Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Schweber, October 19, 2012 /3 Cheshvan 5773
Many of us are aware (pun intended) that there are lots of so called ‘awareness months.’ Throughout the years, organizations advocated various causes and have lobbied various governments (local, state and national) to recognize special awareness months and days. The purpose of these days is to shine a spotlight on the cause and motivate people to donate and volunteer for the particular cause. It is also a chance to lobby the various governments for appropriate legislation if needed.
Unfortunately there are many worthy events and only 12 months in a year. The result is that each month features a hodgepodge of ‘awareness months.’ If we care about the causes we have to work hard to actually give some attention to the cause. As we move through October I thought I would devote a paragraph or two to some of the major causes that use October for their awareness month.
Breast Cancer – The most prominent cause in October is breast cancer. Breast cancer month was established by the American Cancer Society in 1985. It started small and it is now very big with the Susan B. Komen Foundation leading the cause with its famous pink ribbons that were even featured in NFL games two weeks ago. There are now many organizations that support breast cancer awareness, treatment, survivors and families of people who died from breast cancer.
There is a Jewish breast cancer organization called Sharsheret. Sharsheret was founded in November 2001 by Rochelle Shoretz, a former Law Clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recognized the need for a breast cancer organization sensitive to the cultural needs of Jewish women experiencing breast cancer. Sharsheret focuses heavily on pre-menopausal breast cancer resulting from the fact that Shoretz was diagnosed at age 28.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end domestic violence especially against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became an ‘awareness month.’ October is now recognized nationally as a time when we honor and remember those who have lost their lives at the hands of someone they once loved and trusted. We also celebrate the lives of domestic violence survivors who were able to escape their violent homes and work to shore up the support systems and safety nets for those suffering domestic violence.
In the Jewish community, Jewish Family Services and other organizations like Jewish Women International take up the banner against domestic violence. The ultra-Orthodox community has also finally recognized that domestic violence occurs within their community and they have set up some safety nets.
Columba Bush, wife of former Florida governor Jeb Bush is a big advocate for domestic violence awareness. She wrote the following “Preventing and ending domestic violence in our communities begins with our children. Set aside time this month to discuss with your children the importance of fostering healthy relationships and conversely teach them how to identify abusive behaviors.”
In 1988, President Reagan declared October National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He said “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses his or her partner they are called widow or widower. When parents lose a child, we are beyond words to describe them.” Pregnancy and Infant Loss month was established to provide support for those who have experienced miscarriage and other pregnancy and infant deaths. Rabbis have created various mourning rituals recognizing that there is genuine and unique mourning experienced during these tragedies.
Naturally we gravitate to different causes based on interests and life experience. Which one of these causes speaks to you? If you support one or more of them do then please volunteer, donate and share your interest and enthusiasm.
BTW: Wikipedia says that October is also Clergy Appreciation Month with Churches sponsoring various activities. I think I like that cause!
Rabbi Daniel Schweber