Abuse Prevention Policy Abstract for Kehilla Community Synagogue


The following is a summary of Kehilla Community Synagogue's policies, protocol, and commitments for abuse prevention. The document is a WORK IN PROGRESS prepared by the congregation, with technical assistance from Shalom Bayit (Bay Area Jewish Women Working to End Domestic Violence).

We strongly recommend that these policies and protocols be used in all situations of abuse. Of course, we recognize that each abusive relationship is unique and must be investigated thoroughly. However, years of experience in addressing abuse have shown that the policies enumerated in these protocols are generally most effective in increasing community safety and in helping people heal from abuse. We therefore urge the Kehilla community to consult and incorporate these policies whenever possible.

We offer this summary for feedback and discussion. A full version of the protocols is available through Shalom Bayit at (415) 241-8874. Your comments and feedback should be directed to The Kehilla Coalition Against Abuse at (510) 654-3015, or mailed to 658 Vemon Street, Oakland CA 94610. (written January 1, 2001)


"Peace will remain a distant vision until we do the work of peace ourselves. If peace is to be brought into the world, we must bring it first to our families and communities."Gates of Repentance

As Jews we know that if one of us is enslaved or endangered, none of us is free. As a congregation we want to affirm that the safety and healing of everymember of the community is one of our highest priorities. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to eliminate abuse that occurs within our congregation, for abuse within any relationship jeopardizes the safety and healing of our members as well as of the community. We want to provide reliable and effective resources and support for personal and community healing and justice at all times.

We understand that abuse is the systematic misuse of power and control. As a progressive community, we also realize that power is distributed unequally in this society, based on factors including gender, race, economics, sexual identity, age. ability, and personal status. These factors, and the institutional biases they represent, must be taken into account in any situation where abuse occurs. Abuse is committed by individuals, but it is perpetuated by lack of community response and therefore becomes a societal as well as a personal issue.

Forms of Abuse

In this document, Kehilla addresses seven forms of abuse: child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, abuse of people with disabilities, rabbinic clergy misconduct, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. All of these can take the form of physical or sexual violence, emotional or verbal abuse, economic control, or neglect.


Due to the power inequities in abusive relationships, effective intervention strategies are ones that empower the person being abused and that hold the abuser accountable. Solutions that redistribute the balance of power will help the abused regain control of their lives and prevent those who are abusing power from continuing to do so.

Jewish Community Response and Responsibility

We also recognize that there is persistent denial within the Jewish community and within all congregations, including our own, that Jews commit incest, sexual assault, domestic violence, marital rape, date rape. sexual harassment, and other forms of abuse. When such situations are revealed, their impact is often minimized and their cause often blamed on the victims themselves. All studies suggest that each of these forms of abuse occur at the same rate in the Jewish community as in other communities. Today, while many congregations are attempting to confront the denial around abuse, many survivors still do not feel safe describing abuse they have experienced for fear of disbelief, victim blaming, or retaliation. Even in Jewish communities that are aware of abuse issues, those survivors who do disclose often face isolation, disbelief, and vastly inadequate attempts to provide safety.

In the face of these inadequacies, we are responsible for providing education, training, resources, and support for community members on these issues. We seek to create a general atmosphere within our community that will encourage any abused child or adult to come forward, knowing that they will be protected and supported. Our responsibility is to promote the end of abuse, to prevent future abuse, and to give people the skills and resources to help themselves and each other. In particular, we want to create community structures that promote safety, help individuals leam how not to be abusive in interpersonal and organizational relationships, and support those who are abused.

Therefore, we are committed to establishing abuse prevention policies and procedures in all program areas.
The congregation acknowledges that many of our members have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience abuse. Therefore, we set forth these policies and procedures to provide healing and safety for past, present, and future situations of abuse. It is our hope that by instituting these procedures and establishing the Coalition Against Abuse we will set in place a firm mechanism of prevention for us and future generations.


With the above kavanot (intentions) and policies, in the spirit of bringing true shalom to our community, Kehilla commits to the following elements of preventing and responding to abuse in our midst:

Commitment I: to establish a Coalition Against Abuse and Crisis Management Team

The Congregation will formally establish a Coalition Against Abuse, a committee of concerned congregants who will oversee the implementation of these protocols.

The Coalition Against Abuse will, in turn, establish a Crisis Management Team of congregants who commit to maintaining the safety and confidentiality of abuse victims within the congregation, and who can organize safety plans for congregants being abused.

Commitment 2: to establish Prevention, Education and Training programs

The community must become versed in training, education, prevention, and advocacy to handle situations of abuse or, hopefully, prevent them from occurring.

    a. Kehilla commits to the ongoing education and training of its members, staff, volunteers, and lay and clergy leaders in all seven areas of abuse prevention.

    b For the protection and safety of our current and future members, and in order to create a general awareness about abuse, Kehilla commits to the integration of this knowledge into all facets of congregational life, from programming to organizational policy. This includes areas such as liturgy, spiritual leadership, Jewish education for youth and adults, B'nai Mitzvah preparation, children's programs, pre-marital and relationship counseling, individual and/or family counseling,, employer/employee relations, and social action.

    c. Kehila commits to connecting its congregants to relevant community resources.

    d. Kehilla will take the opportunity to integrate age-appropriate content too all programs within two years, to be continued on an annual basis.

Commitment 3: to respond to situations of abuse

(see Kehilla's full protocols on abuse prevention)

1. All Kehilla procedures for responding to situations of abuse are designed to:

    (2) protect the safety of other congregants;
    (3) make sure the abuse is stopped;
    (4) establish serious consequences for abusive behavior;
    (5) encourage the abuser to make the behavioral and long-term emotional changes necessary to be a thriving member of the community, moving towards making teshuvah. While Kehilla is committed to supporting all its members, the safety of the victim must be the primary concern. Support, healing, teshuva, re-education, and any other needs of the abuser shall not supersede or interfere with the safety of the victim.

    2. When establishing procedures for responding to abuse, Kehilla shall be guided by the following principles:

    • Any allegation of abuse will be taken seriously and investigated fully.

    • The survivor is the best judge of exactly what they require for their healing, for the restoration of wholeness and for their ability to continue to participate in the community. Such processes are invariably individual, complex, and of different lengths.

    • The survivor must be a primary participant in determining how that process should occur.

    3. When responding to the abuser, Kehilla shall be aware that when a person is accused of being abusive, they usually deny or minimize their behavior. Recognizing this dynamic of denial, Kehilla shall not be deterred from complete investigation simply because of

      (l) abuser denial, minimization, or blaming, or
      (2) the reputation of the alleged abuser, or
      (3) the prior accomplishments, participation, or leadership of that person.

    4. Kehilla shall preserve the confidentiality of the survivor, in order to protect that person from further harm, unless the survivor has specifically requested otherwise. In no case shall the survivor be subjected to further abuse in the name of investigation or resolution of the situation. Kehilla shall preserve confidentiality of the accused, prior to and during an investigation, except on a need-to-know basis when there is a reasonable belief that the safety of others is in jeopardy.

    Commitment 4: to establish Employee/Volunteer Policies

    Kehilla shall establish employment policies for staff and volunteers, clarifying our intentions with respect

    to abuse prevention and response. Such policies shall be guided by the following principles:

    1. Abusive behavior is unacceptable in this community, and will not be tolerated from our staff and volunteers. 2. Employees who are abused will not be penalized for seeking services and/or support, or for filing a grievance against their abuser/perpetrator.

    Commitment 5: to ensure that all congregants are aware of Kehilla's commitments to end abuse

    Creating a safe congregation cannot just be the responsibility of a small group of congregants. We understand that implementing the above commitments and our protocols against abuse is a community project. Every member has a role to play in ensuring safety within me congregation.

    Therefore, Kehilla commits to making all congregants (including new members) aware of the above commitments, of our policies and protocols regarding abuse, and of our Coalition Against Abuse.

    If you are being abused at home...
    If you are being hurt by someone you love...

    You are not alone.
    And there is help


    Domestic Violence is...

    a pattern of coercive behavior used to maintain power and control over another in an intimate relationship.

    Child Abuse i

    a pattern of physical violence, neglect, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse toward a child or youth.

    Elder Abuse and Abuse of People with Disabilities is...

    a pattern of physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse/neglect from an adult caretaker to their dependent elder relative, dependent disabled relative, or elder or disabled client

    You have the right to be believed by those you tell about the violence. If someone does not believe you, tell someone else.

    You have the right to not be blamed for your partner's or your family member's violence. You have a right to shalom bayit ("peace in the home"), and you are NOT solely responsible for maintaining the peace.

    Domestic violence happens in 20-30% of Jewish households

    Only you can decide what is best for you. Seek support from family members, your congregation, the police, teachers, counselors, and domestic violence and family violence advocates.

    If you want to talk to someone at Kehilla about your situation, feel free to contact the Rabbis, members of the Spiritual Leadership Group and/or the Coalition Against Abuse. Many people want to support you if you are being abused. Choose someone with whom you feel safe.

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