UCA-Jewish Dialogue focus on family and domestic violence
Representatives from the Uniting Church in Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry met virtually for the 52nd National Dialogue of the two faith traditions. Newly appointed UCA Co-Chair for the Dialogue Rev Tara Curlewis joined with long time Jewish Co-Chair Mr Jeremy Jones in facilitating the conversation. Rev Curlewis has provided the following report.
Twelve participants from Sydney and Melbourne gathered on Zoom for the Dialogue meeting with a focus on ‘Family and domestic violence and the role of faith communities in addressing the issue and breaking the cycle’.
The conversation began by considering the scriptures of Genesis 2:18-24 and Genesis 3:16, reflecting on the role which these texts have played in both traditions to either justify or challenge views of male supremacy.
The study of the texts was led by Melinda Jones, President of the National Council of Jewish Women in Australia. UCA Dialogue member Alison Bleyerveen brought reflections drawing on aspects of the work of feminist biblical scholar Phyllis Tribble. The study raised questions about the relationship between woman and man, and participants spoke about an approach to equality rather than one being inherently inferior or superior to the other. We also took a fresh look at relationships modelled in God’s ways.
This set a good foundation for the discussion of contemporary Christian and Jewish religious life. Both faith communities acknowledged that domestic violence presents in a variety of ways, including physical violence, sexual abuse, social abuse, psychological abuse, economic abuse, spiritual abuse, legal abuse and the abuse of power over the other person.
It was acknowledged that violence is real and present within the homes of people of faith. One observation was that clergy have a significant part to play in addressing the issue and to be an influence for good. Silence from the pulpit has led to lack of support and even stigmatisation.
We agreed there are challenges we need to overcome in order to create safe spaces for;
- those needing and seeking support without a sense of shame or stigma
- significant religious celebrations (weddings, bar and bat mitzvah - coming of age ceremonies, baptisms).
The richness of conversation highlighted for us similarities in the way religious values, social context and the interpretation of sacred texts have been unhelpful by essentially giving permission for oppressive behaviour.
Without a doubt, it is the diversity and openness of team members that ensures a robust conversation.
As Jeremy Jones said, “We are so fortunate in the Jewish community to have informed, learned and passionate representatives, who have strong personal opinions, but make sure that their presentations in Dialogues cover a broad spectrum of lived Jewish experiences.”
The UCA team members are Alison Bleyerveen, Edwin Carter, Rev Tara Curlewis, Joyce Tangi, Rev Dr Rob McFarlane, Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker and representatives from the Assembly Resourcing Unit Rev Dr Apwee Ting and Rob Floyd.
The Uniting Church has a helpful resource to assist in having the conversation and how to say no to all forms of violence. The resource offers five ways to engage: Theological Reflection, Be Informed, Pastoral Care, Worship and Take Action. For a copy of Beyond Violence download at https://uniting.church/dfv/