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Act To End Violence Against Women is closing shop

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Act To End Violence Against Women, which has been working for decades to provide shelter, support and services to abused women and their children, is folding operations.

The organization, formerly known as Jewish Women International of Canada, will close its doors in Toronto at the end of July and cease operations at the end of August.

“This is a very, very sad time for all of us – board, staff, members and volunteers,” said Penny Krowitz, the group’s executive director, in a July 10 statement to donors and volunteers. “We are ending a 92-year tradition of service to the community. We have all worked very hard to find another solution and have been unable to do so.”

The group “just couldn’t continue to raise the kind of money that we needed,” Mark Anshan, the organization’s board chair, told The CJN. He said the annual budget was between $200,000 and $300,000.

READ: GROUP SEEKS TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN QUEBEC

A press release from the group said it “could no longer sustain its valuable programs without a clear path to consistently raising the required funds.”

Three full-time jobs in Toronto will be lost, including that of Krowitz, who has served as executive director for 34 years.

Operations in Montreal were to be closed down irrespective of developments in Toronto, Anshan said.

Among the programs the organization has offered are Jewish Legal Information & Support, which helps women navigate the legal system in Ontario by providing support workers, education, referrals to lawyers and community resources; and Alternative Short Term Emergency Housing, a kosher shelter for Jewish women and children who have experienced abuse.

Penny Krowitz
Penny Krowitz

It has also raised funds for the Jerusalem Hills Therapeutic Centers, which provides treatment and services in Israel for youth who have been victims of violence.

The end of the organization’s operations presents “a gap,” said Anshan, “and we’re hoping some other organization will step up and take over some of the services we were providing.”

Jewish Family & Child (JF&CS) is “exploring some funding options,” in the wake of Act to End Violence Against Women’s imminent closure, “but without donor support, there will be an unfortunate gap in services in our community, for members of our community when they’re most vulnerable,” JF&C executive director Brian Prousky told The CJN.

JF&C will continue to provide “a full range of services to women who have been victims of abuse,” Prousky said.

Many Jews “still have trouble believing that woman abuse exists among us,” he added.

In a statement to The CJN, National Council of Jewish Women, Toronto said it was “sad” to hear the news of the closure, but that it would have no response until its board meets at the end of July.

On its website, Act To End Violence Against Women describes itself as “a Jewish organization inspired by the Jewish values of tikun olam (repairing the world); tzedakah (charity); and chesed (acts of loving kindness).”

This is a very, very sad time for all of us.
– Mark Anshan

It dates to 1927, when the first Canadian chapter opened in Windsor, Ont. It was then called B’nai Brith Women of Eastern Canada. In 1968, it became B’nai Brith Women of Canada.

In the mid-1990s, it was renamed Jewish Women International of Canada and rebranded with its current name in 2011, as its work became more focused on abuse against women in all religious and ethnic communities.

Among the funders and partners listed on the organization’s website are the Ben and Hilda Katz Charitable Foundation, the Finkler-Friedland Family Foundation and the Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Charitable Family Foundation.

The “biggest loss” from the closure of the group is the awareness of abuse it created and education programs it offered, Krowitz told The CJN.

“The other work is all reactive, it’s after the fact,” she said. “So by doing the education and creating awareness in the community of what domestic abuse is, we can actually prevent it.

“There’s nobody else in the Jewish community who does this work.”