Mar. 29, 2013
The DATF provides transitional assistance to families leaving a local shelter by collecting and delivering kitchen supplies, bedding, groceries, clothing, toys, while also monitoring their progress and needs in their new community.
Community Contact Information:
Woodlands Community Temple
White Plains, NY
- Help victims of domestic violence leaving shelters meet immediate concrete needs when moving into their own homes.
- Provide support and assistance to a local shelter by teaching domestic violence victims life skills that will enable them to feel capable of surviving without being dependent on their abuser.
- Educate our congregants about the existence of domestic violence, how to recognize it, and how to help its victims.
The DATF provides transitional assistance to families leaving a local shelter by collecting and delivering kitchen supplies, bedding, groceries, clothing, toys, while also monitoring their progress and needs in their new community. We also support other shelter needs and programming. We educate our temple community about the issue of domestic abuse and healthy relationships within the framework of Jewish values.
This program developed when, in late 2007, Hope's Door, a local shelter and counseling center for abused women, requested help from Greenburgh Interfaith Caring Community (GICC), a consortium of faith groups in our area. Our rabbi pursued the subject, inviting several potentially interested congregants to a meeting with the shelter to explain its need for assistance in transitioning women into their own homes. Thus the Domestic Abuse Taskforce (DATF) was formed. We publicized through our weekly congregational email and drew many of our congregants who were particularly motivated to become involved. A list of volunteers emerged from the meeting and the leadership created a survey for the volunteers to determine what each person could offer in terms of meeting the needs of the shelter. It is noteworthy that, while the Social Action Committee was supportive of the project, the actual leadership came from individuals who had not previously taken leadership roles in that committee.
Once the shelter knows that a woman and her family will be moving out of the shelter, a representative phones a DATF co-chair and sets up a meeting between the woman, a shelter representative and a DATF representative to discuss the woman's specific needs - family members, resources she has and ones she needs, skills she has and ones she needs to acquire. Together they determine what assistance the taskforce can realistically provide. Minimally it will involve providing the woman with basic needs for her apartment - housewares, linen, grocery items - and support on the day of the move - a pizza dinner, a filled pantry. Depending on the needs of the woman and her family, it can also mean some basic training, arranging for childcare, providing clothing and toys. The critical thing here is the relationship created between the woman and the DATF. After the initial move, the DATF representative will check in periodically to see how the family is doing and determine if and what additional support may be needed. Currently, about five families transition out of the shelter each year.
We need to remind our congregation that domestic abuse exists and that, as Jews, we have an obligation to help its victims, but we must do more than that. We need to provide our congregants with specific things they can do to help. We have brought counselors to our religious school to speak with our kids about domestic abuse. We have prepared a resource sheet on domestic abuse (attached) (link attached) available to our congregants. We try to have at least one basic kit ready containing the essentials that anyone would need moving into an apartment. To that end, we regularly publicize to our congregation a list of needed items.
This program has relied completely on volunteers. Our youth group members have hosted shelter kids at our Purim carnivals, raised funds for and distributed gift cards to shelter kids at Christmas. In particular, the program has provided opportunities for our B'nei Mitzvah to collect/contribute money or items and their time at the shelter or with transitioning families. We estimate that at least 300 individual congregants have participated in the program in the few years since its inception.
We have assisted over a dozen families in transitioning to safe independent living. We have helped others prepare for this transition. One measure of our success is that another agency asked that we do the same work for them. Particularly important is that a significant portion of our congregation (including our kids) has become enthusiastically involved in the program on an on-going basis. It has raised the consciousness of our congregation to the issue of domestic abuse. Unlike many programs which we have run, interest and involvement have not diminished over time.