daphna rose
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daphna rose

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"Finding Her Voice"

After a childhood and marriage riddled with abuse, Daphna Rose has reclaimed her life and her music.
By Cheryl Kravitz

You can picture it in your mind: the beautiful woman making her way to the bima, called to read the haftorah. In her lovely voice, she reads the words of the prophet Micah: “Come and debate before the mountains and project your voice to the hills because Hashem is quarreling with His people and challenging Israel!”

Meanwhile, back at her house, the father of her children is on a rampage, destroying clothing, soiling property, removing personal items that belong to her. The blessing is that her sons were not home at the time.

Daphna Rose is a survivor of domestic violence. She tells her story in a matter-of-fact way, trying to make it less horrific for the listener. She is bearing witness.

In the spring of 2008, Daphna was honored by Shalom Bayit, the domestic abuse intervention program of Jewish Community Services of South Florida. Lynne Lichtman, coordinator of the program, says that Daphna’s story of triumph over adversity is an important one to hear. “I feel that I have escaped a burning building, but I know that there are people who are still inside with their children,” says Daphna. “They need to be rescued, and I need to go back and rescue them.”

A teacher, singer and songwriter, Daphna’s music chronicles her victory, through the help of Shalom Bayit and her own enormous will to live. The imagery in her haunting compositions stays with the listener for a long time.

Daphna had a rough-and-tumble childhood. Her French mother escaped the war, came to the United States and married Daphna’s father, a brilliant, alcoholic womanizer who regularly beat his wife and two of his three daughters. Daphna, for the most part, did not incur his wrath. “It was horrible for me, even worse,” she says, “to see my sisters beaten.” Once, Daphna remembers, her mother took the three girls away in the middle of the night. “We were living in Northern Virginia and we walked miles and miles until we got to some kind of motel and stayed there.”

“That began a really difficult period because my mother didn’t have that many skills. When we returned to the house to get some things, my father had painted all over the walls, moved out all the furniture and put my mother’s clothes in the fireplace. I vowed to myself I would never have anything like that.”

When Daphna was 8, her parents divorced. Daphna and her sisters lived with their mother, who was working outside the home and going out a lot. “My older sister took care of us,” she remembers. When her father remarried, Daphna says, there was some dependability. Her stepmother was a warm person who “gave us stability in our lives.” At the age of 14, Daphna was enrolled at a boarding school in Northern Virginia. Her middle sister left home during this period. She was 16 and has not been heard from since.

“I was aware that I came from a really challenging background. When I went to college, I read a lot of feminist books. Even when I was a kid, I was reading Jean-Paul Sartre and Ayn Rand and playing the piano. Actually, my mother remarried a musician, and he put me in his lounge act. It was something I really enjoyed. It made me feel peaceful.”

Daphna is not in contact with her father anymore, but has a relationship with her mother, older sister and her three nieces. She says her mother “will never get over” what happened to her, and that her sister “completely inherited the disease of feeling unworthy and helpless.”

At the age of 17, fresh out of school, Daphna went to Portugal “to get far away from my family.” She was then accepted into the University of Chicago, her father’s alma mater, and attended for two years. Her father stopped sending monetary support, she says, so she left and enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, receiving financial aid from the college. During those years she “lived like a gypsy, calling my own shots and making my own rules. I ended up painting as well as making music. I did a few art shows and drove up and down the East Coast in my little car. It was very satisfying.”

Eventually Daphna met the man who would become her husband. A former classmate from Berklee introduced them at a jazz club. The man (whom Daphna does not want to name in this article) pursued her relentlessly. He came from a wealthy, impressive family from New York.

Her husband-to-be “led an alternative lifestyle.” He lived in a beautiful brownstone in New York, a place Daphna calls “a hippie palace.” She felt he was the antithesis of her father and that she would be safe with him.

“It really did seem okay for a while,” she recalls. “And then it wasn’t okay. He would say unspeakable, nasty things to me, and instead of packing up and not seeing him again, I would be accepting.” Daphna says watching her father go in and out of at least 11 relationships was a signal to her. But what she saw as a sign was his unfaithfulness, not his anger: “I thought the flaw was his infidelity instead of his rage.”

Daphna learned that her boyfriend had another relationship. He tried, she says, to win her back by proposing. She told him she was finished with him and moved to Nashville to pursue her music career.

“I thought I was going to start a brand new life and leave everything behind me. I really didn’t have anybody in Nashville, and during the two years I lived there, my ex visited me a few times,” she says. Daphna learned that her father was getting married yet again and felt that emotionally she couldn’t go to his wedding alone. She invited her former boyfriend to attend the wedding. While they were there, Daphna says, he raped her.

A pregnancy resulted, and in 1994 her son was born. Her boyfriend moved to Miami to finish school, and Daphna decided to leave Nashville and join him there. “I had in my mind that I could be the one who would love him so much and make a difference. If I was going to bring a child into this world, I had the responsibility to give that child two parents who were dedicated to raising him.”

Once she was living in Miami, Daphna says, she “had only one foot in. I also knew that if I was going to have a baby, I was going to do everything myself. I read every book possible. I had a wonderful midwife. He was an organic baby. I was a hands-on mom. I don’t know where this came from. I had a beautiful child, and the moment my child was born I understood the meaning that G-d is in everyone.”

Daphna and her new son remained with her boyfriend and she turned over all of her money to him, she says. Often he would leave her alone, either going to classes or out with friends. Daphna had no money and was without a job, feeling “like a complete prisoner.” She felt there was nowhere to turn for help.

Once again, Daphna told her boyfriend she wanted to leave. When she was finally ready to go, she says, he raped her again. “I had such shame,” she says. “I had such shame being bonded to this person.”

Daphna became pregnant and had a miscarriage. She was bleeding extensively, and when she finally got her boyfriend to rush her to the emergency room, she recalls, he said it was a waste of his time. When Daphna got home from the hospital, she says, she was confronted with the bloody sheets and the admonition that she needed to “clean up the mess.”

And then, for the third time, says Daphna, she was raped and became pregnant. She recalls driving in the heat of Miami with her little son, pregnant again. “I saw an elderly woman walking down the street, and even though my car had no air conditioning, I stopped and asked her if she wanted a ride.” The woman asked Daphna why she was not yet married and told her that she had to get married “for the children.”

“So I listened to the advice of this complete stranger,” Daphna recalls, and in 1996 she married her boyfriend, against her better judgment and the advice of her rabbi. As the children grew older, she started getting out more, interacting with neighbors and other parents. She still had no money of her own, she says, and was constantly abused, physically and emotionally. Her new husband would periodically go away for weeks at a time.

“I knew I was going to leave, but I also knew I wanted another child. I was such a gratified mom. The third child was not a rape. And G-d gave me a blessing, my third son.”

The turning point came one weekend when Daphna, her mom and a friend rented a place for a weekend for a brief respite. When she arrived home, she recalls, her husband had taken all her personal belongings and in the bathroom hung a doll with a noose around its neck. Daphna did not call the police, something she regrets.

A few days later, she says, she saw his pickup truck parked down the street with her possessions in the back. Daphna removed everything from the truck and stored her belongings at a friend’s place. Her husband, she says, stopped paying the mortgage on their house, turned off the utilities and left again. Daphna was teaching part-time by now and would bring food home from school to feed her three small sons.

“After days of him not being in the house, I looked in the mirror for the first time in eight years, and I was smiling. And this time I was really done. I didn’t take him back.”

Daphna’s husband filed for divorce. He tried not to pay child support, she says, and was able to get by with minimum payments. After three years of wrangling, they were divorced in 2005. Once in a while she was harassed by him, she says, and she finally went to the Miami Dade Justice Center for help. She had never thought what was happening to her was domestic violence. The social worker she met at the Center realized that Daphna was Jewish and gave her Lynne Lichtman’s card.

Daphna made the call to Lynne, and Shalom Bayit caseworker Goldie Naditch came into her life. “This kind, understanding and nonjudgmental woman was the powerful warrior angel I had been calling out to in my prayers to protect us. I finally became free. Until Shalom Bayit came into my life, I did not believe I was worthy of a peaceful home.”

Today Daphna’s sons are thriving, and she is safe. She tells a story about how, in the worst days of her abuse, her ex would not let her express herself through music. She was not allowed to play the piano or guitar or use her beautiful voice, she says. The day Daphna received her award from Shalom Bayit, she took the stage, sat down at the piano and sang:

“It’s gonna be ok
It just takes time
It’s gonna be ok
Just give it time
With every passing day
The hurt will fade away
Just give it time.”

Cheryl Kravitz is president of CRK Communications (www.crkcommunications.com). A survivor of domestic violence, she has written and spoken extensively about the topic. - Jewish Woman Magazine

"Craig's Jazz News"

MySpace Artist Pick is Daphna Rose. Her arrangement of SHINING PIECES is presently featured at www.craigsmusiclist.org. Daphna has a wispy, crisp vocal that reminds me of Karen Carpenter or Shania Twain, and yet her delivery is altogether uniquely brilliant. Her music and her voice are a genuinely beautiful experience to listen to. You'll find her appearing in a taped event at the Van Dyke Café on 8/21, so show your support and check her out at myspace.com/daphnarose - craigsmusiclist.org







daphna rose wrote her first song at age 7, began performing with her step father at age 10, attended
Berklee College of Music, University of Chicago and Julliard. IN addition daphna spent time in Nashville, lived for many years in NYC has traveled the world and continues to write and play varied styles of music in South Florida.