From Sanctuary, With Thanks

Thank you for making a difference.

Thanks to your amazing support, we’re ready to serve over 15,000 survivors of gender violence in 2016. We’ll be able to conduct outreach to more than 40,000 community members, and advocate for policies and legislation that prevent and end abuse. Watch as our staff share their thanks – along with just a few ways that you’ve made a difference:


Program spotlight: Helping Orthodox Jewish women escape abuse.

The Orthodox Jewish Community Matrimonial Project is meeting a growing need.

Orly Kusher recently began working at Sanctuary for Families, where she is heading up our brand-new Orthodox Jewish Matrimonial Project, created in response to an increasing need among our clients. Orly spoke to us about this new role, the challenges she expects to tackle, and why serving Orthodox Jewish women is such a personal mission. 

Hi, Orly! Can you tell us more about your new job here at Sanctuary?

Orly: Sanctuary has created a new position entitled Orthodox Jewish Community Matrimonial Staff Attorney. This position serves Orthodox Jewish clients who are victims of domestic violence.

I represent victims in contested and uncontested matrimonial and other family law actions in New York City civil courts. These cases include divorce, custody, visitation, child support and related matters. My clients can also access Sanctuary’s range of counseling, shelter and economic empowerment services.

This position is unique because I will also represent women in divorce proceedings before the Beit Din, the Jewish court.

How did you get into this work?

Orly: I attended Hofstra University School of Law where I focused on public interest family law. I was a Child and Family Advocacy Fellow, a staff member of the Family Court Review, and a recipient of the Pro Bono Service Award of Excellence. After law school, I worked at a private law firm where I represented clients in matrimonial and family law matters.

When Sanctuary opened the Orthodox Jewish Community Matrimonial Staff Attorney position, I was excited to apply because it fit so many aspects of my background and my desire to pursue public interest family law.

I am half Israeli and I speak Hebrew fluently. I attended a Jewish day school so I was raised with a religious education. I consider myself Modern Orthodox. I observe the Sabbath and keep kosher, and therefore I share a strong connection with the community I will have the opportunity to serve.

“Orthodox” is an umbrella term for a large segment of Judaism. Who exactly are the women you serve?

Orly: I help any woman in the Orthodox Jewish world – whether she considers herself Modern Orthodox, Traditional Orthodox, Chabad, Chassidic, Charedi, or another strand of orthodoxy – who is a victim of domestic violence.

Is domestic violence a big issue in the Orthodox community?

Orly: Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of religion, class, ethnicity or background. It happens in the Orthodox community just as it happens in any and every community.

However, the cultural context and means through which domestic violence is perpetrated can vary between communities. For instance, the concept of shalom bait (Hebrew for “peace in the home”) is very important for Orthodox Jewish families.

Shalom bait is about cooperation between family members in order to maintain a healthy and peaceful home. In some instances, the concept of shalom bait is used against a domestic violence victim. Peace in the home is placed above individual rights and, as a result, the victim is expected to remain married in spite of abuse. The pressure to remain married can cause women to delay seeking help.

This cultural and religious factor shapes how abuse is viewed within the individual home and in the wider Orthodox Jewish community. Shalom bait is one major element that separates Orthodox Jewish victims from other domestic violence victims.

Because I understand the values, I know the customs, and I speak the language, I can connect with my clients in a meaningful and culturally competent manner. That means I am better equipped to understand them and advocate for them.

Can you tell us more about the get? What is it? Why is it so important?

Orly: A get is a divorce document in Jewish law. The get must be voluntarily given by the husband to the wife. A marriage remains in effect up until the time that the get is given by the husband. Obtaining the get is the only way to get a divorce in the eyes of Jewish law.

I can’t emphasize enough how critical the get is to many of the women I serve. The get is tied to their identity. Even if there is a civil divorce, without the get, they are still married under Jewish law. They can’t move on with their lives nor can they remarry; any new relationship, without a get, is considered adultery.

It is important to note that not all husbands refuse their wives a get. The process can be non-contentious. For many women, it is a significant and valued religious matter. But when a husband does refuse, the failure to obtain a get can have an intensely harmful impact upon a Jewish woman’s life. Women whose husbands have refused to give them a get are called “agunot” or chained women.

Do you only serve women seeking a get who are also victims of abuse?

Orly: Get refusal is a form of abuse. My role is to serve victims of domestic violence, which involves an abuser exerting power and control over the victim. Because of the deep power imbalance inherent in the granting of the get, and because of the damaging ramifications of refusal, woman refused a get are victims of abuse.

What role does the Beit Din, or Jewish court, play in your work?

Orly: A Beit Din is a Jewish court that presides over various business related and commercial disputes, as well as issues related to marriage and divorce. The Beit Din facilitates the process involving the get. Since most Jewish couples in the United States are married under both civil and religious law, they must have their marriage dissolved under the laws of both the civil courts and the Beit Din.

In my current position, I am representing clients in both legal systems. Although it may be challenging to appear in a forum such as the Beit Din, where women may be at an inherent disadvantage, I am committed to advocating for my clients and providing them with comprehensive and effective legal assistance.

How do you plan to get the word out about your services?

Orly: Word of mouth is the best kind of referral. I intend to reach both the victims in need of our services, and the community leaders who will be partners in this cause. I plan on collaborating with other individuals and organizations in this area both inside and outside of the Jewish community.

Right now, I am reaching out to rabbis, community leaders, and peer organizations in an effort to build up a circle of advocates who are engaged in these issues and willing to spread awareness. I know the work we do at Sanctuary will be well received within the Orthodox Jewish community and I look forward to providing our services to those in the community.

Thank you for taking the time to share with us, Orly!

Ever think about your legacy?

Consider a making a Legacy Gift to Sanctuary for Families.

Consider a making a Legacy Gift to Sanctuary for Families.

Do you have money saved in an employee retirement plan, IRA or tax-sheltered annuity? Do you know that the value of your account may be subject to federal and state estate taxes at your death? In addition, each of these plans contains income that has yet to be taxed. When a distribution is made from your retirement plan account, your beneficiaries will owe federal income tax in addition to applicable state income taxes at your death. Consider leaving your loved ones less heavily taxed assets and leaving your retirement plan assets to Sanctuary for Families to support our work.

As a nonprofit organization, we are tax-exempt and will receive the full amount of what you designate to us from your plan. You can take advantage of this gift opportunity in a very simple way by naming us as a beneficiary of your plan. All this requires is updating your beneficiary designation form through your plan administrator. You can designate us as the primary beneficiary for a percentage or specific amount. You can also make us the contingent beneficiary so that we will receive the balance of your plan only if your primary beneficiary doesn’t survive you.

By leaving us your retirement plan assets, you will be able to continue to help thousands of individuals escape abuse for decades to come. Please contact Amy Abramson at for more information.

Deutsche Bank Americas Grant will support homelessness prevention

The grant will fund new programming.

For Immediate Release


New York, NY (January 21, 2016) — Sanctuary for Families (Sanctuary), New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence, has been awarded a grant of $250,000 for domestic violence survivor homelessness prevention and strategy development from Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation (DBAF).   Sanctuary will use the DBAF grant to develop and implement a housing-focused pilot of its pioneering Economic Empowerment Program (EEP), which provides intensive career training focused on helping clients secure living-wage jobs.  The new pilot will help homeless domestic violence survivors who graduate from the EEP program find affordable permanent housing in the competitive NY housing market. Sanctuary will also convene thought leaders in the field to develop innovative evidence-based theories and implementation policies to systemically address homelessness for domestic violence survivors in NYC.

Finding affordable housing is a daunting task in New York City, and many landlords are reluctant to rent to domestic violence survivors. Under the housing pilot, EEP participants who have successfully met the program’s training standards and employment placement goals will be eligible for a security deposit to be paid directly to landlords.  This security deposit, coupled with employment and the city’s guaranteed housing subsidy for those who are eligible, will be the financial stimulus needed to convince landlords to sign leases.  Additionally, the funds will support EEP staff in bringing on a new Housing Fellow to work intensively with clients to identify affordable housing, and provide support for clients to be successful in their housing and career goals.

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, said “Poverty and homelessness are the high price that many survivors of domestic violence pay in order to escape abuse.  The key to eliminating homelessness among our clients is to help them attain sustainable living-wage jobs, which will reduce their need for public assistance and housing subsidies. It is equally important that we incentivize landlords to provide safe and affordable housing to our clients once their circumstances have become stable.   We are grateful to Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation for this generous grant that will help us break the cycle of abuse, poverty and homelessness for domestic violence survivors.”

In addition to this pilot, Sanctuary will also use the DBAF grant to develop innovative evidence-based theories and implementation policies to reduce homelessness among abuse survivors to a functional zero level. Sanctuary will build a broad collaborative of governmental, nonprofit, homelessness, and workforce development domestic violence service providers and advocates, as well as public and private funders, to develop these models.    The DBAF grant will enable Sanctuary to convene large-scale conferences in 2016 and 2017 and quarterly task force meetings to set milestones and scaling plans to accomplish this task.

Sanctuary for Families is committed to finding the solution to homelessness among domestic violence survivors in New York City through a holistic approach, with living-wage workforce training and employment placement strategies at its core.  New York City has recognized EEP as a formidable and effective solution to the crisis of homelessness and poverty among domestic violence survivors, and tapped the program to deliver workforce solutions to the population of abuse survivors living in shelters.  More than 50% of EEP’s current clients are homeless women, referred by HRA.   Over the past five years, EEP has graduated 494 clients, including 150 referred by HRA,  with consistent 65-70% job placement, 65% one-year retention, and salaries averaging $13.71/hour, over 50% higher than the state’s private industry minimum wage.

Sanctuary for Families is New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence.  Each year, Sanctuary empowers thousands of adults and children to move from fear and abuse to safety and stability, transforming lives through a comprehensive range of services.

Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank provides commercial and investment banking, retail banking, transaction banking and asset and wealth management products and services to corporations, governments, institutional investors, small and medium-sized businesses, and private individuals. Deutsche Bank is Germany’s leading bank, with a strong position in Europe and a significant presence in the Americas and Asia Pacific.


Ilyse Fink or Blaine Bilal/212-575-4545
For Sanctuary for Families /

Oksana Poltavets/212 -250-0072
Press & Media Relations, Deutsche Bank AG