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In Safe Hands

Michal Eisikowitz

Whether it’s a Jew struggling with a job loss, depression, or marital strife, Debbie Fox is there to offer help. The director of Aleinu Family Resource Center is also at the helm of a daring, nationwide battle against domestic violence and molestation. As she puts it, “I want our frum world to be unsafe for any perpetrator”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

hand with paper peoplePegged by some as “the linchpin of Los Angeles” and “the religious world’s most potent advocate for children’s safety,” Debbie is a power to behold — in a remarkably unassuming way.

The woman at the helm of a daring, nationwide battle against domestic violence, molestation, and a host of other community ills is tall, dignified, and impeccably professional. She’s not one to respond without thinking hard, her carefully measured words revealing astuteness and judgment. Yet, at the same time, she has an unmistakable out-of-town friendliness, a genuine warmth. Bearer of a wide, gracious smile, knowing blue eyes, and a tasteful blonde wig, she converses in an unhurried, slightly Southern drawl that immediately puts you at ease.

A mental health professional for over two decades, Debbie has immersed herself in some of our society’s most sordid issues; most recently, creating and distributing a first-of-its-kind safety and awareness program for frum communities that’s already made significant inroads in eliminating a deep-seated passivity toward abuse.

For Debbie, Jewish activism is in the blood. When she was a child, her father, Rabbi David Rebibo, a longtime mechanech and community rabbi, moved out to the then spiritual boondocks in Memphis, Tennessee, at the request of famed chinuch pioneer Dr. Joe Kaminetzky z”l to teach Jewish children Torah.

After planting seeds in Memphis, the Rebibo family relocated to Phoenix on yet another Torah-strengthening mission. There, a teenage Debbie began teaching in the local day school, jump-starting a lifetime career in Jewish community involvement.

At age 19, she married now-well-known psychologist Rabbi Dr. David Fox and continued to impact students’ lives. “Over the course of 12 years,” she says, “I taught limudei kodesh to preteen girls in San Diego, Baltimore, and Los Angeles — where we ultimately settled. I absolutely loved it. At some point, though, I realized I was expending inordinate amounts of energy on a slightly diffewerent passion: addressing the needs of the community at large.”

Almost unconsciously, Debbie had been integrating community projects into her lessons. From a classroom cookbook to raise money for a child’s phonic ear to intergenerational assignments that reached out to the lonely elderly, Debbie’s deepest desire became clear — and it made sense for her to move on.

 

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