By Leor Rosen
This summer started like any other summer. I finished school and was elated about going to camp, just as I have for the past 8 years. What I didn’t expect was how this summer would be different. This summer my view on relationships would be altered. This summer my perspective on life would change in many ways.
At Camp Tel Yehudah this summer, I was part of the leadership program. It all began with a small piece of paper. We were told to rank, from 1-10, each of the ten issues we could work on and learn about throughout summer. The issues ranged from domestic abuse to poverty to gun violence. I chose domestic abuse .even though, I knew almost nothing about the topic. In fact, all I knew about domestic abuse was what I had learned from reading the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse’s (JCADA) small sign about assistance for victims on the back of the bathroom stall in my synagogue. That was the extent of my knowledge. I wrote down that number one next to this topic last summer because I wanted to learn more.
I was put into a group with my fellow campers who had also chosen this topic. Our camp counselor shared articles with detailed information about domestic abuse and I began to understand what domestic abuse really meant. After a period of intense learning, the summer leadership program culminated with a trip to DC to lobby Congress to provide assistance to domestic violence victims as well as to visit organizations working on this cause. We had an incredible experience in DC, visiting the National Network to End Domestic Violence, participating in JCADA’s AWARE® seminar, and meeting with representatives from Alaska and Maryland.
While all of the information I collected on the trip was enriching, I sometimes felt powerless during the trip. I wondered whether I would ever truly be able to help victims going through unimaginable hardships when I had no previous background or experience with this issue. It was after JCADA’s AWARE® workshop that I realized the critical value of this leadership program was that it gave me the opportunity to become educated about domestic abuse. I finally understood that raising people’s consciousness through education is key to breaking the cycle of abuse. Before this leadership program, I knew absolutely nothing about domestic abuse or its presence in today’s society.
During the trip to D.C., our group cheer was “Break the Silence, Stop Domestic Violence.” Domestic violence is an issue that no one talks about either because people are unaware of the issue or are afraid to speak out. I am only a junior in high school and many people may say there is only so much I can do to address this issue, but I would like to challenge that idea. My experience this summer prompted me to speak out in my school newspaper against students’ disrespectful behavior during an assembly on sexual assault and dating relationships at my school. My experience also helped me realize my passion for women’s issues and I am now an intern at the National Women’s Law Center. My experience made me more aware of the relationships around me.
After being educated on the issue this summer, I have become one of those voices attempting to break the silence about domestic abuse. That is why I would like to call on you and my community to become more educated on this important issue and become advocates for healthy relationships. Because, my small voice, combined with other small voices around the world, is what will eventually break the immense silence that surrounds the complex issue of domestic abuse.