Thursday, December 08, 2022

Rabbi Hammer will discuss “Gila’s Way: Mental Health and Suicide Awareness—Lessons to Learn Regarding the Value of Life.”

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, also known as Survivor Day or ISOSLD, was created by an act of Congress in 1999. Sponsored and supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, hundreds of organized events will be held throughout the U.S. and around the world on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, this year November 19. For those who are unable to attend these events on Saturday due to Jewish observance, AFSP will be holding a special ISOSL Day through the Jewish Lens to be held virtually via Zoom on Sunday, November 20, from noon to 2 p.m.

Rabbi Shalom Hammer, currently residing with his family in Beit Shemesh, will be in the U.S. at approximately this time to address Jewish audiences about mental health and suicide prevention, as he has done internationally for the past three years. From California to Florida, Johannesburg to Durban, at JCCs, shuls, schools and universities, Rabbi Hammer has addressed audiences about the scourge of mental illness nationally and internationally. During his upcoming trip, he will be addressing student audiences at Princeton and Rutgers Universities. His last stop will be at Congregation Rinat Yisrael on Tuesday, November 15, at 8 p.m.

Rabbi Hammer is a Monsey native, attended MTA and earned semicha from Yeshiva University. In 1990 he made aliyah and resides in Beit Shemesh with his wife, Gabi, and their six children. For the past many years, Hammer has been serving as a lecturer in the IDF for both the educational branch and the Jewish identity branch. Nine years ago, he founded and is currently director of Makom Meshutaf, an organization that offers non-denominational and non-coercive Jewish educational programming for pre-military academies throughout Israel. Makom Meshutaf, currently under the auspices of Mizrachi Olami/World Mizrachi, addresses young men and women in cities and kibbutzim throughout the country prior to their military service in the areas of Jewish history, ideology, culture, Zionism, secularism and religious Judaism, among many other areas.

Three years ago, tragedy struck the Hammer family when their second to youngest child, daughter Gila, took her own life at the age of 18. Although shaken to the core, the family undertook to speak out about their tragic loss in the hope of preventing other families from experiencing suicide. Rabbi Hammer underwent a certification course coming out of Australia in mental health first aid and is now certified as a mental health instructor, through which he champions mental health awareness and suicide prevention worldwide. Within Israel, for the past three years, Hammer has been lecturing to university faculties, hospital personnel, Magen David Adom volunteers, high school faculties and students and youth groups, as well as his audiences in the pre-military academies. Alarmingly, IDF suicides have doubled in the last two years, which is a troubling statistic that Rabbi Hammer addresses in his presentations.

In addition to his lectures and presentations, Hammer has authored 10 books. They include “Armed With Spirit” based on letters Hammer wrote to his son Yaakov offering him support and encouragement during his combat service in the IDF. “The Family Parsha Book” is a user-friendly source book and educational textbook that features Q&A that can be used around the Shabbat table as well as in school settings. “The Family Rashi Book,” arranged in alphabetical order, poses questions raised by Rashi throughout the Torah portions and is suitable for a variety of ages. “Derash Yehonatan” and “The Eybeshitz Haggadah” present the philosophy and ideology of the outstanding 18th-century Talmudist, Halachist and Kabbalist, Rav Yonatan Eybeshitz.

Most recently, Rabbi Hammer authored a series of children’s books in tribute to his daughter, which he calls “The Gila Spreads Joy Series.” In these five beautifully illustrated children’s books, Rabbi Hammer follows the antics of young Gila in Sun Valley as she finds new ways to help her family, friends and neighbors. Gila’s adventures bring joy to those around her. Hammer brings copies of this new series to his presentations.

Elliot Rothschild, former president of Congregation Rinat Yisroel and a close childhood friend of Rabbi Hammer, has been helping to facilitate the upcoming presentation.

Rothschild shared, “I recently introduced two local families to Rabbi Hammer to whom he responded immediately and helped to successfully navigate the complicated Israeli mental health system.”

The upcoming Rinat Presentation of “Gila’s Way: Mental Health and Suicide Awareness—Lessons to Learn Regarding the Value of Life” will take place on Tuesday evening, November 15, at 8 p.m. in the beit midrash of Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 289 West Englewood Avenue, Teaneck, New Jersey.

To sponsor this program, email [email protected]

To learn more about Rabbi Shalom Hammer and to invite him to address your community, go to www.rabbihammer.com  or email [email protected] To follow him on social media, go to @rabbihammer.

By Pearl Markoitz


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