Breaking Free: Dinah Provides Legal Services for Domestic Abuse Survivors

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Chaya couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong in her marriage until a friend took her aside and raised red flags. It became clear that she was in a verbally abusive relationship.

Soon after, the abuse turned physical. Chaya knew her children couldn’t stay in an environment with abuse. She had to leave, but how?

She tried women’s and domestic abuse organizations but couldn’t find the legal advice that would be helpful for her situation. That was until she found Dinah, the only legal representation agency for Jewish domestic partner violence in Philadelphia. Supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Dinah’s mission since 2015 is to combat intimate partner violence in the Jewish community in Greater Philadelphia through advocacy, education and volunteer legal representation.

While domestic violence in the Ultra-Orthodox and the Jewish community as a whole is comparable to that of other communities in the United States, the difficulty of uncovering and addressing domestic violence continues to be an obstacle. Those across Jewish denominations often decline to seek help due to secrecy, feelings of shame and isolation.

“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t have anyone to talk to,” said Chaya, last name withheld for anonymity. “The only abuse [I ever heard] talked about was physical abuse. Once mine became physical, I knew I didn’t want to be stuck in a bad relationship.”
When she came to Dinah, Chaya received legal advice, support, such as custody papers, and guidance to devise a strategic plan to leave.

“Dinah was always available for a phone conversation and not only provided legal advice but also helped with the emotional aspects of the situation while explaining my rights,” she said.

Since its inception, Dinah has received support from Women of Vision, an affinity group of the Jewish Federation that advances the lives of self-identifying women and girls.

When Dinah received its first Women of Vision grant, it used the funding to launch community education workshops that discuss domestic abuse, Jewish myths about domestic abuse, and a broad overview of the Protection From Abuse (PFA) Act in Pennsylvania.

Through unique cases like Chaya’s, Dinah has carved a niche, providing legal services and answering critical calls from those who are ready, undecided or recently left their abusive relationships.

“We don’t try to duplicate other services, our expertise is legal,” said Shana Weiner, founder and executive director of Dinah. “We field crisis calls and triage situations as they come to help the client figure out what is the most urgent need.”

In addition to its current Women of Vision grant, Dinah was awarded a three-year grant from the Jewish Federation. Dinah used these dollars for increased staff support and an expansion of vital programs for community outreach.

“The Jewish Federation cares for, enriches and creates a bright future for Jewish people everywhere, which is why we’re proud to support programs like Dinah that work toward providing a safe space for women in the community,” the Jewish Federation’s Chief Strategy and Impact Officer Kelly Romirowsky said.

As a result of Dinah’s services, Chaya safely left her abusive relationship and is protected legally. She uses her newfound freedom to educate others about domestic abuse and has, on occasion, dropped off books about domestic abuse to rabbis within the community, hoping that it will spark conversations.

“I speak out to tell my story,” Chaya reflected. “Because someone spoke out to me.”


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