An Assault on Women
The coming of a new year offers a clean slate. In both the Jewish new year and the secular one, we reflect on the past 12 months and vow to do better in the future. The new year promises a new chance – an opportunity to start over with a blank record. What happens, though, when we are not yet ready to begin again? What happens when we are left with unfinished business that a “clean slate” could wipe out?
Such is the case with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was left unpassed as the 112th Congress drew to a close. VAWA was set to be reauthorized in 2011, yet its passage grew increasingly partisan as the two chambers passed differing versions of the bill. In particular, the Senate’s version contained increased protection for vulnerable members of immigrant, Native American and LGBT communities that the House did not include. Despite these differences, the two bills contained many important provisions in common, and would have continued to support and even expanded essential programs for victims of sexual assault and abuse across the country.
This week, in many ways, we are starting something over. We are entering a new year, a new Congress, and – in our services – a new book of the Torah. At the end of last week’s Torah reading, as 2012 came to a close, we recited the phrase traditionally declared when we finish one of the 5 books: “chazak chazak v’nitchazek.” “Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened.”
Newness requires strength. It requires the support of a community – “we” are best strengthened as a collective whole. Yet it also requires recognition of and respect for the past. As we bring the tales of Genesis into our readings of Exodus, as we bring our mistakes of 2012 into our resolutions for 2013, so too must we bring the mistakes and lingering problems of the 112th Congress into the 113th. Tell your members of Congress that it is crucial that they swiftly re-introduce and pass an inclusive VAWA.