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Posts Tagged ‘Sandy Eller’

Reaching Overseas To Aid Victims Of Domestic Violence

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Bat Melech, Israel’s most comprehensive network of social service for victims of domestic violence, has reached across the Atlantic for assistance, hoping to create a funding base in America in order to be able to help even more women in crisis.

Newly hired executive director of American Friends of Bat Melech, Danielle Berkowitz, has been working in the field of non-profit management for fifteen years, specializing in fundraising, grant writing, leadership development and project management, and recently relocated from Beit Shemesh to Highland Park, New Jersey with her husband and three children.

“When Bat Melech reached out to me, I knew I had to join with them and use my expertise to help victims of domestic violence,” explained Danielle. “Not only is it a cause that is near and dear to my heart, as it is based in my former home of Beit Shemesh, but last year alone Bat Melech had to turn away fifty four women, not to mention their children, due to a lack of funds. The Israeli government will pay some of the costs of assisting abused women, but they will only pay for the woman herself not her children. And most of these women have at least four kids. There is a stark need that has to be met and we are hoping to get people in the United States on board for this very important cause.”

While Danielle knew there were many organizations that would be able to make use of her expertise, the pull of working with Bat Melech was too strong to resist.

“There are, unfortunately, so many people in need, so many worthy causes that work with varied client groups, but what struck me about Bat Melech is that when it comes to domestic abuse, so many are quick to blame the victim. No one blames a child for being handicapped, no one blames a widow for her husband’s death, but so many people blame a woman in an abusive marriage. She gets blamed if she stays, blamed if she leaves, blamed for being in the situation in the first place. Wherever these women turn, they are faced with blame.”

Danielle finds that while the topic of abused women is one that people of any religion or demographic can relate to, it is particularly difficult for women in the Orthodox Jewish community. Not only are people hesitant to take in an abused woman and her children, for fear of ruining a prospective shidduch or otherwise sullying the family name, once an abused woman makes the decision to leave her community she is ostracized and will never be able to return to her former home. Additionally, children of an abused mother typically find that they are no longer welcome in school, as they are viewed as “problem children” and very often find themselves in shelters all day, every day, for months on end.

“I am hoping to spread the word on this issue throughout the United States so that people know about Bat Melech and know what we are doing for women who can’t ask for themselves,” said Danielle. “The problem of abused women transcends both geography and religion. People everywhere understand the concept of a women and children whose lives are placed in jeopardy by an abusive father.”

Danielle hopes to bring her message not only to adults but to children as well.

“Kids gravitate towards ‘mitzvah projects’ and we need to let them know that they have the ability to help other children who don’t have the privilege of going to school. It can be twinning programs, Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs. These kids aren’t supposed to have Bar and Bat Mitzvahs?”

While Danielle and her family hope to return to Israel at some point in the future, for now her sights are set firmly on using her time in America as wisely as possible.

“I hope to move forward and continue to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Danielle. “Sadly, there are so many victims of domestic abuse in Israel and it is up to us to help them get through this traumatic period of their lives.”

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full-scale productions. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.

Pesach Without Pressure

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

I hate to tell you this, but Pesach without pressure is a myth. No matter what anyone tells you (and it’s usually men who tell you that Pesach preparations can be tension free), it just doesn’t exist. To be fair, I don’t know that there is any major holiday or occasion that doesn’t involve some kind of pressure. Eliminating the stress entirely is not a realistic goal. But minimizing it is.

Whether you are home for Pesach or packing up and moving out, it is a major event and, like anything else, requires planning. For those of you who are going to a hotel, I have no advice. Have a great vacation and think of me while you are sitting by the pool on Erev Pesach doing your nails because I promise you, I won’t have polish worthy nails by then. For those of you spending your Yom Tov with relatives, hatzlacha rabbah. I hope everyone gets along well and that the sleeping accommodations are okay. For those of us who are staying home for Pesach, listen up. It’s time to get to work.

Fear not. I am not one of those super efficient people who is ready to kasher her kitchen on Shushan Purim. But I am one of those compulsive people who likes to plan ahead in order to minimize the work, and equally important, the cost of making Pesach, so that both are less intimidating. And believe it or not, the time to get started is now.

I don’t have to tell you just how overwhelming your credit card statement can become Pesach-time. Between making sure that everyone has proper clothing and stockpiling food items, the numbers add up fast, which is why I like to start stocking up on Pesach items now. My first stop for Pesach shopping? My own pantry. You may be surprised to find out how many items you already own that are in sealed containers and have Kosher L’Pesach certification all year round. Check the labels and look for the “P” next to the hechsher. A quick trip through my pantry (know your minhagim) unearthed quite a few products including: assorted coffees and teas, sugar, cocoa, kosher salt, honey, duck sauce, balsamic vinegar and assorted canned goods packed by heimishe companies including sliced mushrooms, hearts of palm, pineapple, sour cherries, Israeli pickles, olives and mandarin oranges. Be sure to check out your freezer as well. Empire raw chicken products are Kosher L’Pesach 365 days a year. So just wipe off your newly acquired Pesach stash, set it aside and you are already one step closer to making Pesach. Make a list of everything you are putting away so that when the time to shop in earnest arrives you will know which items you already own.

Take the time to check out the OU’s Pesach guide (discuss now what your family uses) when it comes out, available both from the OU, in many local kosher stores and online at www.ou.org. Aside from the directory listing items that are supervised for Pesach by the Orthodox Union, the grey pages hold a treasure trove of information telling you which items can be used on Pesach without special supervision. Stock up on those items now as well to help minimize expenses as you get closer to Pesach. No matter when you do your shopping, now or closer to Pesach, take the time to double check every item you put in your cart and make sure it is Pesachdik. You never know when someone will have put an item down in the Pesach area by mistake and trust me when I tell you it is really very disturbing to notice on Pesach that you are holding food that doesn’t say Kosher L’Pesach on it.

Aside from all the cleaning and buying involved for the holiday that is ironically named “z’man chayrusaynu”, the time of our freedom, a major part of your holiday preparations involves food. Before you start googling Pesach cookbooks and recipes, take the time to go through your regular recipes – you may be surprised how many things you make during the year are one hundred percent chometz free. Time is at a premium, so why start experimenting with unfamiliar recipes when so many of your family’s favorites, including soups, main dishes and salads are already Pesach friendly?

Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation: Women Bettering The World For Other Women

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

According to the Rambam, the highest form of tzeddakah is enabling someone to find a means of becoming self-sufficient. It is clear that the founders of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation (TOWF) had this precept in mind when they founded the first ever Jewish women’s foundation dedicated to funding programs that bring about social change for women and girls.

TOWF was founded in 2004 when two women, Liza Levy and Robin Hettelman Weinberg, realized that there was no Jewish grant-making organization in the Washington DC area dedicated exclusively to bettering the lives of women and girls. With assistance provided by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the United Jewish Endowment Fund and the Vivian Rabineau Endowment fund, the two set about creating a vehicle that would not only support women’s causes, but would give women the opportunity to exercise their philanthropic muscles by having them fund and run the foundation. By providing women with the opportunity to use their leadership skills and financial resources in a charitable venue, it enables them to use both their talents and their assets to transform their communities, addressing the social issues and concerns they think are most relevant and timely.

The Rockville, Maryland based foundation lives up to its name. Tikkun Olam means “bettering the world” and TOWF strives to do exactly that by preventing social issues before they occur, attacking problems at their roots instead of just dealing with their manifestations.

“Our goal is not to provide social services,” said Sara Gorfinkel, Director of Tikkun Olam and its only full time employee. “We focus on social change, so that women don’t get to the point where they require social services. We don’t want to fund programs that deal with victims of domestic abuse. We want to prevent domestic abuse before it ever happens.”

Currently, TOWF has approximately sixty members, known as trustees, ranging in age from twenty-five to eighty plus. Membership requires a monetary gift to the foundation, payable over a five-year period. A five-year membership to Tikkun Olam requires a donation of $15,000. Lifetime memberships are available for $45,000, but with a $100,000 financial commitment, it is upgraded to an inter-generational membership that can be shared with daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters. Women under the age of thirty-five have the option of joining the foundation for three years with a $4,500 associate membership.

“While we do have women who prefer to just make a donation to the foundation, for many of our trustees, becoming part of Tikkun Olam is exactly the opposite of just writing out a check,” explained Gorfinkel. “TOWF gives women the opportunity to be hands on in their philanthropy, reviewing requests from organizations and researching them. It is empowering to see women taking on different leadership roles and responsibilities and getting involved in different committees. Yet every woman, no matter what her financial commitment, comes to the table with the same voice and the same vote, irrespective of how much she is donating.”

Sara Gorfinkel

Tikkun Olam’s grant cycle runs from July to June, with grants awarded during the summer. TOWF’s first grants were distributed in 2006 and the foundation is currently in its seventh grant cycle. The foundation distributed a record $100,000 in 2011 with grants awarded to nine different organizations that strive to bring about social change for women and girls – both locally and in Israel. Among last year’s grant recipients were Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, which received TOWF’s first ever multi-year grant to fund a teen-dating awareness and violence prevention program; Jewish Council for the Aging, to provide training, mentoring and support for women over fifty five who face age and gender discrimination in their job search, and the Israel based Mavoi Satum, to ensure the operation of private rabbinical courts which would protect women’s rights during both marriage and divorce. Other grant recipients included Jews United for Justice, Economic Empowerment for Women, Eretz Acheret and Mahut Center. Two Washington DC based charities, CASA de Maryland and Empowered Women International, which serve local immigrant women, were also awarded grants as TOWF trustees felt that as Jews living in America, we understand all too well the plight of those who have recently come to these shores in search of a better life.

While Tikkun Olam takes great pride in its own work, it is also part of a larger network, the Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund, which is working to put together a joint grant that will distribute funds in Israel.

“We found that many of the Jewish women’s funds were overlapping in grants they were making to organizations in Israel,” said Gorfinkel. “We decided to pool our resources in order to produce more effective donations to those organizations.”

A Candyless Purim?

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

If the phrase mishloach manos conjures up dreaded images of piles of sugar laden treats that no one wants to eat cluttering every available horizontal surface just weeks before Pesach, chances are that this is one part of the happiest of Yomim Tovim that you are not looking forward to. I find it hard to believe that endless stacks of broken foil wrapped wafers, rolls of paste, colored winky candies and cloudy grape juice bottles of dubious vintage have any bearing on the mitzvah of mishloach manos.

It seems to me that many people spend countless hours obsessing over a theme for their mishloach manos, possibly even one that matches the entire family’s carefully coordinated Purim costumes. Chinese themed mishloach manos. An all purple mishloach manos. Beach themed mishloach manos. Over the years I have gotten some pretty creative packages from some very clearly talented people. However, I can’t help but wonder if it might be a good idea to focus less on what goes with “the theme” and more on what people actually want to receive.

Of course, by doing that you open up a veritable Pandora’s box. Do any of us really have time to prepare a customized mishloach manos for every person on our list? I can only imagine what that would entail. Low-fat foods for my parents. Low calorie foods for my cousin in Queens. Exclusively organic food for one neighbor. One hundred percent nut free for another. All chocolate for my sister, with nothing chocolate for her husband. Lots of gum for one friend. No gum at all for my sister-in-law. The list goes on and on and doesn’t even begin to cover teachers, rabbeim and others whose food preferences are completely foreign to you.

So how to come up with mishloach manos that people will be happy to receive?

First and foremost, think outside the box. If you are over the age of ten, is there any reason to associate mishloach manos with candy? Think of foods that people like and more importantly, that present nicely, are easy to prepare and can either be assembled in advance or put together at the last minute with minimal effort.

I know there are those who would disagree with me, but I am a big believer in sending actual food for mishloach manos. Picture your typical Purim. You spend the day either answering the door, delivering mishloach manos or escorting several children to numerous friend’s homes scattered all over your neighborhood. For me, there is nothing I appreciate more than real food showing up on my doorstep, which I can either serve on Purim, Shushan Purim when my kids are home from school, or can be stashed in my freezer for quick thawing in the hectic pre-Pesach days when I have neither time nor patience for cooking. As an added bonus, chances are good that any food you make yourself will be less costly than anything you buy in your local store.

I should warn you that I do know of people who immediately toss out any homemade food the minute it comes into their house. There are no hard and fast rules here and you will never please everyone, so try your best and hope your efforts are well received.

Over the years, we have experimented with numerous cooked foods that people seemed to welcome. (Or maybe they were just being polite when they told me how much they enjoyed them?) Among the things we have tried: bagels, cream cheese and lox, cold cut sandwiches with pickles and even a quart of my husband’s legendary cholent when Purim fell out on Friday. Other ideas were freezer friendly and could be made weeks in advance: cherry cobbler, small kugels and containers of soup, which when paired with an inexpensive mini bottle of schnapps, made for a nice presentation, if I do say so myself. A word of caution: If you are sending perishable food items, make sure the recipient knows that the item requires refrigeration. It is such a waste to find a great looking pastrami sandwich lurking in someone’s mishloach manos at 11:00p.m. and having to throw it out because it has been sitting on your dining room table for the past ten hours.

Of course, there may be people for whom you may feel the need to prepare something special and personal. Your parents. The machatanim. Your married children. But chances are you know their preferences, which means that, hopefully, they will welcome your offering with open arms.

If you find the concept of making everything from scratch daunting, try stocking up on bulk dried fruits and nuts, many of which will likely be on sale at your local kosher fruit store in honor of Tu B’Shvat. Bag them yourself in pretty cellophane bags, tie them up with some decorative ribbon or a small silk flower and they will look as good as they taste.

Money Saving Sites You Just Gotta Love

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

If you are anything like me you may have noticed that slowly but surely the Internet is creeping further and further into your everyday life as you turn towards the web for countless tasks. From looking up phone numbers, to finding recipes and getting directions, my laptop has become an invaluable resource that I utilize throughout the day. Two new sites created by Orthodox Jewish women have caught my eye, both of which address a topic that you must know by now is near and dear to my heart – squeezing a dollar so tight it literally begs for mercy.

CreativeJewishMom.com: I have more than a little respect for a person who can crochet rugs out of old sheets and turn both old t-shirts and shopping bags into yarn. But a visit to creativejewishmom.com will dazzle you with how many fun crafts you can make out of items most people would just toss in the trash.

Sara Rivka Dahan was born in California, educated in New York and currently lives with her husband and five children in northern Israel. With a background in interior and graphic design, advertising and the fashion industry, she certainly has an eye for all things beautiful and creative, and her website is chock full of innovative ideas that breathe new life into humdrum household items.

Creativejewishmom.com began two and a half years ago, after Mrs. Dahan noticed that while there were many crafting blogs online, there were no Jewish blogs featuring the types of crafts she wanted to make. Her background in crafts, design and as a crafts writer made Mrs. Dahan the ideal candidate to take on this job.

“The idea behind my blog is to help busy moms enhance their lives with creativity and bring joy to the Jewish holidays with crafting,” said Mrs. Dahan. “I strongly believe that crafts are very important in childhood development and in helping children develop interests that will carry them through their teenage years and into their lives as adults.”

As an added plus, CreativeJewishMom.com gave Mrs. Dahan the opportunity to do more projects with her own children and she hopes that by teaching her own children to see the value in everyday items they will continually come up with new ideas.

“A person with creative interests will never ever think to say ‘I’m bored’ and that, quite simply is something I’m trying to avoid with my own children,” explained Mrs. Dahan.

With sections dealing with kids crafts, recycling crafts, birthday crafts, home décor, crafts for mom and Jewish crafts, the website contains an astounding number of fantastic projects just begging to be made. A Chanukah menorah made out of empty toilet paper rolls. Placemats crocheted out of “plarn”, yarn made out of plastic shopping bags. Flowers made out of empty water bottles. Bouquets made out of fruit roll up flowers. Bird nests made out of brown paper bags. Flowers made out of paper plates. The list just goes on and on.

While most of the projects on the site are Mrs. Dahan’s original ideas, she is sometimes inspired by a project she has seen either in books or online and is always careful to credit the original source. A weekly feature called “Craft School Sunday” showcases an interesting array of craft projects culled from various crafting blogs. CreativeJewishMom.com also features informative posts on cooking, gardening, parenting, sewing, travel and more. Check this site out and check it often. This is one website you really need to bookmark.

KosherOnABudget.com: If you haven’t spent some time on this amazing website, you probably want to rectify that mistake immediately, if not sooner. Chock full of coupons, deals, freebies, recipes and other money saving ideas, Kosher On A Budget (KOAB) is a terrific resource for Jewish consumers looking for ways to trim their budget.

What began in the summer of 2010 as a personal quest to save money for Overland Park, Kansas resident Mara Strom, has grown into a full time job as the busy mother of three children, ages eight, six and two, created a money saving website catering to Orthodox Jews. Just eighteen months later, KOAB has a daily email list of approximately 1200 and received 80,000 page views last month.

“I had been reading other frugal/coupon blogs for a while and learned how to coupon from them,” said Mrs. Strom. “But as a strict kosher-keeper, I had to figure out how to apply those principles to the kosher food – and lifestyle – that my family holds by. The better I got at saving money, the more friends asked me ‘how do you do that?!’ Rather than referring them to these non-kosher blogs, I finally decided to start my own website.”

Getting Help From Mental Health Guidance Counselors

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

What began 10 years ago as a small group of volunteers providing mental health referrals within the Jewish community has evolved into a full-fledged mental health referral, education and support organization that takes on 6,000 new patients annually in four major cities across the globe.

The Boro Park based Relief Resources is a non-profit organization that was created in 2001 to serve the unique needs of members of the Jewish community seeking mental health care by partnering them with leading mental health professionals who are both culturally sensitive and well suited to the individual patient. Funded by private donations and government grants, Relief Resources not only offers free referral services to those in search of mental health care but also raises awareness about mental health issues by publishing and distributing informational brochures, conducting seminars for school principals, teachers and clergy members and also maintaining a special eating disorder hotline staffed by trained specialists. There is no question that the demand for mental health care has increased dramatically over the years.

“In its first year, the organization got about two hundred phone calls from people seeking help,” said Relief Resources director Benjamin Babad. “Today we get 200 new calls every 12 days. There used to be a lot of stigma and denial when it came to mental health issues but the environment has changed a lot over the years. We are seeing a tremendous number of calls from community rabbis, principals and teachers who are more aware of issues and realize that some problems can’t be dealt with internally and there are those who just need professional help.”

Relief Resources has dealt with over 40,000 patients in the last 10 years and some of the disorders they address include depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. Their staff of trained referral specialists in Boro Park, Lakewood, Toronto and Jerusalem refers callers to a network of carefully screened clinicians worldwide and well over a thousand follow up calls are made monthly to ensure that treatment is progressing well and that the patient-clinician match is a good one.

“It is not as critical to like a physician when it comes to general medicine, but if you don’t click with your therapist then nothing is going to happen,” explained Babad. Some patients are easily treated and can have their issue resolved in a matter of months; others require long-term therapy, and, according to Babad, Relief Resources is there for the long haul, sometimes following patients along for years.

While the difficult economic climate has made it more difficult for the organization to obtain funding, Relief Resources is continuing to look ahead and hopes to open up additional offices in London and Chicago so that they can persevere in their mission of providing mental health services to as many people as possible.

“We are not clinicians,” said Babad. “We are here to make the referrals and walk people through the process. Relief Resources screens our clinicians carefully. We interview them, check them out and track them, to make sure our patients our happy. We have approximately 100,000 patient reports that we analyze so that we can best understand which clinician is good for each type of person. If for any reason a patient isn’t satisfied we will help them out in any way that we can. Relief Resources follows through with our patients to make sure that they get the help they need so that they can go on to live full and happy lives.”

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full-scale productions. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/health/getting-help-from-mental-health-guidance-counselors/2012/01/04/

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