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‘A lot of sadness’ over closure of Act to End Violence Against Women

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Emotions are still raw following this month’s announcement that the Jewish community’s sole agency to offer a full range of services to women and children who have experienced domestic violence is shutting down.

Act to End Violence Against Women, formerly Jewish Women International of Canada, informed donors and supporters on July 10 that it will close the doors at its office in Thornhill, Ont., at the end of the month and cease operations at the end of August.

The organization’s Montreal office closed at the end of June, but that had been previously planned.

The group said it could not raise the necessary funds to go on. Its operating budget over the past year was between $300,000 and $400,000.

READ: ACT TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IS CLOSING SHOP

Reaction to the news on social media was swift, with posters, almost all of whom were women, calling the move “awful” and “sad.” One said it was “terrible, especially when there is such a need for the organization.”

Since 1927, the organization, which has had various names over the years, has provided haven and services to abused women and their children.

It provided support workers and would refer clients to lawyers and other resources within the community. With the help of Jewish Family & Child, it also ran a kosher shelter in north Toronto for Jewish women and children who have experienced abuse.

Another of its goals was to educate and raise awareness of domestic abuse – an issue that’s still widely denied or downplayed in the Jewish community.

Penny Krowitz
Penny Krowitz

Since the announcement of the closure, there has been “a lot of sadness, a lot of disbelief,” Penny Krowitz, who has led the organization for 34 years, told The CJN. “I’m totally heartbroken.”

Asked if there was ever a serious attempt to bring the group under the umbrella of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Krowitz said that she’s “talked to them on a number of occasions over the years,” but that they “didn’t have funding.”

Shauna Klein, the chief program officer at UJA Federation, said the organization “focuses its support on critical programs that help women who have survived violence, as well as interventions to prevent violence against women, through funding to our partner agency, Jewish Family & Child (JF&CS), and services offered by other UJA Federation funded agencies.”

Krowitz said she has also talked to JF&CS about integrating some of the agencies’ work.

The two organizations have a history of collaborating, said Monica Auerbach, director of service at JF&CS, which has referred women to Act to End Violence Against Women’s program that helps them navigate the legal system.

“But there is no funding. As much as we value the service, we’re not going to be able to continue it,” Auerbach said. “If someone came and gave us a million dollars today, that would certainly become a priority.”

She said the shelter that the two agencies run will close at the end of September.

The shuttering of Act to End Violence Against Women is “a real concern,” Auerbach said. “It’s based on Jewish values, so it’s easier for women who have been victims of domestic violence to receive support where their culture and religion are understood and respected. It’s a huge loss.”

Krowitz said Act to End Violence Against Women has served thousands of women and their children over the years, and that she hopes to continue educating the public about domestic violence.