New Program Targets Children From Impact Of Childhood Maltreatment

Armen Hareyan's picture
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A new website provides background on the issue of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect of Jewish children. It helps identify, advocate for, respond to, and provide specialized services for children, adolescents, and adults who are suffering from the impact of child maltreatment. Although the Shofar Coalition is a Baltimore-based group, the information on the website is applicable to any Jewish community.

"Nobody really wants to face the fact that physical, sexual, or emotional abuse could be happening in our families, in our schools, in our synagogues, in our community, and that's really the biggest issue -- helping people understand that putting it on a shelf and ignoring it doesn't make it go away," said Esther Giller, president and director of the nonprofit Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute of Baltimore.

Sidran Institute convened the Shofar Coalition, a collaborative of 31 Jewish and secular organizations to address the effects of abuse and family dysfunction in the Jewish community. "Last year, revelations about rabbinical abuse came up in the local Jewish newspaper and in other cities as well. Increased awareness of these problems dovetailed with Sidran's objective from the very beginning," Giller said. The name Shofar was chosen as a symbol of a community-wide Call to Action to recognize and address the traumatic effects of abuse in the Jewish community, and especially on Jewish children and adolescents.

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The new website also provides resources and links, survivor testimony, and a connection to the Sidran Help Desk ([email protected]), which provides, at no cost, general information about trauma, treatment resources and names of individual therapists nationwide, reading recommendations, and individualized self-advocacy education for survivors of trauma.

The Shofar Coalition is made up of service agencies (both Jewish and secular), rabbis (all denominations), Hebrew day schools, private practice therapists, survivors and family members, advocacy organizations, and lay community leaders. Rather than "reinvent the wheel," the approach is to better coordinate the rich programs already in place by Coalition partners and build new programming only when gaps are identified. Coalition activities also include professional training, public awareness, and survivor support.

The Coalition's target populations include: child and adolescent victims of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse (both intra- and extra-familial); children exposed to domestic violence; children of alcoholic, addicted, or mentally ill parents; and adult survivors of childhood trauma.

"Perhaps there was a time we wished to pretend these issues didn't occur in the Jewish community, but that time has long passed," states Rabbi Amy Scheinerman of Carroll County's Beth Shalom Congregation, noting that child abuse is interwoven with problems such as drug and alcohol abuse and rabbis need to learn how to confront that and to educate their community effectively.

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