Jerusalem – Bat Melech Marks 10 Years Since Founding of First Shelter for Battered Charedi Women

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    Jerusalem – In the religious and charedi sectors emotional violence is more prominent than physical violence, says Noah Korman, founder of Bat Melech, an organization that helps battered women in Israel’s charedi sector. Husbands from these sectors often commit abusive behavior through deprecating words, which can be no less degrading than upraised arms.

    “Most of the stories of this sort from the religious sector take place around the Shabbos table, which gets transformed into an arena for denigration,” explains Korman. “A husband who skips over his wife in handing out the Kiddush wine, who belittles her as he says divrei Torah, and there was even a case where a husband would wake up the whole family at 1:00 am and make them sit around the Shabbos table.”

    Korman started Bat Melech ten years ago shortly after encountering three cases of violence in charedi families. Today charedi women of every description arrive at the shelter he set up, generally bringing their children as well.

    Korman says he has had to deal with a range of complex problems. “There’s this idea that the charedi woman is not allowed to talk about it, but that’s not true at all, which I think is to our credit. When a woman has a place to turn to, it reduces the violence.”

    “A battered woman with five kids and whose husband does not pay her support can’t go out to work because all the money she earns will go toward daycare. On the other hand, her children study in Chinuch Atzmai schools and she has to pay for tuition and buses,” says Noah Korman.

    “As a rabbinical legal advisor I represented women and men in divorce proceedings, and one day a young woman from a Chassidic family came to me,” recalled Korman during a recent interview with Hebrew website Ynet. “When I asked her for her address she said she had none because she had run away from home a week and a half beforehand because of her husband’s violence. She had tried going to her parents, but they had 12 children and her mother said, ‘You got married? So go to your husband.’ She found herself out in the streets, and when I asked her why she didn’t go to a battered women’s shelter, she said she couldn’t because they were not suitable for her needs.”

    Korman said he had been wholly unaware of the extent of the problem. “I studied and grew up in the charedi world and I had never heard of family violence. Though it’s a patriarchal way of life, it’s based on mutual respect,” he says.

    Within a month after starting Bat Melech in a rented apartment it was filled to capacity. Today Bat Melech operates two shelters, one in Jerusalem and one in the Central Region, taking in 50 women per year. The organization also runs a halfway house, a legal aid department and has dozens of volunteers who act as surrogate sisters.

    “There are amazing kehillos that can assist these women and their children, but no matter where they go they have a lot of hurdles to overcome,” says Korman. Charedi victims “have no alternative other than to return to the charedi community. They don’t go off the derech – in fact their emunoh gives them strength.”

    To contact the Bat Melech emergency hotline or make a donation, in Israel dial 1-800-292-333.


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