Two Important Topics - October 15, 2020

In 1988, I was a freshman in college at Emory University in Atlanta. It was my first opportunity to vote and decided it would be easier to register in the State of Georgia.
The presidential election was between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, but the major race in the students’ eyes was something different. It had to do with the local congressional district where the university is located. The race was between Pat Swindall (the Republican incumbent) and Ben Jones (Democrat).
It was near the start of the school year and I remember the Glen Memorial Auditorium was packed with students. Emory had a reputation for being apathetic, but the students were out in force. Some were there to actually hear the debate between the two candidates, yet most were there for another reason. You see, Ben Jones played “Cooter” on the hit television show, Dukes of Hazzard. Anyone my age would have watched the show during their adolescent years. People wanted to meet “Cooter,” get a photo (which was a lot harder to do back then without a cell phone), and get his autograph.
In the end, Ben Jones won the election by a wide margin. Why, because right before the election, Swindall was indicted on ten counts of perjury related to a money laundering scheme (and eventually served a year in prison).
Somewhere, I have a photo with Ben Jones and his autograph on the night’s program.
Everyone in Oregon should have received (or will soon receive) their ballot in the mail for the upcoming elections. It is not only your right to vote, but I believe your civic duty. Rabbi David Wolpe says it more eloquently, “Voting is not only an exercise of responsibility, but a gesture of gratitude - a recognition of the debt we owe to all those who made this country free.”
I feel guilty waiting until the month was half over to mention that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which first began in 1981 as a “Day of Unity” to connect battered women’s advocates across the country. The “Day of Unity” soon evolved into a week, and in October of 1987, the first National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. In 1989 Congress passed a law officially designating October of that year as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Such legislation has been passed each year since.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year. Every nine seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other. One in four men are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Nearly three out of four Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
And Jewish homes and families are not immune.
Unemployment, financial hardship, and physical and mental trauma due to the pandemic are causing an uptick in domestic violence worldwide. Covid-19 has intensified the complexity, scale, and lethality of this violence with front line workers, hotlines, shelters, and law enforcement reporting increased requests for help. Many victims are unable to reach out for help as sheltering-in-place and quarantine make it significantly more difficult to access supportive networks and essential services. 
Home can be a difficult place to be, even for families with the best of relationships. And yet, home will always be an unsafe place for domestic violence victims who are forced to shelter-in-place with an abuser.
While domestic abuse in Jewish families is no longer stigmatized as substantially as it was a decade or two ago, it is often still a source of shame, and family-centered values may pressure victims to remain in an abusive relationship. That should not happen.
Now is time to take a stand. Support survivors and speak out against domestic violence this month – and every day.
If you need assistance or want to talk to someone about domestic violence, call 1-866-331-9474 to speak with a trained peer advocate.
Some quick announcements:
Every year, the Jewish Federations of North America holds its major conference called the General Assembly (GA). It truly is the highlight of the year with great speakers and plenary sessions. This year, the GA will be held virtually October 25-27 and is free to attend.
I am inviting everyone in our community to register for the GA by clicking here (takes 5 minutes). You can also review the program here. The GA is always outstanding, and I encourage you to take advantage of as much of the program as you would like. It will be worth your while.
The Jewish Federation’s 2021 Campaign for Community Needs is off to a very positive start. We are grateful to so many who have already made their commitment. But we need everyone’s support to meet the needs during these uncertain and challenging times. Please make your gift here.
I also want to mention that some of you recently received a mailing from the Jewish Federation with an error. The mail house we use had a computer glitch when printing -- another letter is on its way.
Earlier this week we held our annual Cornerstone Event for major donors to our campaign. We had a lovely evening with Mark Wilf, current Chair of Jewish Federations of North America and owner of the Minnesota Vikings football team. It was also our first foray into this special type of virtual event beyond using Zoom.
Our next major event – open to everyone in our community – is our 100th anniversary Centennial GalaPlease join us for a virtual night of "stand up" on Saturday, November 7 featuring comedians Carol Leifer and Elon Gold, along with party music from DJ Ben. Register and find more details here. You do not want to miss this!
Shabbat shalom.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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