When the phone rings in a time of crisis, Shalom Task Force is there to answer it. When a couple looks to navigate the delicate intricacies of engagement and marriage, Shalom Task Force is there to guide them. When young men and woman and their parents need to be educated and steered toward healthy relationships, Shalom Task Force is there to inform them. The common thread in all these situations is the support and life altering tools that Shalom Task Force provides.
Founded almost 25 years ago, Shalom Task Force promotes peaceful family resolutions and healthy marriages for Jewish families. Shalom Task Force offers legal services and maintains an anonymous domestic abuse Hotline that has received over 20,000 calls. The core of Shalom Task Force is a telephone hotline that answers calls from victims of domestic violence. The hotline is staffed by 70 volunteers and is open 60 hours per week. Strict anonymity is maintained. The hotline does not have caller ID, nor do they have any way of contacting the callers. Once a victim makes the call, trained advocates, who speak Hebrew, Yiddish and Spanish, in addition to English, are there to offer non-judgmental support, compassion, validation, and information to ease the trauma experienced by the caller. Trusting in the confidentiality and anonymity of the call is vital for survivors concerned about safety and is essential to their well-being. The first step is creating an atmosphere that allows the caller to feel safe and empowers them to tell their story. The STF hotline protocol guides the volunteer advocates to ask about the caller’s current safety concerns. Once a safety plan is in place, the hotline advocates provide victims and their family members with a wide range of culturally and religiously appropriate referrals for emergency housing, mental health, legal, and social services. The hotline serves cities throughout the United States and in Israel.
Due to the increasing demand for legal services, Shalom Task Force opened Sarah’s Voice, a free legal program for Orthodox Jewish victims. Since January 2010, more than 800 survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking have come to Sarah’s Voice for legal advice and representation. They are provided guidance as to how to navigate the court system, obtain an order of protection and to effectively present a compelling case in court, assistance with understanding and challenging settlement terms, as well as zealous representation in court. The Sarah’s Voice victims' advocate helps clients obtain services to allow them to escape abusive relationships and to secure the needed benefits and financial support to allow them to live independently from their abuser.
Realizing that education is the key to breaking the cycle of violence, Shalom Task Force takes a proactive approach to educating the next generation. We all struggle to connect with our loved ones at times, therefore, it is critical to understand what differentiates the healthy and viable relationships from the toxic, and to get help when needed. Each year, Shalom Task Force provides an array of educational workshops, across America and in Israel, on healthy relationship formation to individuals along a continuum of developmental stages; high schools, seminaries and yeshivas, college campuses, singles and young professionals, and married adults. In the calls Shalom Task Force receives to their Hotline, they see the tremendous value and impact of providing this educational forum for essential dialogue early on in high school and the
widespread positive effect of early prevention and detection.
This year marks a monumental year of growth and expansion for the Education Department as they have launched wildly successful college-campus programs, broadened their reach to include many more institutions and hundreds of new participants, and re-designed their workshops to include cutting-edge content through the use of multimedia. As an organization, they have deepened their ability to intuit the needs of the community and garner feedback in the shaping of innovative programs on a variety of topics; they have their finger on the pulse of today's dynamic relationship climate, and are in a position to best foster and support our community in this area.
Shalom Task Force works tirelessly to help the community understand that domestic violence is not a women’s issue; it is a family issue. It is a problem that our entire community must face as statistically, we will all know someone who has been affected by domestic abuse. Through years of experience, Shalom Task Force has found that relationships are the pulse of every community. When relationships are flailing, the individuals involved may be experiencing the direct suffering, but the reverberations of distress are felt by the entire community. And the community in turn, must double back and reflect on its offerings and rudimentary services that it provides to the individual. Shalom Task Force responds to the needs of the community in both crisis and in prevention by educating the community in domestic abuse, supporting family and friends through difficult times, navigating the dating process and fostering healthy relationships among many other important topics. Most recently Shalom Task Force presented very well received workshops in Scarsdale, Five Towns, West Hempstead, Great Neck, Riverdale, Queens and Crown Heights.
On May 1, 1996, at the first Shalom Task Force Rabbinical Conference, HaRav Avraham Pam ZT’’L spoke of women who suffered abuse at the hands of their husbands. He said, “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…” This clear statement, regarding the importance of the Shalom Task Force mission, served as the impetus for the growth of the organization and continues to propel the programing and expansion of its important work.
For more information about Shalom Task Force visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. The Shalom Task Force Hotline can be reached at 1-888-883-2323. All calls are completely anonymous.