During Women’s History Month, we honor the many women who have dedicated their work to bringing greater awareness to the issue of intimate partner violence.
The work of SHALVA’s first Executive Director Sherry Dimarsky (obm) may not be as well-known as others, but she was a trailblazer. When our founders were first educating themselves about domestic abuse, they were introduced to a young legal aid attorney named Sherry. She taught them all she knew over many months. When the time came to hire an executive director for SHALVA, Sherry was the natural choice to lead the agency. “It was a blessing from Hashem (G-d) that he sent her to us,” says founder Fayge Siegal.
Sherry was passionate and tireless in her efforts to talk to anyone who would listen about domestic abuse in the Jewish community. And they listened. Thousands learned from her and Sherry’s words stayed long after the conversation was over. One time she was speaking to a group of high school seniors about the warning signs of domestic abuse. A young woman came over to her and said, “something is wrong with my family.” They spoke for a while, and the girl left. A few years later this same girl called Sherry and said, “I don’t want that to be my relationship, but I don’t know how marriage should be.” Sherry counseled over a hundred brides in the community, work that she continued even after she was no longer executive director.
Another founder, Hadassah Goodman, recalled an early meeting with a group of potential donors. “We were a bunch of young girls/ladies going to meet this prominent group of older women. Sherry was clear and confident that we just had to be our real selves and explain our mission. She was younger than us, but she was able to instill us with confidence to forge forward because we could connect as women. Sherry was right and SHALVA was awarded its first major grant. This opened the door to JUF as these women recognized the importance of our mission.”
Sherry was a brilliant attorney and advocate for those in need. She was so humble and wise, and able to relate to everyone with her well-balanced skill set. She left no stone unturned and developed strong relationships with rabbis, professionals and all who might be able to help SHALVA clients. May the groundwork she laid and the work we continue be a blessing to her memory.