of gender and power intersect with and can be addressed through such Jewish values as k’vod ha‐briot (respect for the dignity and integrity of each person) and kedusha (sanctification), among others.

According to JWI Executive Director Lori Weinstein:

We know that unhealthy relationships happen in our community, but we so rarely take the time to talk about what makes a relationship healthy. We hope that by sparking these conversations we can help women find their voices and speak out to perpetuate a cycle of safe homes, healthy relationships and strong women.

Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum, lead author of the guide said:

Jewish women today are making a new kind of ‘noise’ on this holiday by using it as a time to speak out against the mistreatment of women and against abusive relationships. We decided to go a step further and see what Purim could teach us about healthy relationships. Although the topic of healthy relationships is a serious one, we hope that — in the spirit of Purim — those using the guide will have a little fun, too.

JWI thanks Rabbi Amy Bolton, Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Cantor Katchko‐Gray, and Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum, all members of the members of the Clergy Task Force, for their thoughtful participation in the project.

The guide is available for download, free of charge.

JWI’s Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community is a multi-denominational group representing all parts of the Jewish community and committed to providing leadership by speaking publicly, developing and disseminating resources and training, and providing guidance to clergy working with families experiencing abuse. As with all of JWI’s task forces working on domestic abuse issues, this one includes survivors of domestic violence.

Jewish Women International is the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls through economic literacy, community training, healthy relationships education, and the proliferation of women’s leadership. Our innovative programs, advocacy, and philanthropic initiatives protect the fundamental rights of all girls and women to live in safe homes, thrive in healthy relationships, and realize the full potential of their personal strength.

JWI Leads Efforts to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act


The Violence Against Women Act was drafted by Sen. Joe Biden in 1994. It was passed by Congress and signed by Pres. Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. It needs to reauthorized this year.

Almost 45 Faith-Based Organizations Sign Onto Letter in Support of the Bi-Partisan Legislation

— by Ann Rose Greenberg

Jewish Women International (JWI) is spearheading efforts to unify the faith community in support of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) during this session of Congress.  More than 40 national religious institutions and organizations, representing tens of millions of individuals and families across the United States,  have signed a letter to Members of Congress to ensure that VAWA —  our nation’s single most effective tool in responding to the devastating crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking — is reauthorized this year.

“As people of faith, members of the clergy, advocates, and anti-violence professionals, it is critical that we bring our collective voices together to advocate for VAWA’s lifesaving programs and services,” said executive director, Lori Weinstein. “In these tough economic times, the reauthorization of VAWA is essential and cannot be taken for granted. The faith community will stand strong to ensure the passage of strong, bipartisan legislation.”

More after the jump.
“The organizations that have signed on to this letter represent diverse religious traditions,” said Miri Cypers, JWI senior policy and advocacy specialist. “It is encouraging that we can come together to support legislation aimed at improving the federal government’s response to violence against women and girls. We recognize that this reauthorization process affords us a unique opportunity to increase the faith community’s leadership in passing legislation that is more responsive to the changing needs of victims of violence.”

Since the original passage of VAWA in 1994, the legislation has dramatically enhanced the nation’s response to violence against women. More victims report domestic violence to the police; the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 63%; and VAWA saved nearly $14.8 billion in net averted social costs in just its first six years. But violent crimes against women are still perpetrated each day. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped in her lifetime and nearly 1 in 4 women has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

JWI also convenes the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition, a national effort for faith based organizations, many of which have signed on to the letter, to come together to provide policy and legislative guidance on domestic violence issues. The coalition advocates for national legislation and public policies that protect all people from domestic violence, with particular concern for women and children. It represents many faiths and denominations and millions of congregants spanning the Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’í, United Methodist, Catholic, Evangelical, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Latter-day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventist and Unitarian Universalist communities.

Jewish Women International is the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls through economic literacy, community training, healthy relationships education, and the proliferation of women’s leadership. Our innovative programs, advocacy, and philanthropic initiatives protect the fundamental rights of all girls and women to live in safe homes, thrive in healthy relationships, and realize the full potential of their personal strength. For more information, please visit www.jwi.org or contact us at 800.343.2823.