By Rochelle Maruch Miller
At the first Shalom Task Force Rabbinical Conference on May 1, 1996, HaRav Avraham Pam, zt’l, addressed the painful topic of women who suffered abuse at the hands of their husbands. “To whom should (these women) go? Until now, there was no place for them to turn. . . . Today, Shalom Task Force is an address for them to turn to.”
Shalom Task Force was created to address a painful community need, while providing alternatives to aid us in eliminating domestic abuse from our midst. This devoted group of 60 women volunteers has spearheaded the effort to deal with domestic abuse.
In 1992, Dr. Hylton Lightman, a prominent pediatrician, approached several community members after repeatedly treating bruised and wounded Jewish women and children. Thus Shalom Task Force was founded. With the utmost degree of kindness, compassion, and discretion, this exemplary organization has quietly and effectively dealt with the most difficult of topics with great sensitivity and under the guidance of da’as Torah.
Promoting healthy marriages and peaceful family relationships, Shalom Task Force has developed a plethora of services and workshops to combat and heighten community awareness of what was considered to be a taboo topic.
A lifeline and beacon of hope for every abused woman who has been suffering in silence and solitude, Shalom Task Force’s confidential hotline is staffed by caring and sensitive individuals who can help the caller explore her options by providing referrals to recognized professionals for counseling, legal advice, or help in finding a safe environment, as well as a special rav to answer specific questions. Additionally, the hotline’s “No Caller ID” ensures every caller absolute and complete confidentiality. Providing empathy and information, the toll-free hotline, 888-883-2323 (718-337-3700) is the backbone of Shalom Task Force’s exemplary efforts and was started in 1995 to provide a listening ear and to offer a wide range of referrals to callers. “Each prospective hotline volunteer is mandated to undergo an intensive 12-week training course before I will assign her to a hotline shift,” explained Sharron Russ, director of the Shalom Task Force hotline.
“We never advise a woman to get a divorce; we will listen, provide referrals, help her to formulate a safety plan, if necessary, and, in general, encourage her to explore the options,” explains Shulamith Goldstein, a member of Shalom Task Force’s board. “We have also had very well-attended conferences, workshops, and training programs on domestic abuse for mikveh attendants (who are often eyewitness to the objective evidence of physical abuse), kallah teachers, rebbetzins, educators, and mental health professionals. I hope that we have been able to dispel the aura of secrecy that had surrounded this difficult problem.”
The BKEAP education school programs offer a positive approach to students, affording them a comprehensive education in the area of dating and making the right choice in finding a lifelong marriage partner, as well as building an emotionally healthy marriage. All material is based on traditional Jewish texts and is presented by advocates who have been specifically trained to work with Shalom Task Force’s education department. The program has been reviewed and endorsed by leading rabbanim. The women’s program is already well-established in high schools, seminaries, and colleges, both in the United States as well as in Israel. The young men’s program is presented to high school boys, boys learning in beis medrash, and colleges by instructors who have been additionally trained by Torah scholars.
The highly acclaimed S.H.A.L.O.M. Workshop is an innovative program designed for all engaged and newly married couples, teaching easily learnable skills for successful communication and effective problem solving. It is most desirable for any couples who desire harmony, happiness, and fulfillment in their relationships. This workshop is an important addition to traditional chassan/kallah classes. Participants emerge with a deeper self-knowledge and the tools to build a happy, successful, and long-lasting marriage.
Sarah’s Voice is a new legal aid service that provides a multidisciplinary approach to addressing domestic violence issues in the Orthodox community. Sarah’s Voice is run by a full-time lawyer and a social worker who are working in tandem to ease the process as clients come forward to receive legal aid. Services provided to clients include legal advice and/or counsel; orders of protection; divorce; and custody concerns.
The social worker provides clients with concrete social services, case management, safety planning, and/or referrals for therapeutic interventions. All services are provided with sensitivity, empathy, and diligence. All services for victims are confidential, free of charge, and are available without regard to gender or race.
Since Shalom Task Force’s launch over 20 years ago, over 16,000 women have taken the first steps toward regaining their dignity and rebuilding their lives by gathering the courage to call the STF confidential hotline.
Shalom Task Force’s 20th anniversary brunch is scheduled for this Sunday morning, April 14, at 10:00 a.m. at the Sephardic Temple, 775 Branch Boulevard in Cedarhurst.
The brunch will help Shalom Task Force continue to provide its many outstanding services to victims of domestic abuse. The event will honor several outstanding individuals. For additional information or to make reservations, please call 516-773-3399 or e-mail email@example.com. For additional information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. v