Clergy to join in interfaith forum on domestic abuse

As part of an overarching effort by Bay Area organizations to combat domestic violence, religious leaders of various faiths will gather in San Francisco to explore what role religion can play in the fight.

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, some 200 Bay Area clergy, religious leaders, educators and public health professionals will meet for a daylong conference on domestic violence titled "Power to Change."

Participants will share meditations, musical reflections and knowledge, attending such panels as "Reflections on Survival" and "Perspectives on Domestic Violence."

"The idea is to mobilize the energy and strength of the faith community in addressing the problem," said Judy Berman, co-director of domestic violence education for the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation.

The organization, which provides free legal services to the city's low-income residents, is sponsoring the conference with the San Francisco and Alameda County Departments of Public Health, Kaiser Permanente and domestic violence agencies. The S.F.- based Jewish Family and Children's Services is among the co-sponsors of the event, which will be open to the public.

Recent Bulletin stories have emphasized that a cookie-cutter approach to domestic violence in the Jewish community does not work. Rather, experts say different segments of the Jewish community warrant tailor-made responses.

Likewise, communities of other faiths may require prevention and rehabilitation programs rooted in specific teachings or philosophies, Berman noted.

But at the upcoming conference, "we're going to looking first for commonalties," she added.

To that end, conference organizers are assembling what they call a "tool box" of possible responses to the problem. Clergy who have written sermons or formulated educational programs on the subject will offer advice and suggestions.

"We do know people affected by domestic violence want to be able to turn to their faith communities," Berman said. "That's something research has shown."

An array of religions will be represented at the event, including Baptist, Muslim, Buddhist, Episcopalian and Methodist.

Among Jewish leaders attending will be Bay Area Rabbis Ted Alexander of Congregation B'nai Emunah and Sydney Mintz Congregation Emanu-El, both in San Francisco, and Melanie Aron of Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos. Rabbi Dan Goldblatt of Congregation Beth Chaim in Danville will moderate the "Perspectives on Domestic Violence" panel.

Also on hand will be members of Shalom Bayit: Bay Area Jewish Women's Task Force on Domestic Violence.

Two years ago, at a similar conference in Santa Clara County, far fewer Jewish leaders attended than are expected to participate this time, Berman noted.

"The Jewish community has really stepped up to the idea," she said. "I really couldn't say what has happened in the interim except a general awareness."

Leslie Katz
Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is the former culture editor at CNET and a former J. staff writer. Follow her on Twitter @lesatnews.