NYLAG’s Project Eden works with the Orthodox Jewish community to raise awareness of domestic violence and make resources available to victims.
Since launching in 2002 out of the Kings County DA’s Office, over 550 women have benefited from Project Eden’s network of services, and over 1000 individuals have attended educational programming. Project Eden’s services go beyond criminal justice interventions and include a wide range of culturally sensitive and appropriate services offered through partner agencies. Approximately 55% of Project Eden cases do not have a criminal justice component.
When considering options for assistance in addressing violence in their homes, women in this traditionally under-served and isolated community face significant religious and cultural pressures. The notion of mesirah (not turning another Jew in) and the fear of the shonda (shame) can affect a family’s standing if it is known that police are involved. Traditions often dissuade women from calling the police and/or seeking out civil protections (Family Court orders of protection, custody, child and spousal support) or learn of their legal rights regarding divorce.
While Project Eden has found that obtaining an order of protection through Family Court (a civil procedure), is often a more viable option for the Orthodox community, women remain daunted by the challenge of initiating a case and navigating the complex legal system. Emotionally grueling and time intensive as well as culturally alien, this lengthy procedure is truly overwhelming and potentially discouraging.