Judaism August 18, 2016: How a tragedy in Montreal should bring attention to domestic abuse in the Jewish community

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

POLITICS

How a tragedy in Montreal should bring attention to domestic abuse in the Jewish community

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, a chapter in a tragedy in the Montreal Jewish community came to an end, but a discussion and new awareness have to begin. Wednesday, Montreal police arrested 80- year-old Salomon Abeassis for arson and first-degree murder of his longtime wife, Teresa Cohen’s, 75, death. This couple lived in the same rented house for over 30 years on a quiet street in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Cote St Luc. The neighbors’ thought they were such a nice quiet couple but underneath the perfect veneer, this woman presumably lived with the silent problem in the Jewish community, domestic abuse.

On a quiet, sunny Sunday, July 10, a fire broke out in the upstairs duplex on Guelph in Cote St Luc. The downstairs neighbor and longtime landlord heard the screams coming from upstairs tried to go upstairs to help first through the front stairs after the husband supposedly buzzed her in and then through the back stairs. It was front the back window, she saw the horrid sight, the wife was on the floor of the kitchen ablaze; there was no way the neighbor could do anything to help. The neighbor called 911, but they took 20 minutes, and in that, the time, the wife suffered alone. Cohen was taken to the hospital, in critical condition with terrible burns all over her body, her life hung in a balance a day later, on Monday, July 11; Teresa Cohen died from her injuries and with her what happened and her true story of suffering.

What set this story apart was how heinous the crime was, police say a liquid accelerant was poured on Cohen supposedly by the accused, her husband, the only other person in the house at the time and then set on fire. The crime first appeared to look like a suicide, because the wife had recently had hip replacement surgery and lost some mobility. The neighbor said they were always so quiet and that Abeassis helped his wife after she broke her hip in March, taking her to doctors’ appointments. For over a month doctors protected the husband preventing the police from questioning him, as he remained an important witness. Abeassis was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, something people are released from the hospital in a day maximum, but for five weeks, he was kept sheltered, doctors say he was in a coma. In no other case would that happened except he was an eighty-year-old supposedly nice Jewish man with no prior criminal record.

Finally, on Aug. 5, doctors gave police the green light to question Abeassis. Upon his release from the hospital, he was arrested and “escorted” by police to the courthouse where he was formally charged. Abeassis was brought in a wheelchair and had problems hearing the proceedings against him; he seemed confused as he was represented by his legal aid lawyer and charges were formally brought against him. He will be kept in custody until his next court date in October and has conditions; he cannot contact two of his daughters or their families.

As a journalist, I write about the news often, and the news is hardly pretty, but this story hit me hard, partly because it was in my community, practically in my backyard, I know the street well. More importantly, it touched me because it was a tragic story and end to domestic abuse. I was in a relationship where I was mentally abused and controlled for years, everyone around me told to get away from him, that one day he would do real harm to me. Then he tried to, although not the same, I akin what he did to me as a man with the same rage that tries to kill a girlfriend or wife. I occasionally allude to what happened to me in some of my articles. Guess what he was a nice Jewish man, with a good reputation. No one could have ever imagined how he terrorized me and wanted to destroy me, I was even in denial, I could not see what he was doing to me. I came from a good family; I was sheltered, and I was too trusting.

This woman probably suffered for years from her husband’s abuse living with it in silence afraid of the shame it might cause her family, what others might have thought. We will never know if her daughters, knew anything, wanted or did not want her to leave him, what we know is nobody helped her, and she died a horrid death. This man she lived with, was married to maybe 50 years, raised four children is not just accused of killing her, but obliterating her in every way possible.

Living in the community and with many of peers living there as well, possibly even knowing the family, with one of the daughters a teacher at a local Jewish day school, I was shocked that nobody commented on the incident. The local Jewish press also covered the story to a minimum; the mainstream press covered the story because it was a possible murder in a quiet suburb that rarely if ever sees murders, and because of the sensationalism and shock of the crime, the victim, and the suspect.

I had to repost on my social media the local media’s take on the story after the arrest. I was practically stoned for posting. My peers who would comment on everything, every little event, thought it was inappropriate to comment on this incident. They said it was “disrespectful” “not right to comment” “because we don’t exactly know the situation and we can’t speculate,” because it could be “taken out of proportion,” and a “tragic story that does not need people dissecting it.” Irrelevant, was although “They seemed to be very nice people from a nice family,” they were not religious.

This was a heinous, heinous crime. It happened in our backyard literally, in our community. We live in an age where we comment on every tragedy in the news, but they are far away, with the news media defining who is the enemy it is OK to remark and to take sides. We routinely comment on the domestic abuse cases of celebrities taking sides, giving our opinions. If the Jewish community experiences anti-Semitism, there is no stop of responses from the community and the Jewish media. Why do we have to ignore this story, is it because we feel uncomfortable and if we do not talk about it did not happen. Our problem is in when we know the people and they are in our community we do not want take sides, the black and white becomes gray.

Teresa Cohen most probably experienced domestic abuse, she kept silent, and she paid for it in the most horrendous way possible, her life, supposedly by the hands of someone she lived and built a life with for the majority of her life. To keep silent is what is disrespectful, showing neutrality is practically condoning what happened. There is a denial that domestic abuse is not a problem in the Jewish community it is. For Teresa Cohen not to have died totally in vain, we need to do more to make aware and help those suffering domestic violence in the Jewish community, in our community. We need to make sure these women do not end up with the same or similar fate.

Domestic abuse has long been a silent problem in the Jewish community the prevalent attitude is “Oh it doesn’t happen – there’s no abuse in the Jewish community.”  Just last year the Canadian Jewish News did a cover story entitled “Domestic Abuse is a Jewish Issue, Too.” Generally “one in four women experience domestic abuse during their lifetime” and according to the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse’s statistics the rate of abuse in the Jewish community is the same between 15 and 25 percent of women experiencing abuse. At Montreal’s Jewish women’s shelter Auberge Shalom Pour Femmes, 20 percent of those at the shelter are Jewish while 35 percent participate in their “external services” to helped abused women.

Religious reasons are often behind the denial about abuse occurring in the community. Penny Krowitz, the executive director Act To End Violence Against Women (ATEVAW) told CJN, “For most people in our community, they don’t believe it happens to us. They believe the Jewish community is immune to such things, because of our tremendous value on family and shalom bayit.”

The other part of denial comes from the women experiencing it themselves, because Krowitz points out, “women often think that if their husbands aren’t hitting them, they’re not being abused.” Domestic abuse is all encompassing and is “defined as an imbalance of power when one uses threats or physical force to create fear, control or intimidate another.” Krowitz says the majority of domestic abuse in the community is “verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, spiritual, sexual – it’s not visible abuse.” Like me when Krowitz first spoke to a sisterhood about domestic abuse she thought, “The community is going to kill me.”

We have to stop emphasizing the perfect Jewish appearance of being the being the perfect mother, wife, and family living idyllically. The concept and ideal of shalom bayit are often the reason Jewish women do not do anything to get out of their abusive relationships, because as Krowitz indicates, “she is ashamed that her home is not a place of peace, and she feels like it is her fault.” The second obstacle is shandeh – “the shame of admitting, disclosing, that your home is not a happy place. That your husband doesn’t treat you well, that you are frightened, that you walk on eggshells.”

The abuse happens in every socio-economic sphere of the community and among different levels of religious observance, it does not just happen in families where they are not that religious as one of my peers implied. In fact, Orthodox tradition dictates that Jewish women take a submissive role in the patriarchal relationship making the imbalance of power ripe for abuse. Not helping the issue is religious courts most often side with the husband. Jewish women need their husband’s permission to acquire a get a Jewish divorce, if not and a Jewish woman leaves she is considered an “agunah, a chained or anchored woman.”

We still have this belief both religiously and socially that divorce, being single is a stigma, that if we do not have that perfect life, there is no place for Jewish women in the community. Maybe if there was more awareness, less focus on image and less shame associated with leaving than Jewish women would leave their abusive husbands and not end up like Teresa Cohen. She had four grown daughters, and grandchildren, but died alone, and the minute she was set on fire, she was alone with no one to help her. The same way we talk about the larger atrocities that have befallen the Jewish community, we have to speak of the smaller ones to never to forget and never let it happen again.

Advertisements

Judaism June 6, 2016: McGill SSMU outlaws BDS after professors release letter three months too late

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Judaism March 15, 2016: Kotel Rabbi reverses support on egalitarian space ban on non-Orthodox prayer

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Kotel Rabbi reverses support on egalitarian space ban on non-Orthodox prayer

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, March 15, 2016, 8:57 AM MST

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is formally withdrawing any support he had for the Kotel's egalitarian prayer space. Instead, he is asking lawmaker to overturn the January cabinet vote and prevent Women of the Wall from freely praying, March 14, 2016
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is formally withdrawing any support he had for the Kotel’s egalitarian prayer space. Instead, he is asking lawmaker to overturn the January cabinet vote and prevent Women of the Wall from freely praying, March 14, 2016
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Judaism February 25, 2016: McGill pro-Israel students face new reality anti-Semitism after SSMU BDS vote

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

McGill pro-Israel students face new reality anti-Semitism after SSMU BDS vote

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, February 25, 2016, 9:13 PM MST

McGill University's Jewish and pro-Israel students are facing a wave of increased anti-Semitism, harassment and bullying after the student union voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Feb. 23, 2016
McGill University’s Jewish and pro-Israel students are facing a wave of increased anti-Semitism, harassment and bullying after the student union voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Feb. 23, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

Judaism February 16, 2016: Top colleges and universities for Jewish students in the US and Canada

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Top colleges and universities for Jewish students in the US and Canada

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 16, 2016, 7:22 PM MST

Two different rankings name the University of Florida and Princeton University the best colleges for Jewish life on campus
Two different rankings name the University of Florida and Princeton University the best colleges for Jewish life on campus
Princeton.edu

Judaism December 27, 2015: Sotheby’s auctions 9 items from Valmadonna Trust Library for nearly 15 million

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Sotheby’s auctions nine items from Valmadonna Trust Library for nearly 15 million

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, December 27, 2015, 6:14 PM MST

Sotheby's auctioned off the Valmadonna Trust Library's most prized item the complete Bomberg Talmud for over $9 million, Dec. 22, 2015

Play
Sotheby’s auctioned off the Valmadonna Trust Library’s most prized item the complete Bomberg Talmud for over $9 million, Dec. 22, 2015
Sothebys.com / Morton Landowne YouTube

Judaism December 10, 2015: Obama celebrates White House Hanukkah party with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Obama celebrates White House Hanukkah party with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, December 10, 2015, 7:03 PM MST

President Barack Obama and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin delivered remarks, before reciting the blessing and lighting the Hanukkah candles at a White House reception, Dec. 9, 2015

Play
President Barack Obama and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin delivered remarks, before reciting the blessing and lighting the Hanukkah candles at a White House reception, Dec. 9, 2015
Photo by Aude Guerrucci – Pool/Getty Images / White House YouTube

Judaism November 9, 2015: Sha Shtil a critical education on the problems of the Jewish Federation system

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Sha Shtil a critical education on the problems of the Jewish Federation system 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, November 9, 2015, 11:28 AM MST

Canadian filmmaker and activist Ben Feferman's documentary Sha Shtil: Inside Canada's Jewish Establishment examines the transparency and democracy problems the Canadian Jewish Federation system faces

Play
Canadian filmmaker and activist Ben Feferman’s documentary Sha Shtil: Inside Canada’s Jewish Establishment examines the transparency and democracy problems the Canadian Jewish Federation system faces
Ben Feferman YouTube

Judaism May 20, 2015: Women of the Wall again barred from reading Torah as police arrest supporter

Women of the Wall again barred from reading Torah as police arrest supporter

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, May 20, 2015, 1:26 PM MST

 

For the month of Sivan Women of the Wall were supposed to have Bat Mitzvahs for six girls, who were denied the chance to read from the Torah, May 20, 2015

Play
For the month of Sivan Women of the Wall were supposed to have Bat Mitzvahs for six girls, who were denied the chance to read from the Torah, May 20, 2015
Women of the Wall / Yael Gilboa

Jewish Musings April 21, 2015: Women of the Wall triumph finally read from full size Torah scroll at Kotel

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Women of the Wall triumph finally read from full-size Torah scroll at Kotel

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 21, 2015, 10:46 AM MST

The Woman of the Wall (WoW) Nashot HaKotel read for the first time from a full sized Torah scroll in the women's section of the Kotel, Western Wall for Rosh Hodesh Iyar services, April 20, 2015

Play
The Woman of the Wall (WoW) Nashot HaKotel read for the first time from a full-sized Torah scroll in the women’s section of the Kotel, Western Wall for Rosh Hodesh Iyar services, April 20, 2015
Women of the Wall Facebook / YouTube

Jewish Musings April 6, 2015: Obama celebrates seventh Passover Seder at the White House

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Obama celebrates seventh Passover Seder at the White House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 6, 2015, 12:48 AM MST

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted their seventh Passover seder, and the president's eighth, Obama also released a Passover statement emphasizing the Exodus story, April 4, 2015
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted their seventh Passover seder, and the president’s eighth, Obama also released a Passover statement emphasizing the Exodus story, April 4, 2015
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Judaism October 26, 2014: Women of the Wall’s historic Torah scroll smuggling reading at Kotel bat mitzvah

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Women of the Wall’s historic Torah scroll smuggling reading at Kotel bat mitzvah

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, October 26, 2014, 3:37 PM MST

 

Sasha Lutt becomes the first girl to have a full bat mitzvah in the women's section at the Kotel, Western Wall by reading the Torah as part of the Women of the Wall's monthly prayer service, Oct. 24, 2014

Play
Sasha Lutt becomes the first girl to have a full bat mitzvah in the women’s section at the Kotel, Western Wall by reading the Torah as part of the Women of the Wall’s monthly prayer service, Oct. 24, 2014
Women of the Wall

Judaism October 12, 2014: Bible Lands Museum oldest siddur on display despite mystery surrounding the book

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Bible Lands Museum oldest siddur on display despite mystery surrounding the book

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, October 12, 2014, 11:05 AM MST

The Jewish prayer book, siddur from the Green Collection is currently on display at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, although scholars are questioning its authenticity, Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2014
The Jewish prayer book, Siddur from the Green Collection is currently on display at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, although scholars are questioning its authenticity, Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2014
Times of Israel

Judaism May 28, 2014: Recent Brussels, Paris anti-Semitic attacks backup ADL Global 100 poll claims

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Recent Brussels, Paris anti-Semitic attacks backup ADL Global 100 poll claims

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, May 28, 2014, 2:16 PM MST

Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels the scene of the most recently recent deadly anti-Semitic attack in Europe, May 24, 2014; The ADL's recent survey "The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism" mapped out the world's most anti-Semitic countries
Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels the scene of the most recently recent deadly anti-Semitic attack in Europe, May 24, 2014; The ADL’s recent survey “The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism” mapped out the world’s most anti-Semitic countries
GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images

Judaism April 22, 2014: President Obama celebrates Passover with annual White House seder tradition

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

President Obama celebrates Passover with annual White House seder tradition

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 22, 2014, 9:52 PM MST

President Barack Obama, family and former 2008 campaign staffers celebrate the second night of Passover with a seder, in the White House Old Family Dining Room, April 15, 2014; this is Obama's 6th seder, a tradition that started in the 2008 campaign
President Barack Obama, family and former 2008 campaign staffers, celebrate the second night of Passover with a seder, in the White House Old Family Dining Room, April 15, 2014; this is Obama’s 6th seder, a tradition that started in the 2008 campaign
White House

Judaism April 20, 2014: National Library of Israel acquires Moses Montefiore Haggadah for collection

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

National Library of Israel acquires Moses Montefiore Haggadah for collection

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 20, 2014, 2:14 PM MST

The dedication page of the Moses Montefiore Haggadah acquired by the National Library of Israel for their world's largest Haggadah collection
The dedication page of the Moses Montefiore Haggadah acquired by the National Library of Israel for their world’s largest Haggadah collection
Israel Hayom / National Library of Israel

Judaism March 10, 2014: Looking to thwart assimilation through Jewish and Israel education

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Looking to thwart assimilation through Jewish and Israel education

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, March 10, 2014, 10:34 AM MST

 Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman proposes a new global Jewish education initiative to curb assimilation at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2014
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman proposes a new global Jewish education initiative to curb assimilation at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2014
Flash 90

Judaism February 10, 2014: Kolech Orthodox feminists Women of the Wall break over egalitarian prayer space

 EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Kolech Orthodox feminists Women of the Wall break over egalitarian prayer space 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, February 10, 2014, 4:59 PM MST

Women of the Wall are ready to accept a government proposal to permanently move to Robinson's Arch causing supporters and groups of members to splinters off from the organization, vowing to continue to fight to prayer at the women's section of the Kotel
Women of the Wall are ready to accept a government proposal to permanently move to Robinson’s Arch causing supporters and groups of members to splinters off from the organization, vowing to continue to fight to prayer in the women’s section of the Kotel
Miriam Alster/Flash90

 

Judaism February 8, 2014: After survey of American Jews Pew Research Center plans one for Israeli Jews

EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

After survey of American Jews, Pew Research Center plans one for Israeli Jews

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, February 8, 2014, 10:37 PM MST

After releasing the "A Portrait of Jewish Americans" in October 2013, the Pew Research Center will conduct a similar survey of Israeli Jews to be released in November 2014
After releasing the “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” in October 2013, the Pew Research Center will conduct a similar survey of Israeli Jews to be released in November 2014
AP

Judaism January 7, 2014: Pope Francis formally announces May trip dates to Israel, Middle East

 EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Pope Francis formally announces May trip dates to Israel, Middle East 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 7, 2014, 8:25 PM MST

Pope Francis formally announced the dates of his Israel and Middle East trip during his Sunday blessings, Jan. 5, 2014; the Pope will make that trek from May 24-26, 2014
Pope Francis formally announced the dates of his Israel and Middle East trip during his Sunday blessings, Jan. 5, 2014; the Pope will make that trek from May 24-26, 2014
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Judaism January 6, 2014: Women of the Wall face Torah smuggling controversy at Shevat Rosh Hodesh prayers

 EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Women of the Wall face Torah smuggling controversy at Shevat Rosh Hodesh prayers

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 6, 2014, 10:18 PM MST

For the second month in a row the Women of the Wall were denied to read from the Torah during their monthly prayer service, Jan. 2, 2014; they were accused of trying to smuggle a Torah scroll into their Shevat service
For the second month in a row, the Women of the Wall were denied to read from the Torah during their monthly prayer service, Jan. 2, 2014; they were accused of trying to smuggle a Torah scroll into their Shevat service
Miriam Alster/Flash90

 

Judaism November 28, 2013: American Jews far and wide celebrating Thanksgivukkah phenomenon

 EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

American Jews far and wide celebrating Thanksgivukkah phenomenon

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, November 28, 2013, 2:37 PM MST

This year American Jews celebrated a rare convergence of two holidays, Hanukkah and American Thanksgiving, which was given the new name Thanksgivukkah
This year American Jews celebrated a rare convergence of two holidays, Hanukkah and American Thanksgiving, which was given the new name Thanksgivukkah
Bloomberg News / Bloomberg.com

Judaism November 28, 2013: Rare 18th century illuminated Haggadah sold at auction

 EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Rare 18th century illuminated Haggadah sold at auction

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, November 24, 2013, 6:54 AM MST

Rare 1726 Haggadah by artist and scribe Aaron Wolff Herlingen sold for $340,000 USD in auction, Nov. 22, 2013; the manuscript was discovered in a box in a Manchester, Great Britain home garage
Rare 1726 Haggadah by artist and scribe Aaron Wolff Herlingen sold for $340,000 USD in auction, Nov. 22, 2013; the manuscript was discovered in a box in a Manchester, Great Britain home garage
Adam Partridge Auctioneers & Valuers

Judaism October 23, 2013: Montreal Jewish population remains steady, will Values Charter spark exodus?

 EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

Montreal Jewish population remains steady, will Values Charter spark exodus?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, October 23, 2013, 7:51 AM MST

Montreal Jewish population remains steady, but if the Charter of Quebec Values is passed it might lead to a news exodus from the province.
Montreal Jewish population remains steady, but if the Charter of Quebec Values is passed it might lead to a news exodus from the province.
David Ouellette/JTA

Judaism October 23, 2013: American Jewish views of Israel, its government becoming more liberal, critical

 EXAMINER ARTICLES

Examiner_Articles

JUDAISM

American Jewish views of Israel, its government becoming more liberal, critical

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, October 23, 2013, 7:44 AM MST

 American Jewish views on Israel have become more liberal and less supportive the Israeli government, with young Jews more detached to Israel
American Jewish views on Israel have become more liberal and less supportive the Israeli government, with young Jews more detached to Israel
Getty Images