Shalom Task Force presented at an international symposium in Israel, “Creating Safe Communities, Creating Hope,” which featured training sessions and lectures on a wide range of topics relating to domestic violence and abuse. Organized by the Tahel Crisis Center for Religious Women and Children, the event drew more than 400 professionals and laypeople from across the global Jewish community who traveled to Jerusalem to attend the three-day interdisciplinary conference last month.
“The hundreds of attendees and presenters, and the range of topics that were explored, were so incredible to see, and it reminded me how prevalent and important the issue of domestic abuse is in our Jewish community,” said Avital Levin, LMSW, Shalom Task Force’s Director of Education, who led two thought-provoking sessions.
Levin spoke about casual intimacy and its impact on abuse, a hot-button topic that attracted many mental health professionals, educators and leaders. “My session was eye-opening for people who may not necessarily work with younger clients, but need to recognize these trends in relationships,” she said. “It helped them gain a deeper understanding of some of the challenges faced by this demographic.”
In her second presentation, Levin discussed the myths and stigmas surrounding abuse, drawing on her experiences with Shalom Task Force and its valuable resources, including its hotline, legal department and education programs. Using real-life cases, she explored the mind-frame associated with these myths, the frequently asked questions, and common concerns.
Rachel Marks, an attorney at Schonfeld and Goldring LLP, and a Shalom Task Force board member, delivered two presentations and also moderated two panels. STF board member Surel Goldfinger attended as well.
"Overall the conference was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from around the world all working toward bettering Klal Yisrael,” said Marks. “While many of the topics are sensitive, it is absolutely necessary that they be given this forum. It is encouraging that there are so many leaders who are willing to shine light in the darkness."
Marks, along with her colleague Aliza Goldring, spoke about mediation in divorce and discussed the long term benefits of utilizing mediation to achieve a more peaceful resolution crafted by the parties themselves and not a judge or arbitrator. In her second lecture, directed toward mental health professionals, she discussed how attorneys help children during a divorce and legal options that couples can pursue, as well as the implications of these choices for the family.
Many presenters also touched upon the recently publicized cases of sexual assault in the media. “People at the conference expressed that many of their clients and victims were feeling more
empowered to share their stories, because of the #MeToo campaign,” Levin said. “Since there is a feeling of strength in numbers, people now feel more comfortable sharing their experiences instead of hiding them.”
However, there are many who are still suffering from victim shaming and blaming, and feel the negative judgments of others. “As a community and as providers, it’s so important to be aware of that mindset and do that much more to try to help victims of domestic abuse,” Levin added. “From a legal and societal perspective, we still have a long way to go in terms of supporting victims. That’s why the work we do here at Shalom Task Force is so vital.”