Empowering Survivors by Telling Their Stories

September 28, 2023

Empowering Survivors by Telling Their Stories

On October 12, JF&CS is honoring the 30th anniversary of the Shalom Bayit (Peace in the Home) program. The event, Empowering Survivors, will highlight the program’s founding director Wendy Lipshutz and key individuals who have contributed to its impact over the years. Shalom Bayit supports survivors of domestic violence with counseling and connection to resources. Led by Jewish values, the program serves clients of all backgrounds. Jewish values will also lead the event itself: in keeping with the rich cultural tradition of storytelling, the evening will center around the stirring stories of survivors.

Empowering Survivors will feature a meaningful play called “Not So Happily Ever After...the very real stories of some American Jewish families” by Mira Hirsch. The medium of theater is particularly powerful for this event, as it will give a stage and spotlight to the stories that are often silenced. JF&CS commissioned the play from Mira in the early years of Shalom Bayit and it has been used ever since to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence within the Jewish community.

“It is important for us to have the voices of the survivors as a central part of what people hear at the event,” said Wendy. “In the early years of Shalom Bayit, Barbara Levitas initiated the idea that we could use a play as a way of sharing survivors’ voices. Mira compiled stories from survivors of domestic violence in our community, contrasted them with the common narratives of ‘good Jewish families,’ and put it together to create the play.”

“Not So Happily Ever After…” brings to light different types of abuse and the long-term impact it has on survivors. The monologues discuss the aftereffects of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as the harm caused to children and adolescents who grow up in abusive homes. It also addresses less acknowledged types of abuse, such as silencing people and hiding aspects of one’s true self in order to preserve the family reputation. The play highlights that no matter how upstanding and respected a family may appear to be, things can go wrong behind closed doors. Most importantly, it is a testament to the resilience of survivors.

The actors in the play are all JF&CS staff members. When Wendy mentioned the idea to Chase Byrd, the agency’s Office & Reception Manager who is also a professional actor, he was “adamant about being a part of it.”

“These stories are not easy ones to tell,” said Chase, “but I'm honored to be a part of this and so grateful to the survivors who were brave enough to share their stories. I can't imagine the strength and resilience it takes, and I hope the audience recognizes that and leaves with a sense of hope and purpose.”

“I am excited and honored to be a part of this, and I’m especially humbled by the strength shown in so many of the stories,” said Simonie Levy, who is directing the play. The former Performing Arts Director at the Atlanta Jewish Academy adds that “theater is a wonderful art form that allows stories to be told that enlighten, entertain and connect on so many levels with an audience. ‘Not So Happily Ever After…’ is such an important story to be shared, and theater provides a safe space that allows the access and exploration of emotions.”

All proceeds from Empowering Survivors ticket sales go to benefit the Shalom Bayit program. Purchase your ticket here and join us October 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Sandy Springs City Hall as we honor the bravery of survivors and the dedication of our staff.

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