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Do Jewish Women’s Lives Matter? The Unsettling Silence in the Face of Violence.

The reaction to the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust has left me deeply disheartened.
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October 26, 2023
Dumitru Ochievschi/Getty Images

I have dedicated my studies and work to ending gender-based violence. I worked as a counselor for domestic violence victims, an advocate for survivors of rape and an educator teaching about consent and healthy relationships. 

This passion for violence prevention is greatly influenced by my grandparents and their survival of the Holocaust. Their stories of resilience and determination instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility to work towards preventing violence in any form. 

The reaction to the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust has left me deeply disheartened. When Hamas attacked on October 7, chief among their crimes was mass sexual violence. A morgue worker told the Daily Mail, “there is evidence of mass rape so brutal that they broke their victims’ pelvis — women, grandmothers, children.”

The feminist advocates are silent. The sexual violence organizations are absent. Scrolling through my feed I even saw accounts question the legitimacy of these sexual violence reports. 

And yet, the feminist advocates are silent. The sexual violence organizations are absent. Scrolling through my feed I even saw accounts question the legitimacy of these sexual violence reports. 

As a Jewish woman, this is unbearable. As an advocate, this is unethical. Gender-based violence and feminist organizations that I follow have been overwhelmingly absent in response to the violent treatment of Jewish women. When organizations did speak out, at best they issued vague condemnations of general violence. At worst, they aligned themselves with the fight for Palestinian “liberation.” Where is the outrage?

This reaction sends a very clear and painful message: Jewish women’s lives do not matter. 

Jewish women were subjected to unspeakable horrors. But instead of finding global support, their stories were silenced or met with skepticism. As a domestic and sexual violence advocate, we are taught that questioning a survivor’s experience is one of the most harmful reactions you can have. Ignoring the report is even worse. 

Yet, that is exactly how leaders in the field have reacted to Hamas’s assault. The silence and doubt has left me not only feeling isolated, but betrayed. 

As advocates, we work to create a world where survivors are believed, supported, and empowered. But where is that belief and support when Jewish women need it most? In this distressing time, I remember that the story of Jewish womanhood is one of strength and resilience. I grew up honoring Miriam, Moses’s sister, at Passover, who led the Israelites to freedom through song and dance while crossing the Red Sea. I read about women resistance fighters in Hitler’s ghettos in the book “The Light of Days.” In graduate school, I wrote about Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor who championed abortion rights in France. My maternal grandmother was a hidden child during World War II and my paternal grandmother achieved sobriety at 70.

In the wake of the October 7 massacre, Jewish women can, and will, follow in the footsteps of the brave and resilient Jewish women who came before them. 

In the wake of the October 7 massacre, Jewish women can, and will, follow in the footsteps of the brave and resilient Jewish women who came before them. The global community may not mobilize to defend us, but we know our worth. 

I am a proud Jewish woman. The fight against gender-based violence is universal, and it is essential that organizations and advocates unite to support all survivors, including Jews. My two Israeli nieces, aged 3 and 1, represent the future generation of Jewish women. As an aunt and an advocate, I want them to grow up in a world where their worth is celebrated, their voices are heard, and their safety is ensured. I want my nieces to know that their identities as Jewish women are sources of strength and pride. It is my hope that they will be able to live with unwavering confidence that the world respects and values them.


Ellie Greenberg is a graduate student at the University of Washington studying social work and education.

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