Women fighting for women

Women fighting for women

National Council of Jewish Women to hear from Israeli feminist activists

Liron Peleg-Hadomi (Courtesy NCJW)
Liron Peleg-Hadomi (Courtesy NCJW)

The last year has not been kind to Israeli women, Liron Peleg-Hadomi says. Ms. Peleg-Hadomi is the Israel representative of the National Council of Jewish Women, whose Bergen County chapter is having her moderate a panel next week featuring three leaders of Israeli women’s organizations. (See box.)

“When you look at the situation with covid, women are the ones suffering because of lack of employment,” Ms. Peleg-Hadomi said. “When schools are closed, women are the ones who stay at home with the kids, so they are more likely to lose their jobs.

“It’s become a very difficult time here in terms of violence against women. Last year, between May and July, the police filed 4,700 reports on family violence. Between March and October, 15 Israeli women were murdered by their spouse or family member.”

That violence happens across Israel’s communities — among the religious and the secular, the Jewish and the Arab, across the different socioeconomic levels.

“It’s become a plague, the murder of women,” Ms. Peleg-Hadomi said. “Just a month ago there was terrible murder of a woman by her husband, a police officer.

“The question is, what does it take to change that?”

Ms. Peleg-Hadomi said that violence against women is linked to the lack of gender equality. There is also a need for more awareness of the warning signs of violence.

“How do you see it coming before it happens?”

Some clues:

“When there is jealousy, when he doesn’t let you see other people. How he treats you in the family and in other places.

“Sometimes when murder happens you say there was no evidence — they were such a wonderful couple — but when you look more carefully you will see there were warning signs.

“So how do you leave a relationship which is dangerous for you? One thing is that when women see that you need to end a relationship, they should not do it alone. This is when a murder sometimes happens. That’s a dangerous stage to be.

“They should not do the process of leaving and telling by oneself. They need the support of social workers, family members, friends, neighbors, someone.

“There’s a need for organizations to collaborate better on that topic, for more resources for the organizations that work on that topic, and for a cultural sensitivity to know what is needed. What is needed to help women in the Arab community, in the religious community, and so on,” she said.

“That’s what we do — we work with all the communities in Israel and bring them together.”

Liron Peleg-Hadomi has been running the National Council of Jewish Women’s office in Israel for three and a half years. A social worker by profession, she started her activism as a student with Ossim Shalom (Social Workers for Peace). For much of her career, she has run social change projects funded by American Jewish organizations.

Two years ago, she set up a NCJW-funded a fellowship program — “Connecting for Impact” — with Tel Aviv University to strengthen feminist organizations in Israel.

“We saw that Israel has a very strong civil society, with around a hundred organizations who work on women’s issues, in different communities and different populations,” Ms. Peleg-Hadomi said. “There are achievements in the field of gender equality; however, there is much to achieve, because of the fact that Israel is a country where there is no separation between religion and state.

“There is a need to bring the different groups together to work on common needs,” she said.

The fellowship lets the women share their challenges and gain new skills. For a year and a half, the cohort meets for a full day every month. The first cohort traveled to Washington D.C. for a week; the second cohort, ground by covid, won’t be able to come to make the trip to D.C.

That second cohort is “a diverse group of 19 women from all over the country, mostly CEOs of the major organizations who work on violence against women,” Ms. Peleg-Hadomi said. “They come together to share, to get best practices, and to become a network and community that helps each other and creates an impact by collaboration and partnerships.”

Two of those women will be speaking at the Zoom panel on Tuesday afternoon. They are Debbie Gross, the founder and director of Tahel: Crisis Center for Religious Women and Children, and Samah Salaime, the founder and director of AWC: Arab Women in the Center, which seeks to promote the status of women in the cities of Ramla, Lod, and Jaffa, and to combat gender-based violence against women, particularly in Israel’s Arab communities.

A third speaker, Dana Meitav, is the executive director of the Israel Women’s Network. She is not a member of the fellowship, but NCJW has given direct grants to her organization.

What: Panel addressing the challenges of women’s empowerment in Israel presented by the Bergen County section of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Israel Affairs Committee

Who: Three leaders of Israeli women’s groups that are assisted by the National Council of Jewish Women, moderated by NCJW Israel representative Liron Peleg-Hadom

When: Tuesday, March 16, 12:30 p.m.

Where: On Zoom, details at www.ncjwbcs.org

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