A group of Shalom Task Force representatives attended a three-day international conference in Jerusalem last week focused on “The Jewish Community Confronts Violence and Abuse” and organized by Tahel–Crisis Center for Religious Women and Children, an Israeli nonprofit. Shalom Task Force was a cosponsor of this first-time event, which drew 550 rabbis, dignitaries, therapists, teachers, social workers, and lay leaders who came together from around the world to discuss ways for the Jewish community to address problems of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
The Shalom Task Force contingent included several board members and Lisa Twerski, a Shalom Task Force consultant and social worker. Several of them presented at the conference and all benefited from the opportunity to learn from the dozens of plenary presentations, workshops, and discussions that offered a social, halachic and educational focus on problems facing the Jewish community.
“This monumental conference was an opportunity for professionals and lay leadership across disciplines to collaborate in a meaningful way,” said Rachel Marks, a Shalom Task Force board member. “One message that was clear from nearly all presentations is that there is only so much that we can do as professionals without the support of the community. With the support of the greater Jewish community behind victims and survivors of abuse, we can collectively work to effectively remedy these injustices.”
Surel Goldfinger, another Shalom Task Force board member, presented a video that overviewed the five Shalom Task Force departments: Shalom Task Force Hotline, Sarah’s Voice (the legal-services department), men’s education, women’s education, and Shalom Workshop (the marriage “skill building” classes). She also explained how the Shalom Task Force hotline, a national domestic-abuse toll-free resource, was established in 1995 to provide a listening ear and offer a wide range of referrals. Together these departments provide a multidisciplinary approach to addressing domestic-violence issues in the Orthodox community.
“I thought that the energy in the room when everybody was together was amazing,” said Mrs. Goldfinger. “There is a lot of room for collaboration among agencies, and if we follow through on that, the potential for expanding the work that everybody does is immense. There are many organizations that do similar things and we can all learn from each other.”
“This conference could not have been held ten years ago,” added Aviva Hoch, a third Shalom Task Force board member. “Together, we are working to make our communities safer.”
Founded 20 years ago, Shalom Task Force promotes peaceful family resolutions and healthy marriages for Jewish families across the religious spectrum. Shalom Task Force offers legal services and maintains an anonymous hotline that receives more than 1,000 calls a year. The organization also provides workshops for engaged and married couples to give them tools for better communication and sends staff members to deliver talks on relationships to Jewish high schools across America and seminaries and yeshivas in Israel.