Newsletter – Winter 2017


A Successful Un-Party

SHALVA’s 30th Anniversary Un-Party was a tremendous success, raising $127,000 and counting. Thank you to the hundreds of generous donors! Our community continues to demonstrate their commitment and compassion for women currently experiencing domestic abuse or who have experienced abuse in the past.  In this new year, you are helping to provide emergency and ongoing resources for abused women: education, free counseling, financial assistance and legal support. Your generosity is heartwarming!

Together, we will help more women in 2017 get the support they need to heal. “Thank you for my better days, for hope and strength. I am where I am today because of your guidance.” SHALVA client


We Looked Like the Perfect Family

A former SHALVA client shares her story.
I am one of the many faces of domestic abuse. People saw me dropping off, volunteering, and picking up my kids at school with a smile on my face.  I live in a nice house, drive a nice car, and go on nice family vacations. My kids do well in school, are well behaved and have great friends.  From the outside, my life looked very comfortable and happy.

But I had a dark secret. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my now ex-husband had a dark side. A seemingly successful, charismatic businessman and community volunteer, his cruel, aggressive, raging side generally emerged only in the privacy of our own home.

If he had a bad day at work he would walk in the door looking for things to criticize, for ways to cut me down, to try to make me feel worthless. Juggling three young kids, their activities, the house and my volunteer activities, I did my best to have a hot meal ready for him when he came home. But, it was a no-win situation. He’d tell me he couldn’t eat it because it was what he had for lunch that day. I started to call to check with him to avoid that happening. He would only occasionally answer me.

Then there were the days he arrived home an hour or two late without telling me. He’d complain that dinner was cold or dried out and would also yell at me and the kids for eating without him. Everything was about him. If I wasn’t dressed in a cute outfit and didn’t run up to kiss him the second he walked in the door he lashed out at me. He lashed out at the kids in similar ways; cutting them down if they didn’t immediately run to embrace him and tell him that they loved him.

I knew that I had to leave him. I wasn’t living. I was going through the motions. I put up a good face in public. Most of the bruises I had were easy to hide; they were of the emotional variety. They hurt deeply but I had become very adept at hiding them. He never hit me. He pushed and shoved me a few times, and when he lost his temper and really wanted to hurt me, he’d grab me so tight, squeezing his fingertips down into my skin on my upper arms that it felt as if his very short fingernails had penetrated my skin. The bruises were very deep. One could clearly see the fingerprints as they cycled through the normal colors of blue, green and yellow, but luckily, no one looked at the underside of my arm.

Every day I lost more and more of myself. I felt as if I was a shell of a person. I am kind-hearted, intelligent, fun-loving, and attractive. I knew that I had to leave him but I was afraid. He made it clear to me that if I ever left him that I would be destitute. He told me that he was hiding his money in places no one would ever be able to find it. He also told me that the kids wouldn’t be allowed to see me unsupervised because he’d have me declared mentally incompetent.

I knew it could be a long, nasty battle that had the potential to destroy my kids. He also made veiled threats about hurting them to hurt me. Marriage counseling came next but it didn’t help. He was able to convince the therapist that he was perfect and everything wrong in our marriage was my fault.

I knew I had to leave but was waiting for my kids to grow up enough, till they were all old enough to pick up a phone and call me if something wasn’t right. I couldn’t risk their physical well-being, their lives.

I knew that the hell I was living in with him was sucking the life out of me and that I had to get out before there was nothing left of me. I wanted my kids to see the real me. I am a happy person, but that happy person had become so mired in muck that it felt as if I was being buried alive.

I needed help navigating my way out. This is when I called SHALVA. I needed a therapist who understood what I was dealing with. I needed coping skills on how to handle different situations that I knew would arise. My SHALVA therapist was wonderful. She supported and guided me through very challenging times, and helped me to stay strong.

My ex cried when the end of our marriage was becoming real to him. He kept telling me that I’d come to my senses and come crawling back to him; that I’d be crazy to give up the great life I had with him. He loved me the best he knows how to love. But that love is sick and twisted. It’s a controlling, angry love. He still treats our kids that way. That part of their life is a crazy rollercoaster ride full of ups, downs, twists and turns that put them through an emotional ringer. I hate that they have to deal with that. I have learned to accept that I can’t fix that for them. As they’ve gotten older, now all teenagers, they’ve seen a lot of what I used to try to hide from them.

Part of what SHALVA did for me was help me to realize that my role is to be a loving mom, to continue to empower them to share their feelings, and to be there for when they need me to listen. I don’t bad mouth their dad to them. They are a part of him. Criticizing him is like criticizing them. Biting my tongue and taking the high road has not always been easy for me.

My children never used to tell me the bad things he would do and say to them or how he behaved to others out in public. They do now. He’s their dad and they want his love. They are no longer as desperate for his approval as they once were. They want his attention and love, but now through more mature eyes, they continue to lose more and more respect for him. They now see him for who he is. This is quite a change from the early days after our split when my oldest believed his dad’s lies about me throwing him out of the house because I had “severe psychological problems.” Biting my tongue and taking the high road wasn’t always easy for me. Years later, seeing and knowing that my kids will be okay because they recognize angry, unhealthy behavior brings tears of joy to my eyes. My prayers have been answered.


Outreach Fosters Connection and Awareness

Innovative education programming continues to enlighten the Jewish community on the nature of domestic abuse. Beading and conversation were the focus of six evening events organized by SHALVA’s Educational and Outreach Coordinator, Deborah Zionts. Beading Nights offer women an opportunity to increase their understanding of domestic violence while having fun at the beautiful Studio Beads in Deerfield. Owners Jessica Lundevall and Donna Zaidenberg have generously given of their time and creativity. Participants make two bracelets, one for a SHALVA client and one for themselves. “Our clients love the bracelets and participants get pleasure knowing they are personally touching the lives of SHALVA clients,” said Zionts. “One client points to her ‘Warrior Bracelet’ as a constant reminder that there are other women who believe in her and her dreams,” she added. Several more crafting events are planned in 2017.

Under 40 Outreach and Education Coordinator, Samantha Spolter, used the positive response to her fall 2016 yoga event to create a self-defense program. On December 18, Sunny Levy, founder of Sunny’s Martial Arts and Fitness, offered a one hour lesson on self-defense to a group of 30 women. A light brunch followed the program. “Our goal was to help women of all ages feel empowered and safe,” said Spolter.

Working to serve the Orthodox community, Outreach and Education Coordinator, Rochel Ray facilitated an educational program for Hatzalah Chicago, the emergency medical service for Orthodox communities in the towns of Lincolnwood, Peterson Park, Skokie, and West Rogers Park. Naomi Senser, SHALVA Board Member and Chair of Community Education presented the program. “We hoped to educate the paramedics as well as dispatchers on the more subtle signs of domestic abuse,” said Ray and added, “When we talk about uncomfortable topics, we build awareness and understanding.”


SHALVA Looks to the Future

SHALVA is proud to join the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago to work with fourteen other organizations as part of the Create a Jewish Legacy second cohort. Participation enables every member of the community to have a long-term impact on the Jewish organizations closest to their hearts.

Jewish tradition teaches us that one of our key responsibilities is to make the world a better place for future generations. “A legacy gift ensures that Jewish women experiencing and healing from domestic abuse will get the services they need for generations to come. It will also sustain critical education and prevention programs so our community can understand and support those in need,” said Executive Director, Carol Ruderman.

We are delighted to acknowledge members of SHALVA’s Legacy Circle, who have made the commitment to leave a gift through our Create a Jewish Legacy program. A heartfelt thank you to the following for their generous support and leadership:

Sara B. Block
Marilyn Eisenberg
Neil J. Hochstadt
Helene Paris
Victoria and Thomas Rivkin
Carol K. Ruderman
Naomi and Jerry Senser
Avrohom and Fayge Siegal, in loving memory of Mrs. Goldie Klein
Dianne Tesler
Amy and Jim Tuchler

The Create a Legacy Program provides individuals, regardless of age or financial means, the opportunity to leave a legacy gift. There are many different ways to participate in addition to a bequest in a will. These include adding SHALVA as beneficiary on your life insurance policy, IRA or pension fund as well as other forms of estate planning.

To encourage SHALVA supporters to join the Legacy Circle, a generous donor will match each signed commitment (Declaration of Intent) received by June 30, 2018 dollar for dollar, up to $20,000 per donor. “This is a remarkable act of generosity and we are profoundly grateful to our anonymous donor,” said Ruderman. “This is also an amazing opportunity to double the impact of your legacy gift.”

To learn more or to join SHALVA’S Legacy Circle, reach out to Carol Ruderman at 773-583-4673 or  If you have already included a legacy gift in your will or estate plans, kindly notify SHALVA so your commitment can qualify for the match and we can thank you.


Running Domestic Violence Out of Town

SHALVA friends, board members and staff proudly waved signs and cheered on runners of the Chicago Marathon on October 9. Two runners committed to months of training on behalf of SHALVA and the Run Domestic Violence Out of Town team: staff member Samantha Spolter and community member Steve Kipnis. Board member Rachel Ablin inspired her husband, Steve Kipnis, to run his first Chicago Marathon. “After attending several outstanding SHALVA events, I was motivated to help raise awareness and funds for SHALVA, especially this year, when state budget problems have harshly impacted social service agencies.”

Run DV Out of Town is a coalition of 10 Chicago domestic violence agencies that form a team to run in the Chicago Marathon every year, coinciding with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In 2016 the group raised over $55,000 that benefits the organizations’ work to end the cycle of domestic violence occurring in and around Chicago.

Runners are needed for the 2017 Chicago Marathon which will take place on October 8th. Community members can also participate on the team as a runner or walker at the sponsored half marathon and 5K on September 24th. To sign up or for more information go to


How the Legal Liaison Helps

SHALVA clients generally have the same issues that most people face in divorces, but the issues are complicated by the abuse they experience. Clients are perplexed by the legal process and often acknowledge that their abusive spouses or former spouses use the legal process to control them.  This makes it virtually impossible for them to achieve a fair result in their litigation. SHALVA clients going through divorce or post decree litigation stated thoughts that the legal process was expensive, unfair, and unnecessarily prolonged.

As shown in the chart above, the most common area of discussion is general questions about divorce. A general trend is the intersection of raising children and finances, as we see that parenting agreements (41%), review of maintenance (38%), allocation of marital assets (35%), and child support (32%) are all addressed by the Legal Liaison in approximately the same number of cases.

For more information, contact Viki Rivkin, Outreach and Education Legal Liaison, at or 773-583-4673.

This program is supported by the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan
Chicago, Jewish United Fund and the Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Memorial Fund.













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