More Than Just a Tree

July 19, 2022

More Than Just a Tree

If you have visited the Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) campus in Dunwoody, you may have noticed a beautiful, towering tree in the parking lot of the visitor’s entrance. It stands alone on the lot island, and around June every year, it bursts into thousands of beautiful purple blooms.

What you may not know about the tree is that it has been standing at JF&CS for nearly a quarter of a century, and that it was planted by one of our own.

Wendy Lipshutz, social worker and Director of the Shalom Bayit (“Peace in the Home”) program, planted the tree in October of 1998. Wendy did not just plant a tree that day, she planted hope, inspiration, and love into the ground and facilitated a beautiful ceremony that helped heal and inspire all who attended.

That day, about 10 attendees came to celebrate the planting of the Shalom Bayit Tree. It was both Sukkot and Domestic Violence Awareness Month at the time. A small service was conducted, words and prayers were said, and each attendee walked away with hope in their hearts of what the tree would eventually grow into.

“Years after it was planted, clients would still come to me about it,” Wendy said. “They would express how happy they were to see it growing and thriving, and how it gave them hope.”

Wendy said the choice for the type of tree to plant was symbolic of the Shalom Bayit program and its clients that it honors. With some guidance from her friend Walter, Wendy chose a Vitex tree. The tree gets its name from the Latin word vita, meaning “life.” Vitex trees are known to be hardy and able to weather any circumstance and season.

Today, the tree serves as a vision of resilience and strength to all who witness it. A bench is nestled underneath its comforting branches for all those who need to rest. A plaque in front of the tree outlines its mission and purpose: In memory of women and children who lost their lives to domestic violence and honoring the courage of our survivors.

The tree survived major renovations to the campus in 2015 due to a generous donation from the Helen Marie Stern Fund — created in memory of Wendy’s friend, Helen Marie Stern — which not only preserved the tree, but allowed us to build a garden around it.

“This beautiful tree is symbolic of the work we do in Shalom Bayit for domestic abuse survivors,” Wendy said. “It will continue to serve as a beautiful symbol of stability, strength, and reblooming every year for each survivor and family we work with, and all who see it.”

The Shalom Bayit program at JF&CS provides counseling, support, and guidance for individuals living under domestic abuse of any kind. To learn more about the Shalom Bayit program and the resources we provide, please click the "Shalom Bayit" button below.

If you would like to honor a domestic abuse survivor in your life, or support the work JF&CS does with domestic abuse survivors, please consider making a tribute donation to the Shalom Bayit program by clicking the "Make A Tribute" button below.

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