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Dr. Ilana Kwartin
photo by Rina Kwartin

Dr. Ilana Kwartin to speak on 'A Pandemic of Abuse: Women’s Rights in Israel & the COVID-19 World ' at an online event put on by Women's Philanthropy on October 28

by Rhonda Spivak, October 18 2020


Dr. Ilana Kwartin, a passionate champion of women's rights, who is the Regional Director, Western United States, for the Jewish Agency for Israel, will be the guest speaker at an online event put on by Women's Philanthropy-Jewish Federation of Winnipeg at 7 p.m. on October 28 on the topic of "A Pandemic of Abuse: Women’s Rights in Israel & the COVID-19 World."


Dr. Ilana Kwartin was born in the Former Soviet Union and made Aliyah in 1987. She grew up in Jerusalem and served as a commander and officer in an IDF field intelligence unit, including service deep in the Gaza Strip. Following her service, Ilana earned degrees in Law and Psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an advanced degree in Conflict Resolution from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and a PhD in Gender Studies from Bar-Ilan University.


Kwartin's professional career began in corporate law, but in 2009, she became an activist chiefly focused on women's rights. In addition to running her own legal practice specializing in women’s rights in the workplace and family, she also taught Zumba to at-risk women and young girls as a means to self-empowerment.


In her lecture, Dr. Kwartin will speak about "Extreme Controlling Practices" (a phenomenon that is defined below).


Kwartin told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that in her law practice she "dealt with women's rights issues, mainly divorce or domestic abuse." She encountered women "who told…factual stories of suffering, which are not covered by any law." Kwartin explains that the legal system, for example, deals with physical abuse, where "there is evidence such as bruising," and "it is usually a singular event." However, Kwartin encountered women who told her that they were being humiliated, belittled, and degraded by their husbands over a period of time, such that the husband did not allow the woman to see her friends, or not let her choose her occupation. "We're talking about a pattern of a woman being controlled by their partner," she says. She notes that there is nothing in the Israeli law that covers this situation. "I could have said to these women that the law doesn't deal with this so I will send you to a social worker or a therapist, but I am an activist so I decided I had to name this phenomenon." Kwartin named it "Extreme Controlling Practices towards women in the family." 


Kwartin defines "Extreme Controlling Practices towards women in the family" as "a gender-related phenomenon constituting a harmful marital relationship that does not include physical violence. The husband curses, humiliates and degrades his wife. Those women describe an account that included blaming, daily belittling, confinement, various restrictions and prohibitions, and imposing sexual demands. Some are forbidden to drive the car, denied information regarding the family’s financial situation, forced to report daily activities, and prohibited to work outside the house."


Looking for a way to help this unsettling situation, and after extensive researching, Kwartin wrote a law to protect women at risk from Extreme Controlling Practices and submitted it to the Israeli Knesset. It takes years to promote a law, and Dr. Kwartin is working very hard toward its passage.


When asked how an outsider can identify a women who is being subjected to extreme controlling practices, Kwartin answered, "If your friend is being distant, is short when they are on the phone with you, refuses to get together, or is being evasive, then it's worth having a real conversation. The more you nag, the more there is a chance of them opening up." Kwartin says that women who are suffering from this kind of abuse have told her that they want their friends "not to give up on them."


Kwartin says she gives about 15-20 lectures a year on the subject of Extreme Controlling Practices towards Women in the Family and "at least 20% of women thank me for talking about it and tell me their story." Kwartin stresses, however, that when she suggests that 20% of women have suffered from Extreme Controlling Practices, "this is an academic guess, not a research-based number." She emphasizes that "I interviewed women for my research and my research was qualitative." 


In her webinar, Kwartin will speak about Extreme Controlling Practices and how women are affected in Israel and in North America as well as what has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She will provide insights about what you can do to help and how to identify harmful practices and the role of Jewish communities in battling this terrible crisis. Register in advance to receive the Zoom link and join in the webinar on Wednesday, October 28 at 7:00 pm.


In her current role as Regional Director for the Jewish Agency for Israel, Kwartin oversees the Jewish Agency's for Israel operations in the western US including Shlichim (emissaries), Aliyah (immigration), Partnerships and strategy. Before moving to Los Angeles with her family, Kwartin was the Head of Resource Development at Eretz-Ir, an organization that develops urban communities in Israel's periphery via entrepreneurship and employment centers. She also lectures on the convergence of Law and Gender and on Social Entrepreneurship. Ilana is married to BG, a tour guide and educator, and mother of four children: Tamara, Yoav, Ivri and Arava.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.