Aly Raisman will speak at Congregation Shalom on Nov. 13, at a free event to kick off the launch of SHOFAR, a new initiative grounded in the idea that Jewish families are not exempt from trauma.
SHOFAR will address child sexual abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence within the Jewish community. It is spearheaded by two Milwaukee Jewish Federation agencies, the Coalition for Jewish Learning and Women’s Philanthropy.
“None of this SHOFAR project is because someone called us and said we need it, but I know you do,” said Hannah Rosenthal in October, when speaking to a large group of local Jewish women. The Federation president and CEO said that statistically, there must be women in the room who face terrible challenges.
Jews are commanded to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. “Well, we are going to blow the shofar all year round,” Rosenthal said. The “shofar” in the SHOFAR program stands for “Safeguarding Healthy Families and Relationships.”
Raisman, a repeated Olympic gold-medal winner, was one of hundreds to accuse the former U.S. women’s gymnastics team doctor of sexual abuse. Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
Raisman has said she at first was in denial about the abuse, then accepted that it happened and started seeking change to prevent it from happening again to others. She’s even considering skipping the 2020 Olympics to continue to focus on the issue, according to media reports.
Raisman said to the New York Daily News in September, “Why not look at – what about the culture? What did USA Gymnastics do, and Larry Nassar do, to manipulate these girls so much that they are so afraid to speak up?”
Her book, “Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything,” is aimed at readers 12-17. The book is about her road to success, through hard work and positive thinking, but it fires a bolt against darkness with chapter 22. Titled “The Survivors,” this is where she discusses how Nassar “groomed” her, to help others recognize abuse when it happens.
“It’s very confusing,” Raisman told the Associated Press. “I didn’t know that I was being abused because I was manipulated so horribly.”
Raisman’s visit kicks off the two-year SHOFAR initiative, aimed at fighting abuse, harassment and violence within the Jewish community.
Components will include training for clergy and other professionals in the community, plus fliers and posters in local Jewish institutions, offering free and confidential help. It will also include programs for youth-group teens on healthy dating and relationships and Shabbat dinners focused on awareness and inclusion, among other efforts.
It’s a myth that abuse, harassment and violence cannot happen in the Jewish community; that myth can be a barrier to asking for help. “We need SHOFAR because victims of domestic violence, child sexual abuse and sexual harassment within the Jewish community often face an additional barrier to getting help because they feel isolated,” said Jewish Education Community Planner Tziporah Altman-Shafer, of the Federation.
SHOFAR is inspired, at least in part, by the #MeToo movement, which blossomed last year soon after allegations against former film producer Harvey Weinstein were made public. It launches in the wake of the divisive recent appointment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, after allegations against him.
Raisman will speak for free Tuesday, Nov. 13, 6:45 p.m. at Congregation Shalom, 7630 N. Santa Monica Blvd. The free event is open to all, though an RSVP is required to guarantee a seat. Visit MilwaukeeJewish.org/SHOFAR to RSVP.
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About Aly Raisman
- Winner of six Olympic medals
- Has a strong Jewish identity – in the 2012 Olympics, her floor music was to “Hava Nagila.” (She won the gold with that.)
- Told the New York Jewish Week in 2016, “I take a lot of pride in being able to not only represent the USA, but also the Jewish community everywhere.”
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How to go:
What: Aly Raisman to speak
When: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 6:45 p.m.
Where: Congregation Shalom, 7630 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Fox Point
Cost. Free. RSVP required to guarantee a seat at MilwaukeeJewish/SHOFAR or contact Ashleigh at Ashleigh@MilwaukeeJewish.org or 414-390-5741.