Friday, January 01, 2010

Reflecting on the Last 10 Years: Connecting To Judaism and Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence

© (2010) By Vicki Polin


With the start of a new decade, I can't help but reflect on the last ten years of my life.

If someone would have told me on January 1, 2000,  that I would be doing what I have been doing for the last ten years -- I would have no option but to asked them what drugs they were taking?

To get started I really need to flashback to 1997, when I injured both of my hands and feet in an accident.  I went from being an artist and having a successful private practice to not being able to do much on my own.

During a three year period I was in and out of casts and braces on my hands and feet.  I couldn't hold a pen, paint brush, telephone or a toothbrush -- yet I was able to move the tips of my fingers just enough to type.  This was the same year that AOL changed their pricing plans so there was one set fee per month no matter how long you were on line.  Needless to say, 1997 was is the year I found the easiest way for me to communicate with the outside world was on line.

In the beginning I was dabbling in various "New Age" chat rooms -- up until one of my cousin's kept giving me links to the Jewish Community OnLine.  Her actions lead me to be connected to a Jewish community -- this is also the reasons why I consider myself to be a "Cyberian" Jew.

The longer I was in these chat rooms I started to realize how many unsuspecting Jews were being proselytized to by those connected to various "Hebrew" Christian groups.  One thing lead to another and I became a part of a group of counter-missionaries on line, which lead me to learning more about my own heritage and studying Torah on line.

Back in the summer of 1999 I took a major risk and stopped studying on line, and went to Neve Yerushalayim (a woman's yeshiva/seminary) in Jerusalem, Israel.

During my time at Neve, several of the student learned I was a psychotherapist and that I had specialized in sexual abuse/assault.  One thing lead to another and they started coming to me for help. I did my best to find resources for them within the orthodox world, yet found nothing.  It was around that time that I started changing my private practice web page into The Awareness Center.

There's times I really miss being naive about what I thought was needed to bridge the gap between the Torah observant and secular Jewish worlds in dealing with sex crimes.  I never expected the divisions, the denial and or the attacks on my own personhood.  I really believed that all I needed to do was take the knowledge and information I had about sex crimes and transform it into a Jewish context.  I now laugh at myself at my naivet√© in thinking that our religious leaders would be eager to learn in hopes of making the world a better and safer place for our children and to find ways of reaching out and healing those who had already been harmed.

Ten years ago I never expected to find all the attacks against Jews who practiced differently then another.  I really miss my innocence and the notion that we all believed that "A Jew is a Jew is a Jew".  That we were all put on this earth as equals and should be respectful to those who do not believe the same as ourselves.

One of the things I've always believed and try to promote was that we are all in this together.  Just as in the days of the holocaust, Hitler would not care about how we daven (pray), if we daven or who we daven with.  He would have all seen us as the same.  I do not believe that one group of Jews is better nor more important then another.  It breaks my heart knowing that not everyone views the Jewish world as I do.  When I refer to the Jewish world I mean Jews from all movements and non-movements in Judaism (Unaffiliated, Humanist, Jewish Renewal, Reform, Traditional, Conservative, Orthodox, etc.)

Vicki Polin - Founder of The Awareness Center
As we all know there are often events that happen in our lives that effect who we are as peoples.  As many are aware, I am a survivor of child abuse and am the survivor of two assaults as an adult.  All of which has lead me to be the person I am today.  Another event that has always had an impact on my connection to Judaism was the fact that during my high school years the American Nazi Party wanted to march in my hometown.  I'll never forget seeing how Jews from all movements of Judaism came together to do what we could to say "NEVER AGAIN"!  I really wish that we could all come together again and say those same exact words when it comes to fighting in the war against sexual violence within ALL of our communities -- committed against girls and boys, women and men.

If we could all join forces like we did back in 1977 to fight the American Nazi Party's plan to march in Skokie, I know it is possible for us to win this war against those who commit these heinous acts in our communities internationally.

My hope is that the following film staring Danny Kaye will be an inspiration to you all, remind you of the history of my hometown and most important remind you of how we are all need to see each other equally as Jews.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.