Due to the pandemic, thousands are stuck at home with their abusers. My organization is helping them.
As the pandemic set in, many peoples’ lives came to a screeching halt. Not mine.
I work as the graphic and web designer at Amudim, an organization that deals with crises in the Jewish community. Amudim has been around since 2014, and we specialize in emergency cases.
Every week, I put together our weekly newsletter, filling out a chart with how many new cases were opened that week. It always gives me goosebumps seeing how many brave souls were finally able to open up and share their stories with a case manager. As a survivor myself, I know well the feeling that the abuse must be kept a secret, and the relief of finally opening up.
Then I got a call in February from our CEO, Rabbi Zvi Gluck, about an emergency he needed help with. People were calling non stop asking for information regarding a new virus called the coronavirus. People who were already dealing with a personal crisis needed help navigating what looked like it was going to be a new way of life.
There was the woman who was being abused by her husband and had to be at home with him all day, every day. She needed help and guidance. There was a recovering addict who couldn’t make it to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and felt like his life was at stake without his recovery support group. To help our clients, we searched for a website that had updated CDC guidelines as well as lifesaving information for those struggling with addiction, struggling to keep children busy at home, and articles to help with stress and anxiety.
We scoured the web, but we came up empty handed. So we knew we had to create the resources that people needed.
We launched a website, and immediately started getting thousands of pageviews from across the world. Many people were sending us emails about the new challenges they were facing. Some were now quarantined at home with abusers, without a single moment of privacy to do an on-call therapy session. Parents were looking for ways to explain the virus to their children, and it was our job to try to help people navigate the new world we found ourselves in.
After getting several calls from people quarantined at home with an abuser and fearful for their lives, Amudim created a safety program. We were able to find safe placement for 132 victims of domestic violence as well as their children. This involved providing a menu with Kosher for Passover food, packed up carefully in adherence to quarantine guidelines. We also delivered these meals to peoples’ rooms for them to enjoy over the holidays.
While quarantine has been hard on most people, it’s been impossibly worse for those with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health challenges. To help them, we had daily staff check-ins, where case managers spoke of the thousands of calls they were receiving, all the while updating us on the new and constantly emerging challenges.
For example, where do you tell the 26-year-old man with suicidal ideation to go when all the hospitals are full with Covid patients? Or the teenager hiding in the closet who can’t fully explain what they are going through because their abuser is in the next room? In these cases, and many more, Amudim responded rapidly. We set up an anonymous support line with over 100 mental health professionals who were able to take turns volunteering to talk to people, sometimes guiding them through life-threatening situations.
We posted videos by Rav Dovid Cohen and Rav Shmuel Meir Katz with guidelines on when the use of technology is permissible on Shabbat and holidays. This was the first time I had ever seen a rabbi come out publicly to say that a mental health emergency was pikuach nefesh — life or death, and more important than other Jewish laws. With this ruling, we were able to let people know that they could still abide by the laws of Shabbat while attending a Zoom meeting or calling a therapist. We quickly updated our Covid webpage to have links for as many online recovery meetings as we could find.
We also produced videos with tips from mental health professionals providing advice and expertise to help get through these new challenges. As a result, we immediately saw a 69% increase in new cases being opened weekly.
As more cases came in, Amudim needed to hire more help, because our community needed us. We completely skipped over our normal yearly fundraiser because we simply didn’t have time to plan it. The entire team was working around the clock saving lives. Plus, many of our donors were hit by the pandemic and no longer had the funds to keep supporting us the way they had in the past.
Instead, together with Charity Bids and Raise Giving, we are starting a movement called Unite to Heal. While coming together with the top Jewish leaders and entertainers, Amudim hopes confront the greatest challenges and unspoken issues facing so many.
The work I have done this year for Amudim has been the most meaningful of my life. And we will continue to serve our community with everything we’ve got.
Tzippy Landau grew up in a Hasidic family in Boro Park. She currently lives with her girlfriend and kids in Louisiana. She is a graphic designer and web developer who is passionate about using her work to help those who are still suffering in silence.