Broad Shoulders

Dr. Leigh Vinocur
Dr. Leigh Vinocur

For victims of domestic violence in the Jewish community, CHANA: Counseling, Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women offers an opportunity to escape a dangerous situation without having to make sacrifices when it comes to maintaining their religion.

Last year, the organization hosted its first speaker series, which featured talks from Jewish women involved in the arts. This year, Event Chair Maxine Seidman said CHANA wanted to again feature discussions led by interesting women who have learned to balance their professional, religious and family lives. This year’s series, which begins Oct. 1, will focus on women in legal, medical and technological professions.

Judge Karen “Chaya” Friedman, the first Orthodox Jewish woman appointed to the District Court of Maryland, will kick off the series.

Until her appointment to District Court, Friedman served as board chair of CHANA for three years. For Friedman, who spent much of her time helping victims of domestic violence navigate the legal system, her newest role has provided a chance to see things from a different vantage point.

“My experience at CHANA definitely gives me perspective on the bench that I would not have if I had not been involved in CHANA,” said Friedman.

As a judge, Friedman must make decisions involving landlord-tenant cases, motor vehicle violations, bail reviews, misdemeanors and some felonies. Sometimes it can be difficult not to bring home some of the emotion and stress, but, she said, it gets better with time.

“It’s definitely a job that requires broad shoulders and an ability to handle stress,” she said.

Judge Karen “Chaya” Friedman
Judge Karen “Chaya” Friedma (Photo by Shlomo Photography)

In addition to her role as a judge and mother of two sets of teenaged twins, Friedman is also involved with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore (of which CHANA is a program) and the Baltimore Jewish Council and its Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel, is on the board of the Jacob and Hilda Bloustein Foundation for Jewish Education and sits on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum council.

“I’m always interested in new opportunities,” said Friedman, who also chairs the Interfaith Domestic Violence Initiative, which will aim to join all faiths together in an effort to create a dialogue about domestic violence over the weekend of Oct. 25 to 27 in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Rebbetzin Miriam Marwick, who was unavailable for comment, will discuss her career on Dec. 4 at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC.

Marwick is a researcher at the Institute for Defense Analyses and the rebbetzin of Congregation Shomrei Emunah. Before she became a researcher at IDA, she and her husband were Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus educators at Johns Hopkins University.

Marwick holds a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering and a teaching degree in Judaic studies from the Rika Breuer Teachers Seminary.

The series concludes April 1, when Dr. Leigh Vinocur, board certified emergency physician, national spokeswoman for the American College of Emergency Physicians and regular guest on “Dr. Oz,” “Nancy Grace” and CNN, speaks at
Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Dr. Vinocur, another former chair of CHANA, began her involvement with the group in 1995, but her experience with domestic violence began even earlier, through her work as a doctor.

Her emergency room experience, she said, has allowed her a unique view of the world.

“Emergency medicine is kind of like a microcosm of society,” she said. “Gun violence and teen pregnancy and domestic violence, it all comes into the emergency room.”

Dr. Vinocur has utilized her experience in medicine to launch a career in broadcasting.

“When I write or talk about medical issues, I can sort of affect a broader change,” said Dr. Vinocur. “That’s why I like my adjunct career in medical broadcasting.”

Dr. Vinocur, who is still involved with CHANA, said she appreciates the work that CHANA has done to raise awareness in the community about an issue that some people may not have thought existed in the Jewish community.

“There was this bias that it doesn’t happen in the Jewish community, that women don’t get beaten up and abused,” she said. But that stereotype is unfounded. “I’ve seen doctors — women doctors — who have been beaten. It can happen to anybody,” she said.

CHANA was founded in 1995 by Brenda Brown Rever and a small group of advocates who noticed a lack of Jewish clients at the House of Ruth. Knowing abuse is just as prevalent in the Jewish community as it is in other communities, Board Chair Alyson Friedman said, Brenda approached The Associated with the idea of launching a program to help Jewish victims of abuse. What began as a simple hotline for abuse victims has, over the past 17 years, evolved into a multifaceted organization that offers services such as legal aid, emergency housing and one-on-one counseling, in addition to maintaining the hotline that serves as an entry point for much of CHANA’s clientele.

Journey Of Professional Jewish Women, the second annual CHANA speaker series, starts Oct. 1. To register, visit

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