Shuls use toilet walls to target domestic abuse

Synagogue denominations from Liberal to strictly Orthodox have agreed to give over space on thousands of ladies’ toilet walls to reach victims of domestic violence.

The charity Jewish Women’s Aid has reached agreement to place posters in synagogue toilets all over Britain to alert women victims of domestic abuse to its services. The campaign, to be launched in the next few weeks, is intended to give “a public voice to a private problem”, according to JWA chief executive Abigail Morris.

The charity began to contact the synagogue bodies after discovering “a disproportionately high level of referrals from women who are members of synagogues which display our posters in the toilets”, she said.


The women, Ms Morris said, can be alone and can read and assimilate the information “without being observed. It may be the first time they realise there’s a name for what they or their loved ones may be suffering.”

The posters state that one in four women in the wider community suffer from domestic abuse, and that the Jewish community is no different. They include the Jewish Women’s Aid free helpline number, 0800 59 12 03.

The project has been embraced with enthusiasm by synagogue groupings. The United Synagogue’s interim chief executive, Stuart Taylor, said the US “fully supports the valuable work JWA does in the community”; the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism was “unanimous” in supporting the idea; the Reform movement’s chief executive, Rabbi Tony Bayfield, described it as “a privilege” to endorse the campaign; while the Federation of Synagogues not only approved the plan but suggested that JWA posters should go up in mikvaot (ritual baths) as well.

Ms Morris said this week that she had also had informal agreement from some of the Adath synagogues.

“It’s a big step forward for the Jewish community,” she said. “We hope that the posters will go up nationwide at the same time, and we are laminating them and having stickers on the back, so that they are ready to go up on the cubicle doors straight away.”

Davina James-Hanman, director of the Greater London Domestic Violence, said the project was “an amazing coup”.

    Last updated: 8:18am, May 28 2008