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Grass Roots Beginning

In 1985, thirteen Orthodox Jewish women* heard a Rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife)* from Baltimore speak about domestic abuse in Jewish homes. They left that meeting with a lot of questions and wondered if this could be happening in Chicago also. Our founding mothers talked to friends and family, learned all they could about domestic abuse, and in that first year set up a shelter and helped 24 families. As a passionate group of volunteers, they met with rabbis, neighborhood police and emergency room personnel to educate them about domestic abuse.

* SHALVA’s founders: Edie Davis, Chani Friedman, Tamar Friedman, Batshie Goldfeder, Hadassah Goodman, Risa Gross, Shoshie Kahn, Craindell Mannes, Sarah Rosby, Fayge Siegal, Devorah Stern, Shulamis Weinfeld and Hedy Well.

SHALVA Opens its Doors

In 1988, SHALVA was established as a full-service agency to help Jewish victims of domestic abuse. Sherry Dimarsky z”l, was hired as SHALVA’s first Executive Director in 1989. Calls for help came from all ages, all socio-economic backgrounds and all denominations of the Jewish community in Chicago. SHALVA decided to focus on counseling services to best support the women who called. Project Hope was developed – a free program of comprehensive counseling services and educational programs.

Increasing Support for Survivors

As word spread of SHALVA’s free counseling services, more therapists were hired and helped hundreds of survivors of domestic abuse. SHALVA also expanded outreach programming to educate the Jewish community about domestic abuse. Friends of SHALVA programs were held in people’s homes to introduce SHALVA’s mission and programs. Even so, by the late 1990’s, people still did not want to believe that domestic violence could happen in Jewish homes, nor did they want to speak about it.

Dispelling the Myth

In 2010, SHALVA commissioned a research study that we hoped would dispel the myth that Jewish women do not experience domestic abuse. The research from University of Massachusetts and University of Chicago validated women’s experiences and provided insight into the needs of the Jewish community and the work yet to be done.


Journey to High Performance

SHALVA continues to look for ways to improve. In 2016, with a grant award from the Michael Reese Health Trust, we began a new strategic effort to better define what success and progress looks like for our clients and to better measure the impact of our counseling and community education programs. We now regularly and systematically review data and feedback for continuous improvement.

Show you CARE

Through our Journey to High Performance, SHALVA uncovered a need to focus specific efforts on outreach to third parties – friends, family, clergy, colleagues who know someone experiencing domestic abuse. Our Show you CARE interactive tool, funded by a 2019-2020 Breakthrough Grant from the Jewish United Fund, teaches friends, family and colleagues how they can help survivors of domestic abuse.