Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 105

others. And yet most of us do not talk about Jewish texts men are the decision-makers issues of violence and relationships with our and women have lesser roles. They are gener- sons either at home, in religious school and ally visible as the wives, daughters, sisters, or Bar-mitzvah settings, or in youth programs. seducers of powerful men. These texts convey We are setting them up to be in abusive rela- the message that men are superior to women tionships because they will lack the skills to and therefore should be in charge. A sense work out life’s challenges without controlling of entitlement, coupled with a view of Jew- potentially abusive behavior. ish women as inferior or less than men leads some Jewish men to take out any anger, confu- How can boys resist the messages to be tough, sion, frustration, or pain they feel on the Jew- competitive, and in control? As adults, we need ish women and children around them. These to be willing to talk with them about issues of abusive acts are then sometimes spiritually abuse—issues of abuse sanctioned through refer- in our own lives, in our ence to religious texts, or families, in the Jewish We need to engage them in emotionally sanctioned by community, and abuse male portrayals of shrill, discussions of what it means in Israel (where a mili- controlling Jewish women tarized society has led to to be powerful in ways that do conveyed by contempo- high levels of domestic not involve control or violence. rary Jewish and main- violence and sexual as- stream literature. sault in addition to the normalization of violence directed at Palestin- At the same time we have an image of the ians and others). We need to engage them in Jewish man as a mensch, a good and caring discussions of what it means to be powerful in person, a thinker or scholar, as someone who ways that do not involve control or violence. is more passive than aggressive, perhaps even We can also teach them how to express their unable to defend himself. Because of these feelings, listen to and nurture others, and how stereotypes the Jewish community continues to solve conflict without violence. We need to to be in great denial about the high levels of help them think about what it means to enter incest, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and into right relationship with others, particu- domestic violence committed by Jewish men. larly women—relationships based on respect, There is a presumption of innocence given to mutuality, reciprocity, and equality. In this Jewish men. Because of these stereotypes and task we can draw on traditional Jewish beliefs the presumption of innocence we often fail to which value peace in the home, honoring one’s talk about family and relationship violence or neighbors, and justice for all. We can encour- to counter the negative messages our sons re- age our boys to see themselves as an ally to ceive about Jewish women. We fail to prepare those around them—not as a hero or savior, or them—regardless of their sexual orientation— as an act of charity—but as a member of the to be non-violent, equal, and respectful lovers, community who reaches out to those abused partners, and parents. and challenges those who are abusive from Many Jewish boys grow up in families where an understanding of our mutual interest and they experience incest, physical abuse, emo- interdependence. tional and physical neglect, or witness domes- We cannot afford a presumption of innocence tic violence. Some Jewish boys grow up to be for our boys. They see images in the media men who perpetrate these kinds of abuse on “ VOL. 34, NO. 1 ” © 2019 TIKKUN MAGAZINE 105