Hadassah Women-Israel, in cooperation with the Jerusalem municipality, is initiating a new project aimed at assisting women at risk. Called Cafe Hadassah (in Hebrew Cafe V'Siah, or "Coffee and Talk"), the project involves "hosting" battered women in special cafes set up and run by Hadassah-Israel volunteers. These meetings, held in an informal and supportive atmosphere, are an important adjunct to official social services in empowering women victims of domestic violence as they try to rebuild their lives. A special course to train Hadassah volunteers, run by municipal social workers, opened on November 13. The course will teach the tools and skills needed to advise and work with battered women and will include training by psychologists, educational consultants, as well as the social workers. At the conclusion of the course, two cafes will be established in Jerusalem. For the safety of the women attending, the location of the cafes will not be publicized. Women at risk will be referred to these cafes by municipal social services. Women's groups estimate that there are at least 200,000 battered women in Israel today. Most do not report the abuse. The project is part of Hadassah-Israel's multi-faceted Women at Risk Project, a grassroots initiative of Hadassah-Israel's Sharon region in the mid 1990s that later become a national program. The project encompasses a mentoring program to aid women moving out of shelters; an advocacy program to raise public awareness of domestic violence and support legislation on this issue; a program to accompany battered women to court appearances and in emergency situations; distribution of electronic call buttons to women whose partners have been removed from their homes by court order; and the Cafe Hadassah project, which is already operating in Rishon Lezion, Rehovot and a number of other cities. "For many of the women at risk coming to our cafes, this is the first time that anyone has ever served them coffee or done anything special for them," states Lital Frenkel, assistant to the Hadassah-Israel spokesperson. "It is also the first time they have had the opportunity to sit in a cafe and pour out their hearts to a sympathetic listener. Amazing relationships have developed from the Cafe Hadassah meetings in the cities where the project is already running. We expect the same to happen in Jerusalem." Hadassah-Israel is still looking for women to volunteer for the Cafe Hadassah project in Jerusalem. Those interested should contact the Hadassah-Israel Office by telephoning 6231411 or e-mailing post@hadassah-israel.org.il


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