The Shalom Task Force Confidential Hotline phone rang. Esther was calling from work. After a particularly terrible weekend, she had finally found a safe place and time to call. They were the model family. They were recently honored by their shul, their children attend the local yeshiva and perform well at school. They have guests at their Shabbat and yom tov table and participate in community life.

But the truth is very different. She and her children live in a state of fear and terror. She described that it started with “just” emotional and verbal abuse — belittling comments, name-calling — and then escalated to isolation from her family and friends and extreme possessiveness and control. She has no access to any family bank account or her own paycheck. He has complete power over the simplest of purchases, even the groceries and clothes for the kids. Recently, there were several physically abusive episodes and she wasn’t sure how to proceed. She didn’t know who would believe her.

The hotline is a place to be heard, believed, and helped. She spoke to the volunteer advocate about a safety plan, explored options for next steps, and received a referral for a therapist and for Sarah’s Voice, STF’s free legal services. She was also believed. For the first time, she didn’t have to pretend everything was OK; her call was the first time she was able to verbalize the truth.

When asked how she knew about the hotline, she said, “I cut out an ad three years ago and it’s been in my wallet for three years. I finally had the strength to make this call. I wish I had three years ago.”

Please support this critical community service and join Shalom Task Force on Sunday, November 17, at the Annual Brunch, to be held at the Sephardic Temple, 775 Branch Blvd, in Cedarhurst at 9:30 a.m. For reservations or to make a donation, please visit ShalomTaskForce.org or email stfbrunch@gmail.com.

Esteemed Honorees

Guest of Honor: Miriam Ellenberg.

A resident of Great Neck, Miriam has been an active volunteer with Shalom Task Force for the past 18 years. She serves as a board member, an education program presenter, Shalom Workshop leader and co-chair of the Annual Brunch. Miriam is married to Dr. Gilad Ellenberg. They are the proud parents of Ari (and Rachel), Dani (and Cheryl), Josh (and Danielle) and Dr. Leah Ellenberg, and the proud grandparents of many wonderful grandchildren. She has served on the boards of North Shore Hebrew Academy, Yeshiva Har Torah, and Emunah, and has been active in the Young Israel of Great Neck, Great Neck Mikveh Association, and Amit.

Community Leadership Award: Rabbi Yehuda and Lisa Septimus.

Rabbi Yehuda Septimus has served as the senior rabbi of the Young Israel of North Woodmere since September 2008. The rabbi focuses first and foremost on close relationships with and addressing the needs of every one of the families in his shul. His leadership is critical in growing a supportive community and he brings his extensive academic background to his work. Rabbi Septimus received semichah as well as a bachelor’s of arts degree in English literature from Yeshiva University and received his Ph.D. in classical Jewish history and literature from Yale University. More recently, Rabbi Septimus completed a master’s of arts degree at NYU Silver School of Social Work, and he is currently doing post-graduate training at the Trauma Studies Center of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy in Columbus Circle.

Lisa Septimus is the yoetzet halacha of the Five Towns and Great Neck. A graduate of Stern College’s Graduate Program for Advanced Talmudic Studies, she subsequently served as the program’s shoelet u’meishiva. She teaches Talmud at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck, where she also serves as director of special programs. In her active role as rebbetzin at the Young Israel of North Woodmere, she is integrally involved with adult education and youth programming. She has taught at The Jewish Center in Manhattan, Riverdale Jewish Center, Drisha, and Yeshiva University’s Summer Learning Program. She and her husband, Rabbi Yehuda Septimus, are the parents of four children.

Pillar of Strength Award: Shaindy Urman.

Shaindy is a survivor of domestic violence and is actively working to break the silence around domestic violence and abuse in the Jewish community. She writes and speaks of her experience through various platforms and her story has been shared widely via the Times of Israel. Shaindy is a graduate student at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and supervises the intake department at OHEL Family Services.

Shalom Task Force will recognize the critical support of government and bestowing the honor of Distinguished Public Service Award on New York City Council Member Rory I. Lancman, New York State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, and New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky. They all work tirelessly on behalf of the community to ensure core funding to provide critical finances for Shalom Task Force as a resource for the victims of domestic violence. This award recognizes this commitment as they represent the New York City Council, New York State Assembly, and the New York State Senate in their dedication to the needs of the most vulnerable.

Shalom Task Force is the only one of its kind in the Orthodox community. In 1992, responding to the shocking revelation that there were women in the Orthodox community being victimized in their own homes, Nechama Wolfson, along with a group of women, created the Shalom Task Force Hotline. This was a revolutionary and monumental feat at a time when the problem of domestic abuse was not acknowledged. The groundbreaking confidential hotline, dedicated to Orthodox victims of abuse, was the very first of its kind. Since then, more than 21,000 callers have benefited from the advice and support of the hotline’s highly trained responders. As Rav Pam, z’l, said at the inaugural Rabbinical Conference, “Previously, these women had no address. They now have a place to turn.”

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