The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, instituted by the United Nations and Centre for Women’s Leadership, kicks off on the 25th November on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).

For this reason Jewish Women’s Aid Shabbat is always held during the 16 days – this year on the 2nd/3rd December - and is our community’s annual Shabbat to raise awareness of domestic abuse. It is a truly cross-communal event, supported by Office of the Chief Rabbi, United Synagogue, Reform Judaism, Liberal Judaism, Masorti Judaism, S&P Sephardi Community, Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies.


Through our resources on we aim to provide the tools to open up discussion on this issue both in the heart of the community - the shul – and in other settings, like around the shabbat table or with friends. This is a vital step in continuing to build communities which challenge abuse and send a clear message to women that they will be heard and supported.


Domestic abuse is not an easy topic to bring up but ignoring it is not an option. JWA supports about 150 women experiencing domestic abuse every month and has been providing a wide range of services to Jewish women for nearly 30 years, including counselling and children’s therapy. So, there is no doubt that this problem exists in our community, just like any other. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and in 73% of cases, the victim was female.


It’s important to be clear about what we do and don’t mean when we say ‘domestic abuse’. Domestic abuse is not having a disagreement; it is not ‘not getting along’ – both of these things can happen in any relationship without it constituting abuse.


Domestic abuse is usually a pattern of behaviour where one partner has more power than the other and uses this imbalance to control, demean and harm them emotionally and physically. It might be constant insults or criticism, taking or controlling money, making threats, stalking or using physical or sexual violence.


In a close-knit community like ours, it can be difficult to come forward to say that you are in an abusive relationship, due to the shame and stigma that some may feel. A woman might worry that she won’t be believed if her husband is respected in the community, or she might worry about being known in the community and talked about.


In these 16 days, including our Shabbat, in our Jewish community we need to speak out with one voice and say no - it is not acceptable to be abusive to your partner. We all need to take responsibility to make our community one which has zero tolerance for abuse, and is supportive to those who are affected. 


Judaism teaches us the importance of chesed – kindness – in the way we relate to each other. We must follow this guiding principle within our relationships at home as well as in public.


We would love for all organisations across our UK Jewish community to raise awareness of the issue and promote an anti-domestic violence message. We must all unite to end violence against women and girls year round and not just these 16 days.


To find out more about domestic abuse and what we can do to prevent it in our community, please have a look at our toolkit leaflet which is available in shuls and can also be found on