TORONTO — Flower’s Aren’t Enough, Naomi Ackerman’s one-hour monologue on domestic abuse, evolved from a short piece on violence against women.
A researcher, writer and performer, Ackerman, left. a U.S.-born Israeli, was approached by the Israeli government 10 years ago to write the short piece.
“Since then I’ve lengthened it and translated it into English, and I’ve performed it around the world more than 1,000 times,” she said at a recent performance at Beth Tzedec Congregation that was co-sponsored by Beth Tzedec, its men’s club and sisterhood, Jewish Family & Child, Jewish Women International of Canada and United Synagogue Day School’s Bathurst branch.
The monologue tells the story of Michal, a young woman from an upper-middle class family who is in an abusive marriage. She describes how her partner physically abuses her, controls her and puts her down, and she talks about her denial and guilt. We watch her descend into the depths of despair, and then we witness her taking charge of her own life.
Ackerman writes in the program that the monologue “is woven from stories graciously shared by women willing to talk about their all-too-common experiences.”
In a panel discussion following the performance, Ackerman – who spoke along with Beth Tzedec’s Rabbi Sean Gorman and Debbie Feldman, supervisor of the women’s abuse program at JF&C – said that she has met abused women “in every community, everywhere.”
“People are [still] shocked that it occurs in the Jewish community. I’m proud that [we] talk about it and say that it’s not OK. If it is happening next door, it is happening in your house. If someone is in trouble, don’t hesitate to get involved. Don’t say it’s not your business, because it is.”
She said that just because people don’t talk about something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
“It does happen next door and across the street. To ignore it violates the biblical precept that we are not allowed to stand idly by the blood of our neighbours.”
Rabbi Gorman, who has given sermons about domestic abuse, said the Talmud writes that “we are required to honour our wives more than ourselves. It is a long rabbinic tradition.”
Asked why people still believe that domestic abuse does not occur in the Jewish community, Rabbi Gorman said that when we deny a reality enough times, we begin to believe it.
“A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. A [myth such as this] takes more than a day or two to repair.”
On a positive note, he said that 10 years ago, such a program would never have attracted the full house that came to see this performance. “This means there is progress.”
Feldman said the more the community talks about women abuse, the more it is accepted as a complex social problem.
She said that her message to women is that there is help out there. “You are not alone. We are there to help you plan your family’s safety.”
She said that JF&C has been working on the issue since 1986, which is when its partnership with JWI began.