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Shanah Tovah from Executive Director Naomi Dickson

11 September 2015

Honey Cakes 2015

One honey cake, a few apples, a tray of dried fruit.

No, it’s not my Rosh Hashana shopping list. It’s the contents of the packages that we give to each of the women we’re working with as a Rosh Hashana gift. Women who are all Jewish, and who have approached us because they are being abused by their husbands, partners or family members. Women who are mothers and sometimes grandmothers, who live in our community and who reach out to Jewish Women’s Aid for help and support, often in desperation once they realise that their relationship is not just ‘not working’, but is abusive, and is damaging them and their family, and they can’t see a way out.

At Jewish Women’s Aid, we support our clients comprehensively. We can offer refuge space for the most high-risk cases, and we also offer much-needed daily support and advice in the form of phone calls, emails and text messages for the women who are taking huge decisions, and are deciding on the course of the next stage of their lives. We offer free counselling, therapeutic groups and also specialist support for children.
Asking for help can be terrifying, particularly for women where the abuse may escalate if the perpetrator finds that she has sought support. Our role, when we speak to women is to endorse, listen, empower, encourage and support.

And it’s our job to ensure that we help each woman we work with to take the first steps on the journey towards rebuilding a sense of self, recreating her confidence, rediscovering her own personality along with her likes, dislikes, hobbies and hopes. Giving her the stepping stones towards a future free from abuse and fear, where she can learn to be her own person again.

People often ask me why we need a specifically Jewish Women’s Aid. My answer? It’s back to the honey cake… Women approach us at a spectacularly low point in their lives. The fact that we offer a cultural and religious understanding of their framework is invaluable.

“You feel alone, sometimes as a Jewish woman, like you are the only one, ever, to have had an abusive husband. And then after coming to JWA, you realise that an organisation like that wouldn’t exist if you were the only one. And you wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, but there is comfort in knowing you are not alone “ ‘Sophie’, age 32.

We know that if our clients are observant, they will need kosher and Shabbat observant facilities wherever they live. We understand that if they want their children to attend Jewish schools, they need to find housing in specific areas. We know how Jewish families and extended families work, and that’s invaluable when your own is falling apart. And we understand that, whatever your level of observance, it’s lovely and comforting to be presented with a bag containing a honey cake, apples and dried fruit at Rosh Hashana.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful year ahead

Naomi (without surname)

Naomi Dickson, Executive Director

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