Our Story & Mission

Our Name
Once a noble Jewish ethic of peace in the home, the term sh’lom bayit has come to imply that Jewish families do not experience violence. When this myth is shattered, our community has blamed women for their failure to maintain the image of a “perfect Jewish family.” We hope that our name will spread a new message—not of keeping the family together at all costs, but of the right to true peace, safety, and sanctuary in one’s own home. This is the true meaning of sh’lom bayit, and the essence of building safe and healthy families.

Mission and Goals
Shalom Bayit’s mission is to foster the social change and community response necessary to eradicate domestic violence in the Jewish community.

  • We strive to create effective, culturally-based strategies to improve Jewish community accountability and response to domestic violence.
  • We strengthen the future of our community by teaching our youth, adults, and community leaders to respond when violence occurs.
  • Our goals are to support and advocate on behalf of Jewish battered women and their children; to educate the Jewish community and its leadership about domestic violence; to empower Jewish youth with the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy relationship choices; to organize effective abuse prevention and intervention strategies; and to improve Jewish women’s access to domestic violence services.

Our Story
Shalom Bayit was created in March, 1992 as a task force of the Northern California Coalition for Battered Women and their Children. In May 2000 we transitioned from a volunteer-based task force to a funded agency. We are Northern California’s first and only Jewish agency dedicated solely to ending domestic violence in the Jewish community.

Shalom Bayit Herstory: the whole Megillah
Shalom Bayit began as a consensus-based grassroots collective that formed in 1992 to fill a critical gap in Bay Area domestic violence services:  culturally relevant support for Jewish battered women, and prevention/education efforts targeting the Jewish community. The inspiration for our formation came from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

At the time of our inception, one of our founding members was appointed to the Board of Directors of NCADV to represent their Jewish Women’s Caucus. In order to effectively represent Jewish battered women on a national level, she called a local meeting to solicit input for the national agenda. At that meeting, participants decided that the greatest need for the national agenda was the lack of local organizing itself.  And so Shalom Bayit was born: a task force specifically addressing domestic violence in the Bay Area Jewish community, while remaining connected to a broader national agenda.

Following the organizing strategy of the NCADV and the battered women’s movement, Shalom Bayit formed as a task force of our regional State Coalition, the Northern California Coalition for Battered Women and their Children. The state structure helps local and regional networks to organize effectively.  Each of the 50 states maintains statewide coalitions organizing against domestic violence. Each of those coalitions is encouraged to maintain, for purposes of diversity, the same task force structure as NCADV.  One of those is a Jewish Women’s Task Force. NCADV then serves as an umbrella organization grouping together all the statewide coalitions, which is an effective national organizing tool.

In keeping with that structure, we were first known as “Shalom Bayit:  the Jewish women’s task force of the Northern California Coalition for Battered Women and their Children.”  Several years later, when the northern, central, and southern state coalitions merged to form the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence (now California Partnership to End Domestic Violence), they became our fiscal sponsor.  In 1997, due to the increase in demand for our services and the need for localized fiscal management, we applied to the Tides Center to be our new fiscal sponsor. We remain members of the state coalition (CPEDV) and to NCADV. Shalom Bayit still serves as a national hub for organizing efforts around domestic violence in the Jewish community.

Early Efforts: 1990s
The women who started Shalom Bayit spent much of their time knocking on doors. They knocked on many, many doors to no avail:  the doors of synagogues, of friends, of Jewish agencies. They begged to borrow a room, hold a meeting, put up a sign. But those doors remained closed. The phone calls became predictable as volunteers anticipated the response on the other end: “What? Domestic violence? Sorry, we can’t help you. That’s not a problem here.”

Initial community education efforts focused on educating battered women’s programs about outreach, cultural issues for Jewish women seeking services, and combating anti-Semitism in service agencies. In October 1992, Shalom Bayit held its first public event to raise awareness about abuse in the Jewish community. Twelve women attended this event, held at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. It marked the first in what was to become an annual tradition:  by the following year the event was repeated throughout the Bay Area’s multiple regions during the month of October, launching our “May Our Homes Be a Shelter of Peace” series in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (every October) and the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. That program has run successfully now for twenty years.

By early 1993 we were busy responding to many requests for speaking engagements. We had also established our semi-annual outreach program to shelters, via holiday baskets for Chanukah and Passover, and began planning events for battered women. Our primary contact with battered women was through those public events until a donation of a voicemail phone line in the Fall of that year allowed women to finally have access to Shalom Bayit volunteer counselors. The donation also enabled us to print our first brochure, in early 1994. Also in 1994 we started a “men’s auxiliary” of Jewish men working against abuse (G’varim). Local Jewish groups such as Jewish Women International (then called B’nai B’rith Women), Women’s American ORT, and many temple groups were instrumental in helping Shalom Bayit gain community recognition and produce our many events.

In 1994 we held our first strategic planning retreat, conducted our first rabbis training and our first teen program, began tracking client calls on our phone line, increased our speakers’ bureau activities, and sponsored our first adopt-a-family program and chanukah party.

In 1995 Shalom Bayit was invited to give the Bay Area’s first sermon on domestic violence at Foster City’s Peninsula Sinai Congregation. That year we also initiated our Purple Ribbon Campaign, began designing spiritual healing groups as an additional service to Jewish battered women, held our first Volunteer Open House to recruit new members, and received enough donations to rent our own P.O. box.

In 1996 the first fundraiser was held in our honor, a “Strong Jewish Women” performance which raised a small amount of money for the organization. That same year we expanded our technical assistance program, offering domestic-violence-related consulting to Jewish agencies and synagogues.

From 1996 to 1997, Jewish groups that joined in to support our efforts included Northern California Hillel, Jewish Community Relations Council, and our local chapter of National Council of Jewish Women.  In 1997 we printed our first newsletter, conducted a major media outreach campaign, and were approved for new fiscal sponsorship by the Tides Center.

In 1998 we finally realized our dream of offering a support group for battered Jewish women, which we held in conjunction with a local battered women’s program (La Casa de las Madres).

Once the eight-week pilot project support group was finished, Shalom Bayit set about finding a way to continue this valuable service on an ongoing basis.  With only a handful of volunteers we were not able to offer a weekly support group, but in 1999 we began holding monthly groups.  Those groups incorporate the open discussion and peer counseling of a support group together with elements of Jewish ritual. Each month the group focuses on a theme based on the Jewish calendar.

During these early years, community response to our efforts began to shift from total disbelief (“Domestic Violence simply does not happen in the Jewish community”) to overwhelming support and understanding of how our services were vital to so many people. Demand for our services was on the rise. Therefore in 1999, Shalom Bayit made the critical decision to pursue funding in our future.

Shalom Bayit had functioned as an all-volunteer organization for eight years until the year 2000, when we sought and received funding to transition to a professionally-staffed agency.

Second Decade
2001 — In 2001 the Walter & Elise Haas Fund and Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund provided seed money for Shalom Bayit to hire paid staff (our Executive Director and first counseling staff) and open our first public office.

2002 — Love Shouldn’t Hurt teen program was born, created by youth interns. In the counseling program, we launched the bi-monthly support group in the East Bay that is still running today. Shalom Bayit celebrated its tenth anniversary with our first gala fundraising dinner at Sur La Table on Maiden Lane in San Francisco.

2003 — Formed 20-member Rabbinic Advisory Council to support Shalom Bayit’s work to end domestic violence. The council doubled to 40 members by 2007, and doubled again to 80 members by 2012. Helped plan and produce the first International Conference on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community, in collaboration with Jewish Women International.

2004 — In collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, Shalom Bayit helped author the first statewide domestic violence training curriculum for clergy, which would later become the framework for Faith in Violence-Free Families, an interfaith project that has trained hundreds of clergy throughout California so they can effectively respond to (and prevent) domestic violence in their congregations

2005 — With support from The Hadassah Foundation, transitioned all-volunteer Love Shouldn’t Hurt teen education to a professionally staffed youth program, providing middle school through college age students with healthy relationships education. Added part-time Youth Program Coordinator to our staff team.

2007 — Published national dating violence prevention curriculum, which was distributed to Jewish communities around the country. Became a beneficiary of the SF-based Jewish Community Federation. Opened second office on the Peninsula, serving San Mateo and Santa Clara counties with more localized service.

2008 — Created Community Education program and added part-time Community Educator position to our staff team.

2009 — This year our crisis line calls increased by 65%, as Shalom Bayit responded to over 700 calls to our (866) SHALOM-7 toll free helpline throughout the year. In our youth program, Shalom Bayit also brought Love Shouldn’t Hurt to four Hillel campuses across the country and published a Dating Violence Prevention Toolkit for distribution to Hillels on college campuses. In October domestic violence was a feature topic as Shalom Bayit appeared for the first time on the cover of the J. Weekly. We celebrated our Executive Director’s 25 years in the field of domestic violence prevention advocacy at our annual Creating Hope luncheon.

2010 — Shalom Bayit’s Chai anniversary! We celebrated throughout the year, with a concert by Debbie Friedman z’l in March and the Creating Hope luncheon and silent auction in October, celebrating 18 years of saving lives. Also in 2010 Shalom Bayit served 30% more clients than in previous year, continuing to experience increased requests for assistance.

2011 — Collaborated with the national Hillel organization to train its campus professionals on how to recognize dating violence, and how to support college students to form healthy dating relationships. In the Bay Area, over 1,000 youth and their grownups took part in our healthy relationships workshops; 96 clients received domestic violence counseling and support; and 805 people took part in our adult community education programs to develop a Jewish communal response to abuse.  In November 2011, Shalom Bayit spoke at Vice President Biden’s Regional Town Hall Meeting in Oakland, CA on Engaging Men & Boys in Preventing Violence Against Women, with proceedings reported to the office of the Vice President.

Now in its 29th year, Shalom Bayit is known nationally for its cutting-edge models of culturally-specific domestic violence prevention and response. Many of these model programs are now used in Jewish communities throughout the country. Shalom Bayit’s unique cultural approaches to violence prevention create profound change in community and individual responses to domestic violence.

Our position is both crucial and unique.  We serve as a bridge between the Jewish and domestic violence worlds, filling a necessary gap in community organizing and service provision. By working with but remaining independent from both the established Jewish community and domestic violence services, we create a place where battered Jewish women can seek support safely, confidentially, and comprehensively. Many women come to us specifically because we bring Jewish understanding and approaches to healing from abuse. We focus on community-wide strategies to reduce and prevent violence in the home. Our programs combine transformative community education and training with crisis intervention services, to create a comprehensive prevention and intervention response to domestic violence. As we pursue our work to change the Jewish community’s understanding of domestic violence, we work to build its capacity to respond to actual situations of abuse.

Our small, dedicated team of an Executive Director, three full-time, and six part-time staff now provide programs and services to over 2,000 individuals throughout the Bay Area each year. We are a thriving organization with a vital purpose: to improve the health and vitality of the Jewish community by ensuring everyone’s right to healthy, violence-free relationships. We believe that social justice begins at home. Together with all of you, we can fulfill our vision of a more peaceful and just society where everyone is SAFE AT HOME.