Who cares about the women?

A guest post by Shmuli Simon.

Parashas Vayechi marks the completion of Sefer Bereshis. That’s a significant piece of Torah learning and, in my opinion, something to be celebrated.

However, after learning the parasha, in anticipation of speaking in my local shul, this week, I’m feeling anything but celebratory. Never mind the fact that this parasha usually fills me with horror, at the realisation that we’re already one-fifth of the way through the annual cycle of Torah readings, something more sinister is playing on my mind.

A significant part of Parashas Vayechi is the dialogue between Yaakov and Yosef and then Yaakov and the rest of his sons. However and in particular, in the conversation between Yaakov and Yosef, there is all but a passing reference made to his mother, Rochel and no mention whatsoever of his sister.

Where is Dina during Yaakov’s swan song? The last overt reference to her is in Bereshis 34:26, when we’re simply told that she is taken from Shechem’s house, by Shimon and Levi. Not so much as a cameo in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version, resulting in generations of theatregoers across the world, growing up believing Yaakov only had 12 sons.

During the past 10 days, the kehilla has merited celebrating the largest number of individual events, attracting the largest of attendances, to mark the end of the 13th Daf Yomi cycle. Many of those due to attend the Agudas Yisroel siyyum at the SSE Arena in Wembley felt compelled to boycott the event, motivated by the withdrawal of the Chief Rabbi’s invitation. It is unconscionable that a Talmud Chacham was barred from any event, let alone a Siyyum HaShas but worse is the kavod that was given to Chaim Halpern, a man publicly accused of various sexual offences against women in his community.

This week, I could not help but celebrate the Israeli father who travelled with his teenage son to be outside the court, in Cyprus, while a British teenager was been sentenced in one of the greatest travesties of justice of recent times. He said it was important to engage in a proper dialogue with his son about sexual relationships and he could not imagine a more fitting venue. If only everyone in the kehillo was able to enjoy dialogue of this nature, let alone ‘proper dialogue’.

Elsewhere, Israelis (myself included) have withdrawn their support for Bibi, in light of his decision to promote Yaakov Litzman to Minister for Health. Litzman’s efforts to thwart the extradition of Malka Leifer, to face 74 counts of sexual abuse, in Australia, is criminal and worthy of prosecution, in and of itself. The news that Leifer is one step closer to being handed a one-way ticket to Australia is welcomed, although I suspect that but for Litzman’s interference, this would have happened sooner.

We seem to have allowed ourselves to be persuaded that the way to treat victims of abuse is to erase them from the landscape, while their predators are feted like royalty. When the establishment rides roughshod over the human rights of over 50% of our kehilla, it is time for all of us to make our voices heard.

Chazak, chazak venischazek.

Shmuli Simon is a solicitor, at Setfords Solicitors. He is an advocate for personal autonomy for all members of the Charedi community and as a qualified teacher, he is committed to providing a workable curriculum to enable schools to meet their statutory obligations.