Grantee Profile: Shalom Bayit

Ending Domestic Violence in Jewish Homes

“This is not a Jewish problem.”

That was one of the most common responses offered when, in the early ’90s, Naomi Tucker and a handful of other volunteers approached rabbis, lay leaders, and social service organizations in order to heighten awareness of violence against women and children in the Bay Area Jewish community.  However, it was and is a problem in our community, and precisely why Shalom Bayit came into existence.

Meaning and Mission

Shalom Bayit as a Jewish ethic has its roots in the Talmud. Roughly translated as “peace in the home,” it conveys the paramount importance of spouses mutually dedicating themselves to ensuring an environment of “peace, safety, sanctuary” and chesed (loving kindness) in our homes and, by extension, in our families.

But, sadly, according to co-founder and executive director, Naomi Tucker, in certain segments of our Jewish community, if a problem existed, the responsibility to bring “peace” back to the home fell on the shoulders of the abused. “So when a woman went to her rabbi and said that her husband was beating her or treating her badly,” says Naolmi, “she was told to go home, cook him a nice meal, wash his feet and make shalom bayit.” Moreover, any outside indication of a less-than-perfect home life was considered a shanda (shameful embarrassment) to be kept secret from friends and neighbors.

Consequently, in its twenty-second year of operation, Shalom Bayit’s mission is to help our community rediscover the meaning of the term and to serve as a “hub for everything related to prevention and intervention.” Toward that end, they have three main programs dedicated to eradicating domestic violence in the Jewish world: women’s counseling, youth prevention, and community transformation.

Women's Counseling

Shalom Bayit’s women’s counseling program sees about 100 women a year and provides them with free, confidential, individual counseling in person, as well as over the phone. Additionally, they provide emergency financial assistance, religious and secular support groups, advocacy, and guidance for abused women to attain health and safety in their lives.

Youth Prevention

One of Shalom Bayit’s greatest success stories is their young person’s education arm, Love Shouldn’t Hurt. “What we do is offer healthy relationship education starting in middle school…. We go into day schools and synagogues, Jewish youth groups and anywhere Jewish youths gather from middle school through college and we do dating violence prevention… everything from learning about consent to identifying what’s healthy or unhealthy or abusive and having kids think about their peer interactions as a training ground for their future relationships.” Love Shouldn’t Hurt has been so successful that it has spread across the entire country, pairing with national Hillel to teach its curricula in colleges and other Jewish communities from California to Florida. Since Love Shouldn’t Hurt was introduced in 2002, 10,000 Jewish youth have participated in their healthy relationships workshops.

Additionally, Shalom Bayit has a companion program for parents and Jewish educators to assist them in identifying early warning signs of abuse and how to use Jewish values as a learning tool for teaching children about healthy relationship skills.

Community Transformation

Considering its less than enthusiastically received rollout just over two decades ago, it is astounding how impactful the work of Shalom Bayit has been in the Bay Area Jewish community. From “this is not a Jewish problem” dismissals in 1992 to a present day rabbinic advisory board of over 80 Bay Area rabbis and a deeply felt presence throughout northern California, it is not an exaggeration to purport that Shalom Bayit has become an indispensable center for domestic violence prevention within the Jewish community and beyond.

“On a community-wide level, we’re looking to do more than help patch people up and send them back out into the street,” explains Naomi. “We’re trying to identify and help people understand the behaviors, values, and the ideas that allowed domestic violence to happen in the first place. And then work to shift those behaviors and beliefs so that we become a community that doesn’t tolerate domestic violence.”

 “The Federation has played a huge role in helping us move from the margins to the center of the Jewish community. Since we became a beneficiary in 2008, we’ve become a part of the conversation. And now what was arguably a marginalized issue became a cause with an organization behind it.” ~ Naomi Tucker

Despite Naomi’s fact-based assertion that Shalom Bayit continues to be needed across the Jewish community, she remains hopeful, as evidenced by her remarks following her receiving the Federation’s Distinguished Service Award: “When we treat each other with kavod, with dignity and with honor, we won’t need to be working to end domestic violence.”

If you are being hurt by someone you love or know someone in an unhealthy relationship, please know that you are not alone and call (866) SHALOM-7 for free, confidential support.

Pro Bono Consulting and Shalom Bayit

Besides financial resources, the Federation’s Pro Bono Consulting Practice leveraged the expertise of professionals from the Bay Area Jewish community to redesign Shalom Bayit's website and provide leadership with fundraising know-how. If you’d like to share your professional skills with a nonprofit, check out the many rewarding opportunities available in multiple industries.

Categories: Grantees, Community


August 01, 2014


Jon Moskin