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Stopping the Violence

A new survey helps agencies in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv combat domestic abuse in both cities


by Michael Aushenker

March 23, 2000 | 7:00 pm

It's no secret that Israelis experience many of the same social ills that Americans do. However, there has never been an official study to identify the breadth and nature of domestic abuse in the Jewish State... until now.

A survey -- the first of its kind in Israel -- was recently conducted by the Los Angeles/Tel Aviv Partnership -- a coalition formed by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles -- to help social workers and government welfare bureaus understand the country's domestic violence and sexual abuse problems, and to prescribe solutions. The domestic violence covered in the findings includes all manner of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Supervised by Dr. Yosefa Steiner and Dr. Minah Zemach, the study is comprised of statistics culled from interviews with anonymous women reached at home during the day. In all, 1,019 households were polled, serving as a representive sample of the total population of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa vicinity. In addition, 101 ultra-Orthodox residences and 100 Arab homes were studied. The research also included information on services available to address social disorders, the degree of coordination between them, and their accessibility to those who require them.

Until the Partnership launched this study, an official survey of Israeli home violence had not been attempted. The initiative for conducting such research was not a question of money, but of timing. Awareness of these issues rose to the surface in recent years, after a dramatic rise in reported child abuse and incest cases from 1990-1993, and some high profile spousal abuse cases that even included murder.

This domestic violence project was a by-product of the Partnership, in conjunction with the Department of Social Welfare and Health of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Israel (JDC-Israel), and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (the Partnership's parent organization). A budget for the survey totaled $46,000, with $25,000 of that total budget coming from the Jewish Community Foundation; $15,000 from JDC-Israel; and another $6,000 from the municipality of Tel Aviv.

Says the Partnership's local chair Herb Glaser, "It's apparent that the Jewish people have problems in this arena irrespective of geography or economic class or the religious vs. secular component. And we have a mutual problem in both communities, which we didn't expect to find."

Both communities are on the minds of the people behind the domestic violence study. Last March, a Partnership symposium invited Israeli field workers to visit agencies within the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles systems. They learned about multicultural populations, family violence court, Jewish shelters, and the county's Domestic Violence Council -- a consortium of community, law enforcement, and social services personnel.

A subsequent gathering last June sent a team of experts to Tel Aviv: a USC School of Social Work professor; representatives from Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Services; Jewish Family Service (JFS) employees; and Fredi Rembaum, director of Israel and overseas relations for the Jewish Federation.

Vivian Sauer, director of Adult and Children Services for the Federation-run JFS, commends the work-in-progress nature of the enterprise: "Personally, I thought it was [an] extremely productive way to bring two communities together and come up with some concrete proposals to work on these areas, based on the needs of these communities."

Adds Nissan Pardo, Ph.D., who chairs the Partnership's Los Angeles Health and Human Services Committe, "From the early 20th century, the spirit in Israel is that we're responsible for each other and that carries over... up till today. There's more of a common spirit. The way they handle batterers and individuals is very different than what is done here. That is from what we can learn."

Rembaum also evokes this Israeli theme of collective responsibility: "In Israel, providing [for] the people's needs is the business of the government and if services aren't met, they must find a way to provide them."

In fact, Tel Aviv actually has a program that extricates the male batterer from the household and commits him to counselling services.

"We don't have that here [in the U.S.]," says Rembaum. "We have jails."

Rembaum looks forward to the next step in the Partnership's strategy: "Right now, we are preparing a proposal for funding to implement workplace training in Tel Aviv. Los Angeles representatives will start working with them in the next few months."

The training will teach employers and supervisors how to identify and treat victims of abuse.

From Israel, Ellen Goldberg, director of Planning and Evaluation for JDC-Israel, communicated to The Journal her pleasure in being involved in this ambitious welfare undertaking. Goldberg reports that USC professionals have been assisting the project on every step of the survey.

Says the administrator, "This has enabled [Los Angeles and Tel Aviv agencies] to understand different perspectives to problems and their solutions."

As an example of the cross-cultural influence taking place, she cites the establishment of a Tel Aviv counterpart to Los Angeles' Domestic Violence Council.

"We are bringing fresh approaches to solving problems in each other's domain," says Goldberg. "[Ultimately, it will help] create better solutions and services for our respective populations and needs."


Researchers' findings include:

* Incidents of domestic violence have taken place in 12.5 percent of all households in Tel Aviv. That's a high figure, relative to findings in other nations.

* Women were the targets of violence in 7.0 percent of households, while minors were the victims in 17.7 percent. Also high, as are the findings below.

* In two-thirds of the families polled, both women and children have been abused.

* Physical abuse occurred in 10.7 percent homes, while sexual abuse occurred in 2.8 percent of the families sampled.

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