July 22, 2024
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Bat Melech Founder to Visit Bergen County

Teaneck—There are 14 shelters for women facing domestic violence in Israel, but only two of them—in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh—are shomer Shabbos and shomer kashruth. Both are operated by Bat Melech, an organization founded by Israeli-native Noach Korman. There is currently a waiting list for places in these shelters.

“The women on the waiting list are in abusive situations and are stuck until we can get them out,” said Amy Beth Oppenheimer, a former Bergen County resident who is the North American director for Bat Melech. Oppenheimer has numerous Bergen connections—she grew up here, attended the Moriah and Frisch Schools and was active at Ahavath Torah in Englewood, the JCC of Tenafly, and in the Etz Chaim region of NCSY.

Bat Melech will be holding events in Bergen County next week: in Teaneck on March 25 and in Englewood on March 26. The organization is building a network in the United States as many of the women who end up needing to use Bat Melech’s services are North American, South African or other Anglo-Orthodox women. Oppenheimer will be here along with founder Korman, who will make presentations about what prompted him to start the organization, trends in the prevalence of domestic violence within the Orthodox community and what Bat Melech is doing to address and combat this challenge.

The events will include an address by Bat Melech founder Noach Korman and a presentation by Oppenheimer on the innovative work that the organization is doing.

Oppenheimer had been volunteering for Bat Melech from America and during extended visits to Israel over the past year, and decided to move to Israel this past winter to begin working with Bat Melech full time.

“Several hundred women, from charedim (ultra-Orthodox) to Modern Orthodox to women who just keep kosher, come through our doors every year. Like Project S.A.R.A.H. (in New Jersey), we also operate a hotline and services,” said Oppenheimer. Bat Melech offers a wide range of services like child care, therapy, transitional services and legal assistance.

Both of the Bat Melech locations are private and guarded. An effort is made to keep the location hidden, to protect the women and their families, Oppenheimer said. One of the reasons that Bat Melech operates two facilities is that the women in Jerusalem often go to the location in Beit Shemesh for safety and privacy, and vice-versa. “We don’t want people staying in the city they came from. It’s important for their safety,” Oppenheimer said.

In recent weeks, Bat Melech has also won a government tender (bid) from the Israeli Ministry of Welfare to distribute financial aid to women upon their departure from Israeli shelters, so Bat Melech’s offices are expanding. “The way things work is that the government has certain responsibilities for social welfare, but there’s so much bureaucracy,” she said. While the shelters for non-religious and Arab women will still be operational and will offer the same support, Bat Melech, as an amuta (non-profit organization) will be working to provide government funds and services to all the women in Israel who need these services.

“Though we will be overseeing the disbursement of funds for a larger constituency, we are not becoming other people’s social workers. We have simply been chosen as the best amuta to efficiently oversee these administrative processes,” Oppenheimer said. “But our mission, our focus and our identity will stay the same.”

Oppenheimer explained that the visit to Bergen County is to spread the word about the mission of Bat Melech at this critical point in its growth. “We are not yet a household name, but we need to be,” said Oppenheimer. “We need to let people know we exist and let them know we are here to help,” she said. “It takes a lot of inner strength to pick up the phone to call us,” she said.

“These are not only Israelis in our shelters. There are women from New Jersey, and women from France. Anyone stuck in a rough situation—this is a place for women to turn to. We need to have a network with people who can help give voice to those women in Israel who have been silenced,” Oppenheimer said. To do this, she explained, Bat Melech has developed a social media presence and is working to expand on several fronts.

“But of course, the more people who know about us, the more we have need for places,” she said.

Also, a new Israeli policy has been enacted that requires all shelters to have occupancy for at least 12 women, and “in our Jerusalem shelter, we only have space for six women who come to us with between two and eight children on average,” she said. There is a need and demand for expansion, so though we have already raised half of the funds for this expansion, we must raise the rest or find another location so we can house 12 women and their families.”

The Beit Shemesh shelter is already of the minimum-required size and is able to host 12 women with between two and eight children, Oppenheimer said.

For more information on the events, visit http://facebook.com/batmelechshelter.

To learn more about Bat Melech, visit http://batmelech.org.

Teaneck Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/470366013069569/

Englewood Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1439387959629791/

or call: U.S. number: 469-297-2722

By Elizabeth Kratz

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