Keeping our Couples Connected: A Program for all Rabbis & Rebbetzins, Chosson & Kallah Teachers, Educators, and Mental Health Professionals
Rebbetzin Judi Steinig
Associate Director, Community Services, Orthodox Union, firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-613-8188;
Avital Levin, LMSW
Director of Education, Shalom Task Force. 212-742-1478 ext. 2, email@example.com.
The Orthodox Union and Shalom Task Force hosted a program for community leaders at the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst on Sunday, July 30. The program, which was attended by over 180 individuals, was widely acclaimed.
The program began over breakfast, where Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, Associate Director, Community Services of the Orthodox Union and Avital Levin, LMSW, Director of Education for Shalom Task Force gave powerful introductions, reminding the audience of the critical nature of their roles in their communities and the importance of their participation in the conference. Rebbetzin Steinig noted the myriad number of follow-up requests that had come from previous conferences, to have all leaders in the same room together, focusing on the same goal; to assist couples at every stage of their relationship. Levin’s words, “Very often as leaders, you, the Rabbis, the Rebbetzins, the Chosson and Kallah teachers, the mental health providers and the educators –YOU are the first responders for couples, in your shuls, in your classes, in your offices and classrooms and homes,” resonated with the audience.
The full-day program consisted of 12 sessions on topics which addressed foundations of healthy relationships, mental health issues, compatibility, conflict, physical intimacy, domestic abuse, and legal proceedings. The speakers included Rabbanim, mental health professionals, mediators and attorneys - some from the staff of Shalom Task Force.
Lisa Twerski, LCSW (author of “I’m So Confused, am I being Abused?”) taught the participants of her workshop the four things people look for in dating and relationships and discussed how to access emotional compatibility among couples.
Dr. Chani Maybruch detailed best practices for encouraging close emotional bonds in new couples. Both Pamela Klein, LCSW, and Dr. Binyamin Tepfer spoke of the importance of teaching couples to have healthy intimacy in order to foster a strong marital relationship. Meir Rizel, MS, LMHC and his wife Aviva Rizel, MA, LMFT, spoke about their experience working with couples who had experienced trauma.
Dr. Isaac Schechter and Avital Levin, in their joint session, engaged in a discussion about religiousness, providing advice to the community leaders about approaches to use with a couple or individual going through marital difficulties due to religious changes. The idea that religion can be used as a tool for power and control in the relationship was also discussed by both Avital Levin and Dr. Schechter.
In his workshop, entitled “Fighting Fairly”, Rabbi Doniel Frank spoke about facilitating effective strategies for conflict resolution. Rabbi Frank discussed how conflict is inevitable in a relationship, but within conflict are the seeds of connection, and that is what the community leaders should be looking for when working with couples.
Rabbi Shmuel Maybruch spoke about counseling those struggling with issues around pornography. He stressed the importance of the therapeutic relationship, and ended with a reference to the need to reconnect to the Torah way of life.
Rachel Marks, Esq., Board Member of Shalom Task Force, Erin Bistricer, Esq., Staff Attorney for Sarah’s Voice (Legal Department of Shalom Task Force), and Evan Genack discussed the legal issues a leader needs to be aware of when a marriage fails.
The workshops on pastoral counseling offered insight into the various issues couples in the Jewish community face, and real life situations were brought up to illustrate those points. David Kohn, LCSW and Rabbi Yaakov Trump went through case studies in order to facilitate a conversation about pastoral counseling when issues of domestic abuse arise, and the role of a Rabbi or Rebbetzin when a victim comes forward. Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum spoke about the importance of communication between the Rav and the couple, and endorsed Shalom Workshops, saying that he recommends every engaged couple take the workshop.
Co-sponsors of the event were Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst, Nefesh International that enabled mental health providers to earn CEU credits, PUAH, an organization that provides counseling, referrals and support for those dealing with infertility, and Lahav Israel, an Israeli-based organization that works with non-observant couples and focuses on the beauty and wisdom of Torah and Mitzvos.
Participants enjoyed a buffet lunch, using this time to network and share their experiences. The program was very warmly received. As they left, audience members expressed deep satisfaction with the content and tone of the sessions and appreciation to both the Orthodox Union and Shalom Task Force for presenting the event.
To learn more about the Orthodox Union, visit www.ou.org; to learn more about
Shalom Task Force, visit www.shalomtaskforce.org.