Thirty years on, our mission to help Jewish women is growing

Jewish Women’s Aid has seen an exponential demand for its services


The Chief Rabbi with the Jewish Women's Aid team (Photo: Yaffa Judah)

Around a kitchen table in Leeds in the 1980s, two remarkable women founded Jewish Women’s Aid with a mission to help Jewish women leave dangerous and abusive partners for safe accommodation. Fast forward to today; we are a growing charity, proudly part of the Women’s Aid Federation of England, supporting hundreds of Jewish women and girls every year affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence.

In those early days, domestic abuse was a taboo subject, particularly within our community, but the charity quickly grew as other like-minded women soon joined our inspirational founders. Jewish Women’s Aid was officially inaugurated as a national charity 30 years ago and today, because of our ongoing work and the work of those incredible women who came before us, we are proud that we are here providing a high-quality, professional service to some of the most vulnerable women in our community.

While huge strides have been made in advocating for women’s rights and support services in this country, and the issues around domestic abuse and sexual violence are more widely recognised within our community, the unique challenges faced by Jewish women affected by abuse underscore the necessity of having a specialist service that is tailored to our community’s religious and cultural needs.

The challenges a Jewish woman faces when attempting to break free from an abusive relationship can range from navigating cultural norms surrounding marriage and family dynamics to facing discrimination and antisemitism. Moreover, issues that many of our clients face in addition to suffering domestic abuse are compounded by mental health struggles and socioeconomic disparities.

Recognising these rising complexities today and ensuring that our specialised service is dedicated to supporting women in our community and changing the culture for future generations is not just beneficial to us as a community, but essential.

When a woman comes to Jewish Women’s Aid seeking support, we guarantee that she feels understood, respected and empowered and that we can assist her with her unique circumstances. We understand Jewish traditions, customs, and religious practices, meaning women can seek assistance from us without fear of judgement or misunderstanding.

We understand Jewish traditions, customs, and religious practices

Despite the increased level of awareness, we are currently witnessing an exponential surge in demand for our services. The cost-of-living crisis, October 7th triggering past traumas around sexual violence and fears of the rise of antisemitism, have made some clients reluctant to leave dangerous partners. Coupled with delays in the family courts and cuts to local support services, the need for Jewish Women’s Aid has never been greater. Demand for our frontline service has increased by 24 per cent since the beginning of this year, and the women in our service are requiring more intensive support, often for 25 per cent longer than in the past.

We are constantly working towards our vision which is to create a world without violence against women and girls. Through our Outreach and Prevention programmes, we educate religious leaders across the religious spectrum so that our communal spaces are safe for women and girls and our youth programme focuses on empowering and educating young people in schools, youth movements and on campuses about healthy relationships, consent and recognising the signs of abuse.

We honour the women who came before us and though some of the challenges we face in society today are different from those 30 years ago, the need for our specialist service has never been greater.

This Sunday, on 17 March, we are running a 36-hour fundraising campaign. Please consider supporting our campaign so that together, we can help protect all Jewish women and girls from abuse.

Karen Lewis is deputy CEO and director of client services at Jewish Women’s Aid

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