Nefesh Chicago is constantly getting acclaim and recognition for its innovative and interesting events. Below are selected articles in which Nefesh Chicago has been featured in local and national publications.

Click on Title Below for More Information

How to Help Clients Navigate the Civil & Halachic Divorce Process

By Fraida Nathan, LCSW, CADC, ICDVP and Esther Chaya Perman, LSW


Challenging the stereotype of the contentious divorce, Nefesh Chicago invited a panel of
experts to explain the divorce process for community leaders. On January 3, 2021 Rabbi Yona
Reiss, head of the Beis Din (Court of Jewish Law) at the Chicago Rabbinical Council and
himself an attorney, was joined by Ellen Barron Feldman, J.D., and Debra Horberg, J.D., to
address mental health professionals and clergy, regarding how to help clients navigate the civil
and Jewish divorce processes.

When to Inform Your Attorney about a Gett

After Rabbi Reiss, Av Beis Din, detailed the process of giving and acquiring a Gett, he stated
that from a Torah perspective a man or woman should not feel stigmatized when a divorce is
called for. Rabbi Reiss added that all issues, including financial agreements and child support,
can be determined in the Beis Din through arbitration.

Rabbi Reiss explained that the Gett is an integral part of the Jewish divorce process; without it,
any subsequent marital relationships by the divorced individuals are considered adulterous. This
situation would have irrevocable consequences for the legitimacy of future children. As a
preventative measure, it is best to communicate the need for a Gett with one’s attorney as early
in the divorce process as possible. With this understanding, the attorney can build better legal
documents to protect their client.

Mediation and Collaborative Processes 

Debra Horberg, J.D. and Ellen Feldman, J.D. explained, there are alternatives to the traditional
litigation processes of divorce: mediation and collaborative divorce. Mediation is when a neutral
party, usually an attorney or mental health professional, facilitates agreements between the two
parties. This process can be both voluntary or court-ordered and can take place prior to hiring
attorneys. Mediation can also be used pre-litigation to discuss and resolve some of the issues.
The collaborative divorce process, like mediation, also takes place outside of court, but typically
is comprised of a team of 5-6 people: an attorney representing each spouse, a neutral mental
health professional, and sometimes a neutral financial coach – each with their associated fees.
Which Scenarios Benefit from the Litigation

Though mediation and collaborative may yield a quicker divorce process, litigation is sometimes
called for. Litigation is the preferred method for those impacted by domestic abuse, and/or
where there is a significant power differential between spouses, with one side unable to properly

For anyone considering alternative styles of divorce, it is important to note that if the
collaborative process stalls and is at an impasse, the appointed attorneys are not allowed to
continue to represent their clients. A new attorney is now required. For those who want an
amicable divorce and are in agreement regarding major issues, mediation can be a useful
option. Even in high-conflict situations, mediation can work, so long as the parties are able to
keep their focus on a peaceful future for family members.

Indecision: What Follows?

When spouses are uncertain as to whether they wish to separate or save the marriage, mental
health professionals can help their clients by directing them to “discernment counseling” to
assist their decision making.

If one or both spouses still feels that the marriage is no longer tenable, either because of some
type of domestic abuse or due to any number of irreconcilable situations, it is wise to consult
with several different attorneys to determine the best fit for the needs and specifics of the

The “winners” in divorce are the parties that manage to get through the process with the least
damage done to their families, and best chances for moving forward peacefully.
Testimonial: “This Nefesh Chicago training increased my knowledge base and my confidence in
guiding clients who are on the cusp of divorce.” Chicago-area therapist

Rebbetzins Annual Event Focuses Domestic Violence in Frum Homes

By: Lisa Twerski, LCSW and Sara Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed,C.Psych.

The phone call came into Nefesh Chicago from Chicago’s Jewish Domestic Abuse agency, Shalva. During many months of COVID’s Shelter at Home, Shalva and all other domestic abuse agencies were seeing an uptick in phone calls to their hotlines. Thus, began the first steps of creating the phenomenal program, “Domestic Violence in Frum Homes,” for Chicago-area Rebbetzins, which quickly expanded within the entire United States and world-wide.

Nefesh Chicago is a mental health professional organization that serves therapists, and also provides education, prevention and resources for the community. In this capacity, Nefesh Chicago recognizes the growing challenges of Rebbetzins in their role as an ezer k’negdo to their husbands who hold a pulpit position. For 15 consecutive years, the Nefesh Chicago Annual Rebbetzin Appreciation Event has elucidated a timely and relevant variety of community issues of interest.

Shalva serves as a resource for not only Jewish victims of DV, but provides resources for those who want to provide guidance to someone who they feel may be in an abusive relationship [family, friends, Rebbetzin, Rabbonim who know a victim]. One of Shalva’s messages is that domestic abuse does not discriminate. DV crosses all boundaries, financial resources and income, religious affiliation, background and gender (men can be victims as well). The hour-long “Domestic Violence in Frum Homes,” Zoom program held on January 3 rd , featured nationally and internationally known speakers Lisa Twerski, LCSW, and Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed.C.Psych., both articulate experts and skilled presenters, who conveyed clarity on this sensitive subject. A valuable Q & A session was included with these highly respected seasoned clinicians.

This program attracted an overwhelming attendance of close to 100 Rebbetzins, and brought together our largest audience and broadest representation from each spectrum of Orthodoxy: Chassidishe, Sephardim, Modern Orthodox, Lubavitch, RCA, and Yeshivishe to name a few. Rebbetzins are not expected to have all the answers. When a person approaches for help, the Rebbetzin should validate their experience. Rebbetzins should understand their own boundaries and when to refer the person to a professional DV agency. Victims of DV in frum homes have described how their abuser distorted cherished Jewish principles, making it complex to define their circumstances and seek assistance from their Rabbi or Rebbetzin. Often, women, and sometimes men, experiencing domestic abuse feel isolated and unable to share their painful experiences. Many young women don’t always recognize when the relationship is getting abusive, thereby bringing to bear consequences upon their children. Sara Chana Radcliffe mentioned that raising emotionally healthy children in an unhealthy marriage can be achieved with one emotionally healthy parent in the household. By acknowledging and labeling what is happening, a child in a home with DV, can still learn healthy behaviors in an unhealthy environment.

Kudos to Esther Yona Friedman, Shalva’s Orthodox Outreach Educator and Coordinator and to Menucha Robeson, Nefesh Chicago’s Director of Operations, for facilitating this event. Kudos to Starr Catering of Lincolnwood for delivering tasty brunches to the individual homes of Chicago area Rebbetzins, just in time to call in or log onto this valuable program.

Thanks to the generous annual sponsorship of Mr. & Mrs. Eric & Gayle Rothner, Nefesh Chicago is able to organize an appreciation luncheon and presentation, to the Rebbetzins of the Chicago area, l’zecher nishmas Mr. Rothner’s mother, Shirley Rothner, Sara Reva bas Yaakov Tzvi HaKohen.

In Mrs. Rothner’s memory, we salute our Rebbetzins, who are often one of our most valuable first responders.

For more information:

Addressing Internet Addiction

“This isn’t about whether the Internet or smartphones are good or bad. It’s about safety, about talking with your family to develop a strategy around use of Internet devices and apps.”

Rabbi Yosef Shagalow, PsyD, LP, speaks about Internet safety and addiction from the perspective of an experienced clinician. To be sure, smartphones and the online world are here to stay, with all the benefits that accrue from technology. Yet, Shagalow has seen the harm that can be caused by the Internet’s always-on allure, in clients from all demographics.

Shagalow started out in 1986 as a young Chabad emissary in Minnesota, along with his wife, Chana, and their family. “I felt I needed more training in order to be effective in my role,” he explains. With the blessing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l, Shagalow earned a masters in counseling psychology from the University of St. Thomas in 1995, and a doctorate from the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology in 2000, all while teaching full time at the local Jewish day school. Shagalow opened and eventually sold a group of therapy clinics in the Twin Cities. Since 2009, he has run a private practice in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area and in Brooklyn, New York.

“I’ve been tapped over and over within the religious Jewish community because of my familiarity with Internet and smartphone addiction and my respect for the community’s values,” Shagalow says. “This is not a matter of will-power,” he continues. “We’re set up by the industry to believe this is a safe product, when, in fact, it’s been engineered to get us hooked.”


Well-informed consumers are becoming aware that the technology they’re using is addictive by design. Billons of dollars of research are behind the colors, cadence, feedback, and feel of devices and apps, which are calibrated to keep users coming back. This topic is a focus of academics and best selling authors.

“Compulsive use… is not the result of a character flaw, but instead the realization of a massively profitable business plan.”


Cal Newport is associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University. His 2019 book, Digital Minimalism, opens with a look into the evolution of addictive technology, quoting Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook: “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them… was all about, ‘How do we consume as much of your time and attention as possible?’ And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.”

That’s like the dopamine hit from a slot-machine, says Tristan Harris, former Google engineer turned industry-whistleblower. In a 60 Minutes interview described in Newport’s book, Harris holds up his phone and declares, “This thing is a slot machine… Every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see ‘What did I get?’” He continues, “There’s a whole playbook… to get you using the product for as long as possible… [This technology is] not neutral. They want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that’s how they make their money.”

As Newport observes, “Compulsive use, in this context, is not the result of a character flaw, but instead the realization of a massively profitable business plan.” In Digital Minimalism, he prescribes ways people can re-think and minimize use of digital technology to regain control over their time and their lives.

Adam Alter, associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, takes a compelling look at behavioral addictions in his 2017 book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked.

Alter shares that tech industry leaders have long been wary of their own products. Apple founder Steve Jobs and Twitter founder Evan Williams did not let their children use an iPad. Former Wired editor Chris Anderson “enforced strict time limits on every device in his home, ‘because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand.’ His five children were never allowed to use screens in their bedrooms.”

Alter draws a startling conclusion: “It seemed as if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply.” In Irresistible, he offers insights on the nature of technology addiction and ways to address it.

Community awareness

While parents and spouses might understand in theory that internet addiction can happen, they often insist that it’s not happening in “my” family. They might be unaware that their child is in bed on Friday night glued to her phone, or that, even in a home with no Internet service or smartphones, a family member has found his way to a device and addiction via the neighbor’s wi-fi. “I know because some have become my clients,” Shagalow says.

“Parents must realize they can’t expect a child to self-regulate. It’s a matter of sitting down with the family, having face to face discussions, and developing a strategic plan together.”

Once people are made aware of issues around Internet use, they often respond, “Why haven’t we been told this before?” Or, “Now I understand why my child’s been acting this way, how can I get him/her off that phone?”

Shagalow wants people to know there is much room for optimism. “Treating Internet addiction is a rewarding area, with many success stories. From the moment you address the issue, it can improve. People can be helped.”


Written by Rani Averick in the January 31, 2020 Issue of CJH. Rani Averick is a technology marketing and communications professional with a focus on cyber-security.

Tobi Goldfeder, LSW, 2020 Recipient of the
Rabbi Dr. Jack D Frank, zt”l, Memorial Scholarship Award

Tobi Goldfeder, LSW, the 3rd recipient of the annual Nefesh Chicago’s Rabbi Dr. Frank Memorial Scholarship, presented an unusual request before accepting her scholarship prize to attend an all-expense-paid NEFESH International’s Annual 3-day Conference for mental health professionals.

Her request was to find a way for other Chicago area clinicians to professionally benefit from the scholarship. This pandemic year made it possible to accommodate Tobi’s wish because the NEFESH International conference had pivoted to virtual mode (no travel expenses/no hotel fees). This allowed Nefesh Chicago to offer all 12 of the clinicians who volunteered on the Nefesh Chicago’s First Responder’s Support Line a one-year paid membership to NEFESH International.

Tobi is the granddaughter of the scholarship’s esteemed namesake, Rabbi Dr Jack D Frank, of blessed memory. She is following in her grandfather’s footsteps, working in education and as a licensed mental health practitioner, the areas in which her grandfather was so fervent and devoted.

Nefesh Chicago is extremely grateful to the family of Rabbi Dr. Jack D. Frank, zt”l, for sponsoring the third and remaining two years of this annual scholarship which honors a different recipient each year.

Rabbi Frank, a pulpit Rabbi and licensed therapist, would have been extremely proud of this scholarship in his name as he facilitated, pioneered, and effected a positive change in the Orthodox community’s perception of mental health services for three decades.

Formed in 1996, Nefesh Chicago, is a local chapter of NEFESH International, and has been dedicated to serving the mental health professional needs of Chicago’s Jewish community. Rabbi Dr. Frank participated in Nefesh Chicago’s earliest formation meetings. The membership in NEFESH International includes Torah-observant psychologists, professional counselors, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family counselors, pastoral counselors, and graduate students.

Rachel Karesh, LCSW, 2019 Recipient of
Rabbi Dr. Jack D Frank, zt”l, Memorial Scholarship Award

It did not take much “analysis” on the part of the Nefesh Chicago Board to recognize Rabbi Dr Jack D. Frank, zt”l, as the source of inspiration in creating and naming a new scholarship to benefit Orthodox mental health professionals [MHP] and their professional development. Rabbi Dr Jack D Frank’s name is synonymous with pioneering the integration of Chicago Orthodox Rabbinate and professional psychological services. From the mid-1960’s thru the mid-1990’s, Rabbi Dr. Frank, zt”l, served as the pulpit Rabbi of Peterson Park’s Congregation KJBS and additionally was a licensed therapist. He was compassionate and accomplished in both roles for over three decades. At Ida Crown Jewish Academy he was a teacher and instituted the College Guidance Department of which he became Director.

The Rabbi Dr. Jack D. Frank zt”l Memorial Scholarship Award will help a deserving mental health professional attend the celebrated annual Nefesh International Conference, an annual 3-day event held in New York during December each year. This conference attracts the best and brightest Orthodox mental health professionals, and offers a wide variety of cutting-edge presentations, workshops, networking opportunities, and sessions that promote professional development.

Nefesh Chicago is extremely grateful to the family of Rabbi Dr. Jack D. Frank, zt”l, for sponsoring five years of this annual scholarship which will honor a different recipient each year. Rabbi Frank would have been extremely proud of this scholarship in his name as he facilitated, pioneered, and effected a positive change in the Orthodox community’s perception of mental health services.

This year’s recipient, the scholarship’s second recipient, is Rachel “Rachie” Karesh, LCSW.   Rachel “Rachie” Karesh, LCSW, holds a master’s degree in social work from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work and currently serves as the Executive Director of Madraigos-Midwest. For the past 10 years, Rachie has worked as the Clinical Director at Madraigos-Midwest promoting robust social services for children, teens, and young adults that encompassed prevention, enrichment, and intervention services. Rachie was instrumental in developing the recently opened “Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center” at Madraigos-Midwest and was responsible for all assessments, counseling, and crisis intervention of the teens referred to the counseling Center.

Prior to her various roles at Madraigos-Midwest, Rachie’s 15 years of social work experience also included working in a therapeutic post high school program for at-risk teens, providing mental health support and mentorship at Meor HaTorah Seminary, Israel, working as a school social worker at Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School, and working as the camp social worker at Moshava Wild Rose.

The plethora of conference sessions that Rachie is attending in NY, are adding to the value to her skills as a therapist. The NY conference a fortifying and validating experience, rich with inclusion and professional challenges

Formed in 1996, Nefesh Chicago, is a local chapter of Nefesh International, and has been dedicated to serving the mental health professional needs of Chicago’s Jewish community. The membership in Nefesh International includes Torah-observant psychologists, professional counselors, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family counselors, pastoral counselors, and graduate students.

It was logical and compelling for Rabbi Dr. Frank, zt”l, to join the newly formed professional organization for MHPs at its inception.  He was one of the very first Chicago Orthodox Rabbis to recognize that the Jewish community was not immune to mental and emotional challenges and that individuals would benefit from therapy and social services. Rabbi Dr. Frank, zt”l, was instrumental in opening Chicago chapter of JACS [Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others, an addictions recovery support group], which he ran for decades.

Jeremy Stern, LCSW, First Recipient of
Rabbi Dr. Jack D Frank, zt”l, Memorial Scholarship Award

The 2018 recipient of The Rabbi Dr. Jack Frank zt”l Memorial Scholarship Award is Jeremy Stern, LCSW, a holistic psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Jeremy received his master’s of social work at Loyola University, Chicago and received postgraduate training at the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis. He maintains a private practice, Stern Counseling, in addition to serving as a school social worker at the Veitzner Cheder in Chicago 

The numerous conference sessions that Jeremy attend this past December have already added value to his skills as a therapist. Jeremy found in the Nefesh International conference a fortifying and validating experience, rich with inclusion and professional challenges.

When Nefesh-Chicago informed the Frank Family of this year’s recipient, his background, qualifications, and current career status, there was a pause. Then one family member said, “We think Jeremy would be happy to know that three of Rabbi Frank’s great-grandsons attend the school where he is the school social worker”. 

Nefesh Chicago supports Orthodox mental health
professionals heal hearts and minds

As featured in JUF News

Cincinnati’s Dr. Nachum Klafter will address members of Nefesh Chicago on Oct. 29.

Illness does not discriminate, and that includes mental illness. Still, treating illnesses includes treating different patients in ways they can accept.

For more than 20 years, Nefesh Chicago has served Orthodox Jewish mental health workers, and therapists serving Jewish clients, with professional support and training, networking, peer consultation, resource development, and community education. Nefesh also educates the public on personal, family, and community mental health issues.

“Orthodox Jewish mental health professionals trust Nefesh Chicago to deliver leading-edge clinical training relevant to the work they do in the community,” said Dr. Paul Cantz, Psy.D and vice president of Nefesh Chicago’s board. “Non-Nefesh Chicago members have also benefited from these trainings, since they promote the cultural knowledge and sensitivities required to treat Orthodox clientele.” A clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Cantz is also a supervising psychologist with Hartgrove Hospital’s inpatient unit.

Nefesh tailors its professional training to the needs of Orthodox Jewish mental health professionals, and others who face such issues in their line of work. The organization’s members are Torah-observant psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, counselors, nurses, clergy, and others in the mental health field. Through Nefesh, they network, collaborate, and learn, addressing issues based on widely accepted mental health principles, within the framework of Torah and halacha(Jewish law).

“Nefesh provides education to clinicians, educators, rabbis, and rebbetzins (rabbis’ wives), and community members, and connects the mental health needs of Chicagoland with the resources of professionals worldwide,” said Nefesh Chicago board member Dr. Malka Miller, Clinical Psychologist at Barnes & Klatt and Yehi Ohr-Jewish Institute for Psychological Advancement .

Bringing in experts is one way Nefesh fortifies its local training. On Sunday, Oct. 29, Nefesh welcomes board member Dr. Nachum Klafter, director of the Advanced Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Training Program at the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute and director of Psychotherapy Training at the University of Cincinnati’s Psychiatry Residency Training Program. This visit is the first of his two-part series, “The Damaged Core: Understanding and Treating Personality Disorders;” Part II will be presented in January.

Klafter’s own education embodies Nefesh’s two-prong approach. He studied at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and New York’s Yeshivat Darchei Noam. He also completed his psychiatry residency at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he served as chief resident.

Nefesh Chicago was established in 1996 as a local, then regional, branch of Nefesh International. The Chicago branch’s president is Rabbi Dr. Dovid Montrose. Its rabbinic advisory committee is led by Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Moreh D’Asrah, Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D., and Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Ph.D. liaison. Renee Lepp, on Nefesh Chicago Board of Directors for 20 years, had served as the director of The Ark for 13 years.

The Chicago branch brings in leaders such as Klafter and Mona Fishbane, the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Family Therapist of the Year. In the spring of 2018, Nefesh Chicago will hear from Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, the first psychiatrist to serve as president of the AMA.

Past seminars include: “Healing Intergenerational Wounds,” “A Neuropsychological Overview of Trauma,” and the issues of anxiety, transference, and even confidentiality. For the general community, Nefesh held a networking barbecue for graduate students, an orientation for those going to seminaries, and a talk on halachic issues for attorneys.

At this year’s Annual Nefesh Chicago Conference, speakers from Harav Hadayan Shmuel Feurst to DCFS representatives spoke on issues such as infidelity and child abuse, from the perspectives of halacha , the legal system, and mental health. Participating professionals earned continuing-education hours through a partnership with Adler University.

Nefesh Chicago also holds an annual event for rebbetzins , community leaders in their own rights. The topic of their most recent event was prenuptial agreements.

Much of the mission of Nefesh is to communicate with the clergy; rabbis and their wives are often the first to be informed of a crisis. Clergy can link congregants with Nefesh’s referral service for psychological and social services within the Jewish community.

The organization also raises awareness of mental health issues community-wide, teaching educators, parents, and teens, and connecting with originations like the JUF-supported Jewish Child and Family Services and Associated Talmud Torahs.

Nefesh Chicago prides itself on providing education, friendship, support, collegiality and inspiration to its membership. Dr. Rachelle Gold, a Chicago-based psychologist, said that “Nefesh offers outstanding academic exposure in an intimate setting, speaks to a wider Jewish audience, and regularly surpasses expectations.”

Nefesh Chicago Features Talk on Family Relationships

As featured in Hamodia Magazine

This June, Nefesh Chicago, invited Dr. Mona DeKoven Fishbane, PhD. to speak about “Healing Intergenerational Wounds: A Relational-Neuro biological Approach to Transform Family Relationships.”  Recently named 2017 Family Psychologist of the Year by The American Psychological Association, Dr. Fishbane presented a topic deeply relevant to everyone, yet perplexing to most.

In describing the relationship between innate biological tendencies and family interactions, Dr. Fishbane discussed ways of creating lasting change.

With an impressive command of the most recent neurobiology research, she shared key insights about the extraordinary influence our habits exert on our biological chemistry.  Her cutting edge presentation provided the hopeful view that family members can actually break free of seemingly locked and damaging patterns.

Referring to her new book, Loving with the Brain in Mind: Neurobiology & Couple Therapy, Dr. Fishbane shared that while “we are shaped by nature (genetics), we are amplified by how we are treated.”  Through her scholarly yet easy going manner, Dr. Fishbane imparted key insights and offered tools therapists can employ to help others overcome problematic dynamics of longstanding.

Participants said the presentation was so resonant that Nefesh Chicago is considering a similar presentation for the community later this year.

Each year, Nefesh Chicago crafts a variety of professional seminars aimed at mental health practitioners seeking continuing education.  Summarizing Dr. Malka Miller, “Nefesh Chicago bridges local mental health needs with the resources of professionals worldwide, providing educational opportunities at every level.”

This accessible seminar approach offers local mental health practitioners a segue for developing personal connections with renowned presenters in a manner impossible to achieve through the long distance and online learning. In contrast, Nefesh encourages networking, broadening of scope, and skill enhancement within clinicians’ fields of endeavor with only a nominal charge for continuing education credits.

According to Dr. Rachelle Gold, “Nefesh offers outstanding academic exposure in an intimate setting, speaks to a wider Jewish audience, and regularly surpasses expectations”.  In addition, the organization expends considerable resources providing community education related to safety and mental health to many levels of the community including teens, educators, rabbis, rebbetzins, and parents.  Nefesh Chicago is expanding professional and personal horizons and enhancing community awareness of the robust Jewish counseling resources available to the wider Chicagoland area.

Written by Naomi Ben-Attar Yablong, LCSW and Malka Miller, PsyD

Reinforcing Healthy Boundaries for Rabbinic Leadership

As featured in Hamodia Magazine

In the wake of an increasing incidence of public news stories about child sexual abuse, Nefesh Chicago has demonstrated leadership in creating programming to prevent any such occurrences in the future. Nefesh Chicago organized a trio of workshops, on recent weekend, at which multiple levels of the community were addressed. On Motzei Shabbos, a trio of esteemed dayanim, Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox of Los Angeles, Harav Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan of Agudath Israel and Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Bais Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, spoke to the rabbanim of the greater Chicago community. In attendance were pulpit rabbis, kiruv rabbis, and day school administrators – men who represent a cross-section of Orthodox Jewish affiliations. Rabbi Dr. Fox reinforced the need to be especially careful in maintaining healthy and appropriate boundaries while interacting with congregants and pupils alike. The challenges that present themselves with today’s ubiquitous technologies were candidly discussed. Chicago’s leading dayanim, Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst and Rabbi Yona Reiss, stood steadfast in their staunch support of Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox’s message. Each rav emphasized the halachic obligations of the leaders of the community, and the imperative of keeping children safe at all times.

Mrs. Debbie Fox, LCSW, founder of Magen Yeladim and author of Seminary Savvy, addressed the rebbetzins of the Chicago Orthodox community on the topic of keeping children safe – both in the public sphere as well as in the privacy of each rebbetzin’s home. This took place at Nefesh Chicago’s 14th annual tribute to our city’s devoted and hard-working rebbetzins. Mrs. Fox emphasized the importance of protecting one’s own children from house guests where poor boundaries are observed. She suggested that all parents make a practice of checking in on their children regularly when guests are in the home.

The final address of the weekend was geared toward senior high school girls. Mrs. Fox taught practical skills to a large group of girls planning to go to an Israeli seminary during the upcoming school year. She helped each get in touch with her natural instincts in order to prevent compromising situations while abroad. The program was interactive, and the girls were extraordinarily appreciative of the programming that Nefesh Chicago provided for them.

Nefesh Chicago believes in a multi-modal approach for preventing abuse in their community; this trio of programming was but one example of their vision of reaching as many segments of the community as possible. For more information about Nefesh Chicago, please visit their website at

Written by Dr. Malka Miller, Board Member, Nefesh Chicago, Psychotherapist

The Importance of Prenuptial Agreements

Nefesh Chicago recognizes the growing challenges of Rebbetzins in their role as ezer k’negdo to their husbands who hold a pulpit position. We, as mental health professionals also seek to strengthen the relationship between the Rabbinic community and clinicians.

Each year the Nefesh Chicago Annual Rebbetzins’ Appreciation Seudah’s program topic is chosen via a survey of Rebbetzins and formulated to cover objectives which are useful in their leadership work and activities.

It is deeply satisfying to see that the luncheon has a large representation from each spectrum of our community: Modern Orthodox, Chassidishe, Telshe Yeshiva, Sephardi, Lubavitch, and outreach, to name a few.

In 2015, Chicago Av Beit Din Rabbi Yona Reiss, shlit”a co-addressed the audience with Beverly Siegel, movie producer of Women Unchained, on the halachic pre-nuptial and agunot. The luncheon event is for women and by women, with the exception of 2015 when Av Beit Din Rabbi Yona Reiss accepted our invitation to address the Rebbetzins. His dual expertise as a dayan and lawyer was a most appropriate fit for the topic.

The prenuptial agreements are endorsed by Harav HaDayan Shmuel Fuerst, shlit”a. The key idea for people to keep in mind when considering the agreement is that if the two people care for each other deeply and are interested in marrying then they should want the best for each other. Signing the prenuptial agreement allows for the individuals’ needs to be met, even if their marriage goes south.

The Rebbetzins were fortified with the information needed to spread the necessity for these agreements with the Rabbonim of the community and the other community leaders.

To quote one of the audience members:  “The speakers equipped us with specific responses to concerns which couples about to get married may have about using a prenup. They also clearly addressed concerns the opposing rabbis may have and supplied us with ways to address those concerns. I appreciated the approbations distributed at the end and felt so fortunate to be living in a community which has such Gedolim readily available and such organizations such as Nefesh to reach out and make this wisdom available to us.”