Efrat's chief social worker: Saving lives, one mother at a time

From 199 women to tens of thousands, the EFRAT pro-life organization's network of assistance and guidance for woman has grown dramatically.

Arutz Sheva Staff, | updated: 20:39

Dr. Schussheim, president of EFRAT
Dr. Schussheim, president of EFRAT
Hezki Ezra

A native of the United States, Ruthy has been working as a social worker for the EFRAT pro-life organization since February 2001.

Ruthy's Israeli passion and determination, blends with her laid-back American warmth, making her a compassionate listener and highly effective at her job. In the autumn of 2000 Ruthy was living with her husband in Samaria when the Second Intifada erupted, making their surroundings extremely dangerous.

Following the circumcision of their first grandchild, they made the decision to move to Jerusalem and Ruthy put feelers out for a job in her field.

Simultaneously, Dr. Eli Schussheim, president of EFRAT realized that his organization was growing and he wanted to ensure a high level of professionalism. He began his search for a social worker to head the department by calling Jerusalem's Deputy Mayor, asking for a recommendation. Word of mouth had brought Ruthy's name to the Deputy Mayor's desk and he passed on the recommendation to Dr. Schussheim. Promptly interviewed, Ruthy was immediately well-regarded and offered the job.

As a social worker Ruthy had often experienced frustration at having such limited scope to help expectant mothers, who faced the critical decision to keep or terminate their pregnancy against a complex backdrop of issues. She had always wished she had the tools to help expand their options.

Ruthy recalled that on February 4th, 2001, the day that she started as EFRAT's social worker, 199 women were registered on the computerized system. Today, there are tens of thousands of names on the database. The organization has developed exponentially.

Ruthy is proud of the current level of professionalism within the organization. All volunteers are trained and supervised to ensure that they practice to a high standard, following clear guidelines. They are up to date about women's rights and highly aware of the importance of maintaining boundaries and confidentiality.

This job has been a learning curve for her, Ruthy explained. She came to the role as an experienced social worker, but it is only through her conversations with thousands of women over the years, that she has begun to have insight into the psychological repercussions of having an abortion. Many women who turn to EFRAT have carried out an abortion in the past and approach EFRAT in the desperate attempt to avoid another one. Ruthy has also had to hone her public speaking as she often represents EFRAT's work on television and radio.

Ruthy explained that when she talks to the women who turn to EFRAT, she encourages them to follow their heart. She believes in empowering people so that they can make their own choice, from a position of understanding their options fully.

This is a job which involves receiving constant feedback. Ruthy recalled one recent radio interview where an unidentified woman who had been supported by EFRAT, was brought onto the live show. The young woman told her story on air. She described how she had initially called EFRAT with her cousin's encouragement. Swiftly put into contact with a volunteer, she vacillated between keeping the baby and terminating the pregnancy.

She was confused and told the volunteer not to call her again; she did not want to have further conversations on the topic. If she herself would feel differently, she would call the volunteer back. And so, in full adherence with EFRAT's guidelines, the volunteer did not make further contact with this young woman. A week later, she had made her decision to keep the baby and at that point she called the volunteer back. Ruthy described her pleasure in seeing the professional training and supervision of volunteers, impact on their practice on the ground.

Ruthy is excited about new projects in the offing. She hopes that she will be able to expand her team and that EFRAT will be able to offer innovative vocational training and parenting projects in the future.

When asked what help she feels has the biggest impact on the women EFRAT supports, Ruthy paused for thought. She concluded that the 'two pronged support' offering a key relationship with an EFRAT volunteer together with the guarantee of practical assistance, is the combination that makes the difference.

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