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The Global Value of Peace in the Home

Shalom bayit is the Jewish concept of peace in the home. It refers to the domestic harmony that comes with a solid partnership between spouses. It is through shalom bayit that a Jewish couple is complete in the eyes of G-d. When we work against domestic violence and spousal abuse, we uphold this Jewish value.

So, when our government turns away asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called for in the past year, it violates a core Jewish tenet.

Most asylum seekers are coming from Central America, which has some of the highest rates of spousal abuse in the world, with rates up to 40 percent. These women are also fleeing some of the highest rates of femicide in the world: seven Latin American countries “score among the worst ten nations when measuring the rate of femicide per one million women in 40 countries.”

But domestic violence also happens in Jewish homes, at the same rate as secular ones: approximately 20–25 percent of married Jewish women and 3–5 percent of married Jewish men suffer from battering or abuse by an intimate partner. This rate is the same across all ages, income, and education levels, as well as across Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements.

We cannot forget domestic violence survivors at the border. These women have escaped violence at home against all odds, paying tens of thousands of dollars to smugglers to reach the U.S.-Mexico border, only to be victimized once again by brutal separation policies and harsh new restrictions on granting asylum.

Previously, victims of domestic violence could apply for asylum after crossing the border and interviewing with an agent, who then decides to grant her asylum or to refer her to immigration court, where she would have to make her case again.

However, according to Sessions’ new policy, claims of domestic abuse are not enough to earn asylum. And though there is an appeals process, it can take years.

These women are escaping from places where gangs have infiltrated every level of society: police, hospitals, shelters—essentially every place where a domestic violence victim might seek refuge or protection from her abuser.

According to Sessions, it is not the United States’ responsibility to intervene in these situations: “Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence… perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” he wrote in a June ruling. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence—or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”

Placing the blame on victims for their country’s policies does not, in fact, help the victim. It does not make her situation better. It continues to victimize her and deny her freedom from violence.

This ruling “could be repealing sixty to seventy percent of asylum jurisprudence,” according to estimates by Deborah Anker, an immigration expert at Harvard Law School.

One of our core Jewish values is strengthening families and protecting women from domestic abuse. When we allow women who are legally entitled to seek asylum to be turned away once inside the borders, we enable the opposite.

As women, as Jews, as people, it is our responsibility to condemn these policy decisions that go against shalom bayit in the strongest possible terms.

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How to cite this page

Black, Stephanie. "The Global Value of Peace in the Home." 27 August 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/global-value-of-peace-in-home>.

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