From the Rabbi

Devar Torah 

After a very exciting and successful High Holiday season, we are embarking on a new year with fresh energy. Next Shabbat (28 October) we are holding a special communal lunch to mark the Shabbat Project. Our guest speaker will be Councillor Jess Miller, the new Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney. We are grateful to the UIA and the Women’s Auxiliary for sponsoring this lunch, and I would like to invite anyone else who would like to, to make a donation towards this event. Next Sunday (29 October) I will be giving a tour of some of Rookwood’s Jewish notables, to celebrate the Necropolis’s 150th anniversary. Please meet me at the Jewish Office at 2pm for a fascinating tour.

It has been shocking and distressing to see so many women posting ‘me too’ on their Facebook pages this week. They are referring to experiencing sexual harassment or abuse, which has shot to the top of the agenda again in the wake of the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein is accused of using his immensely powerful position in the film industry to abuse women, in a weak position because they needed his patronage and support.

Since the initial story broke, more and more women have come forward to report that they too were his victims. Facebook has many disadvantages, but seeing all of the ‘me too’ posts, reporting so many cases of sexual harassment perpetrated by hundreds of men against hundreds of women (and, of course, sometimes by men towards men, or women toward men or women) has brought home the scale of the problem.

Sexual harassment and assault is always an act of violence, it is the oppression of the weak and a violation of the vulnerable. It is corrupt and it is brutal. Corruption and brutality were the exact causes of the Flood we will read about in the parasha on Shabbat. Rashi comments that the Flood was a punishment exacted against the powerful men of the world who would rape a bride as she was about to enter her chuppah. Of course that image is especially shocking because the setting is so public and the act is so blatant. Sexual crime is often associated with dark and unseen places, but the Weinstein case is a reminder that it also exists in plush and swanky offices, filled with the ‘beautiful people’.

God once destroyed the whole world because of sexual violence and while He has promised never to do that again, that only makes our responsibility all the greater to make our societies a safe place, where sexual crime is not a recurring anxiety for women and vulnerable people. Let us recommit ourselves, so that fewer women are able to say ‘me too’ in the future.

Shabbat shalom!