Looking back....

Looking back is what we tend to do in later life, often with concern that we missed opportunities or made mistakes. In looking forward one tries to learn from both!

It is sometimes difficult to judge why certain episodes in life suddenly gives you with a blinding light, the feeling that something needs to be done. I think that in the early nineties, that light occurred for several of us in London and in Leeds.

I was privileged to be in a situation, at work and at home, where I was able to coordinate the ideas and efforts of these women to set up Jewish Women’s Aid. At work I was managing professional training for employees of the Jewish social services and at home I had the support and expert advice of a loving husband and my three daughters.

Support was vital to me and to all of us in JWA. When we began to set up services we were faced with painful and difficult situations from women across the community who until then had endured shame borne in silence. We then had to understand the complexities of their families and lives to help them and then try to understand the structures of the political and social Jewish community and the complexities of government laws and funding in order to give a helpful and caring service.

Many of us at that early stage were engaged as professionals in the ‘helping professions’ and had experience of people’s difficulties. Even so, it was a challenging surprise to us to find how many families in our community were living frightened lives in secrecy.

I look back with admiration at those early pioneers who had busy lives at work and home and still found the time and energy to give to establishing and registering a charity, and to hold on to it while raising enough money to turn it into  a viable, one gaining support from other agencies, organisations and religious leaders. We look back today with love and gratitude at the many women who gave their time freely.

Looking forward....

Fortunately that generosity of spirit, that ability to relate with respect and understanding to women who come from a range of backgrounds, who have had to hesitate before they can ask for help, still characterises those who work for JWA today as volunteers and professionals.

If you have come to the website today because you need help do not be afraid, you will find it here. If you have come to offer help please do so. We began with a few women like you who saw a need and rushed to help.

I certainly do not want domestic abuse and other abuses to exist in the community but it does, and it needs to be addressed in every way. Careful plans for new projects are being made and need generous support from everyone with a good heart. As the Talmud teaches (Shevuot 39a) “All the people of Israel are responsible for each other”

 שכל ישראל ערבים זה בזה

Judith Usiskin MBE

JWA Hon. President