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Andres Silverstone is Shalom Bayit Coordinator for Jewish Family Service Calgary

Jewish Family Service Calgary to lead landmark study on domestic violence in Prairie Provinces- JCFS in Winnipeg is Participating in the Research

February 5, 2016

[Editor's note: Jewish Family and Children’s Service Winnipeg is participating in the research study outlined below.  The community lead is Al Benarroch, Executive Direcotr of  JCFS in Winnpipeg and the Academic Lead is Jane Ursel at the University of Manitoba.  ]


One of the largest studies on domestic violence in Jewish communities is taking place later this month in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

It is spearheaded in Calgary through a partnership between Jewish Family Service Calgary and the University of Calgary.


The ambitious project was initiated by Andrea Silverstone, the Shalom Bayit coordinator for Jewish Family Service Calgary and is funded by a generous grant from the Prairie Action Foundation, a private charitable trust.



“It’s the largest grant they have ever given for a study such as this,” said Andrea Silverstone.


“They are really behind this research very much.”


She said various Jewish institutions in Calgary are also widely supportive, such as Calgary Jewish Federation, Calgary Jewish Academy, synagogues, and volunteer organizations such as CHW and Na’amat.


One of the unique aspects of this landmark study is that it is being conducted in partnership with university academics. The academic lead in Alberta is Nicole Letourneau, who is a professor on the faculty of Nursing and Cumming School of Medicine (Pediatrics & Psychiatry.)


One of the reasons this comprehensive study is important, says Andres Silverstone, is to lay a groundwork of solid information. Institutions such as Jewish Family Service Calgary deal with domestic violence issues all the time. But nobody has a handle on the true extent of the problem, and following on that, what are the necessary responses that communities should take.



The largest study up to now on domestic violence in Jewish communities is the findings of the National and Chicago Needs Assessment. This 2002 project, dubbed the Chicagoland study is the template on which most Jewish social agencies base their programs.


The grant proposal explains, “In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, little is known beyond anecdote about the rates, seriousness, and response to domestic violence in Jewish families. In each province, the populations of the Jewish communities are on the rise, and service agencies are trying to develop and provide services to match community needs.



“Jewish community norms have generally denied or minimized the occurrence of domestic violence, leading to a paucity of resources for abused individuals.”


Gathering more hard information will allow growing communities to develop and provide optimal services and supports for families affected by domestic violence. It will also help communities invest more wisely in resources dedicated to abuse victims.


Another value in the Prairie province’s study is that it will focus on the smaller Jewish communities, which are prevalent here compared to larger centres such as Toronto and Montreal. Smaller communities are often less able to create specific Jewish responses to domestic violence, such as domestic violence shelters specifically for Jewish women and children. This new study will ask questions specific to women from smaller Jewish communities.


“This will allow Jewish communities in Prairie Provinces to further the process of funding solutions to violence/abuse by creating programming and policies specific to the needs of Jewish women from small Jewish communities,” states the preamble.


To be as representative as possible, the questionnaire will be translated into Hebrew and Russian for those who report these as their first languages.


Andrea Silverstone has worked in the area of domestic violence and social justice for nearly all of her young life and she is enthused by the possibilities of this new study.



“In some respects we are recreating the methods of the famous Chicagoland study but we are putting it in the context of smaller Jewish communities that are prevalent in the Canadian West.


“But the study itself is just an entry point to the real issue of service delivery,” she says.


She says Jewish women are not completely silent about domestic violence. But they do tend to shy away from professional help.  Instead they tend to reveal these things to friends and family.


“This has implications for how we reach out to victims of Jewish domestic violence.


“At the end of the day it’s about using the information we obtain to go back to our community leadership and say, ‘where is the best place to put our resources?’ How can we as communities be more attentive and effective helping people with domestic violence issues.”



But the first goal is to encourage participation by having people complete the survey questionnaire. Notices will soon go out to families and individuals through various community institutions like the Calgary JCC, day schools synagogues and volunteer organizations. 

The survey will take about 15-30 minutes to complete and researchers are hoping to get at least 500 respondents from the three Prairie Provinces.



The survey can be found at



The survey is smart phone and tablet compatible.



For questions about the survey please contact project coordinator Nela Cosic at the U of C by email at [email protected] or 403-441-4552. You can also contact Andréa Silverstone, Shalom Bayit Coordinator at [email protected] or 403-616-7673.




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