Jewish Council Against Family Violence winds down operations

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

After roughly 15 years, the Jewish Council Against Family Violence (JCAFV) is disbanding, although most of its core functions will find homes with other St. Louis area agencies.

 “We are going to be using the community organizations that are doing the work that we were already doing and send those parts out to them,” said Rachel Goltzman, the group’s secretary. JCAFV has focused on educating the community and supporting victims of domestic violence.

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A speakers series, named in honor of the late Rebbetzin Paula Rivkin, a co-founder of the group, will continue under the auspices of Nishmah. Meanwhile, an emergency fund designed to help abused Jewish women in need will be overseen at Bais Abraham.

“It was always near and dear to all of us that in the event of an emergency that a Jewish woman and child would have access to emergency funds to do whatever she needed to do to be safe,” Goltzman said.

A microlending program funded by the JCAFV will work as a component of a larger program under the rubric of the National Council of Jewish Women.

“We all know that economic adversity is a big part of why women stay in abusive relationships,” said Jennifer Bernstein, treasurer of JCAFV. “We started this microlending program so they were not forced to go to a high-interest loan organization or run up credit cards.”

The group is also funding “Silent Witness” statues in Missouri, which honor women murdered in acts of domestic violence and will include a plaque honoring Rifkin.

Judy Zisk Lincoff, the group’s other co-founder, said the dissolution of the institution doesn’t mean the end of its efforts but is part of an evolutionary process.

“We have decided there are more efficient ways to stick with our original mission which has primarily been to educate the St. Louis Jewish community about family violence,” she said, “what it looks like, how to prevent it and to keep everyone aware of what the resources are.”

Nor will the leadership team become inactive on the issue. They will continue to be personally and financially involved with local efforts.

“We don’t stop being advocates because the council is not around,” said Goltzman. “Those of us who have been on the board for quite some time continue to be daily advocates. It just will not be in this formal setting.”

Some programs will come to a close, however, such as the phone line for women to receive assistance in an emergency.

“It’s important for the community to know that our ‘warm line’ will no longer be in existence but we will maintain the email,” said Lincoff. “We’re also going to let people know where they can call and be helped immediately in case of any kind of emergency.”

Those resources include St. Martha’s Hall, Jewish Family & Children’s Service, ALIVE and Safe Connections.

“What we are trying to accomplish here is to make this transition very seamless so that if there is a need, it continues to be met,” said Lincoff.

Lincoff expressed satisfaction at JCAFV’s achievements over the years.

“I would say I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished and pretty proud that we have good places to put all of these different things to meet the needs of Jewish women,” she said. “We are certainly sad and will always be sad at the loss of Rebbetzin Rivkin. She was quite dear to this organization.”

Rivkin passed away last year.

Bernstein said JCAFV had had a huge impact, not just in helping women affected by domestic violence but in the important arena of informing the people on an issue that some were unaware of or even believed didn’t happen in the Jewish world.

“This was an issue the Jewish community didn’t really know existed before this organization developed,” she said. “Thanks to Judy and Rebbetzin Rivkin, the awareness is out there now.”

Lincoff said the organization is finished but its work is not.

“Domestic violence has not gone away,” she said. “The council in its current form is going away but the overseeing of and evolution of educating the community and continuing to make sure that there are resources and shelter continues on for Jewish women.”