A new Hanukkah miracle: no violence against women

On Wednesday, Dec. 4, I will join together with people from across the Bay Area to celebrate the eighth night of Hanukkah. At our gathering, we will be standing in solidarity with millions of women and girls around the world who routinely face violence and oppression.

In the spirit of the festival, we aim not only to illuminate this injustice but to shed light on what we — as Jews, global citizens and allies of women and girls worldwide — can do to overcome it.

One in three women across the world will face sexual violence in her lifetime. In many places, this violence goes unreported and unpunished because families, communities and the police look the other way, or because women and girls lack access to the judicial system. In some places, it is officially sanctioned through policy, because there are no laws against violence.

This problem is not limited to places far away. Sexual violence finds expression in our own communities, as well, where abuse and rape are recurring tragedies behind thousands of closed doors.

We are taught that the miracle of Hanukkah is a single vessel of oil lasted for eight days. But there are other, less obvious miracles of this story. It is no less miraculous that the Maccabees had the audacity to pick up a vessel of oil from the rubble, apply a spark and light it in the first place. Or that today, we have the courage to publicly display this light as a sign to the outside world.

It is in this spirit of these Hanukkah miracles that I am proud to work with American Jewish World Service to help launch its new national advocacy campaign to end violence against women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world. This campaign calls on the U.S. government to light its own spark: to pass the International Violence Against Women Act. IVAWA, recently introduced in the House of Representatives, calls on the federal government to use its influence to help end violence against women and girls.

This Hanukkah, I stand with AJWS in asking our government to work to end violence against women and girls through its programs and diplomatic efforts and by supporting the efforts of civil society organizations that work on these issues every day. In doing so, we will provide new sparks and new fuel to this global effort. And we will publicly display our commitment to bringing light to millions of women and girls worldwide.

Given the scale of this challenge, when we see its end, it may seem like a miracle. But we must remember that miracles are enabled by human action. Thousands of years ago, Jews chose to pick up the vessel of oil and apply fire. On Dec. 4, I invite you to choose to join with AJWS as we launch our new campaign and ask our elected leaders to pass the International Violence Against Women Act. n

Benjamin Bechtolsheim is a member of American Jewish World Service’s Bay Area Action Team.

AJWS will gather at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 at Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F. for a “Lights & Launch” party. Local band Yonat and Her Muse will perform. For information or to RSVP to the free event, contact Hayley Currier at [email protected] or (415) 593-3283.