UJA-Federation of New York

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Shabbat of Wholeness Tool Kit

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Decrease a sense of isolation and stigma by incorporating in sermons and educational programs the ways in which faith and a caring community can help with depression, anxiety, and mental illness. Read sermons on mental health:

  • "Choosing Life" by Rabbi Jeff Sirkman, Larchmont Temple, Larchmont, New York
  • "In the Wilderness" by Rabbi Janet Marder, Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, California
  • "We Have Failed Those Who Suffer From Mental Illness" by Rabbi James L. Simon, Temple Beth Am, Miami, Florida
  • "From Darkness to Light: Men and Depression" by Rabbi Adam Raskin, Congregation Beth Torah, Richardson, Texas
  • The Bay Area Jewish Healing Center offers educational materials and prayer cards focused on mental health. Here you can fund various resources such as prayers for mental illness, 10 things your congregation can do to reduce the stigma of mental illness, ways to support those in your community with mental illness, and facts about mental illness.

Invite individuals and families who have found a supportive response to their mental-health needs to share their stories in newsletters or at programs.

Have up-to-date materials on hand about mental-health treatment resources in all public congregational spaces so they can be picked up without anyone being observed during the week. Learn more about UJA-Federation’s mental-health initiatives:

Encourage those who may be suffering silently to consult with clergy.

  • Clergy can encourage awareness and empathy for those struggling with emotional distress by speaking about it during services, in newsletters, or at fall meetings welcoming new preschool and religious school parents.

Offer text studies and other opportunities to use Jewish ritual and wisdom to provide comfort, strength, and hope to those living with mental-health conditions. Read related text studies:

Offer support groups or mentorship to individuals and families living with mental distress.

Address issues of stress and mental health in newsletters.

Formulate plans for calming congregational responses to traumatic events in the community or individual families.

Invite professional and lay speakers to men’s and women’s groups, parent meetings, senior clubs, and youth groups to discuss the experience of getting help with depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses. There may be mental-health professionals in the congregation who are able to speak about these issues, and mental-health agencies or the National Alliance on Mental Illness may be able to provide inspiring speakers.

Provide simple guidelines on how to recognize and find assistance for those showing signs of depression, self-inflicted violence, post-traumatic stress, and other anxiety disorders.

Offer opportunities for members to volunteer at local agencies and in congregational programs that offer help to those living with mental-health issues. Many local organizations could benefit from volunteers, and the very act of joining together to help others offers opportunities for socializing, actualizing Jewish values, and gaining a sense of meaning. Volunteer at a beneficiary agency whose population includes those with mental-health issues.

Create a congregational mental-health or emotional resilience task force made up of congregational volunteers with interest and expertise in the mental-health field. This can be a new committee or part of an existing caring or educational committee.