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Tuesday, August 03, 2021
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(Courtesy of Congregation TBDJ) The third annual Community Mental Health Awareness Shabbat, spearheaded by Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem in Montreal, Quebec, will take place Thursday-Sunday, May 6-9. It will be fully virtual, with a mental health symposium on Thursday evening, a Friday workshop for high school students, and a Sunday morning mental health workshop. Cities across North America will be participating as well.

This program coincides with Canadian Mental Health Week (https://mentalhealthweek.ca) and Mental Health Month in the United States. Dr. Rachel Goodman and Yair Meyers are the program co-chairs. “Our goal is for as many synagogues as possible across the entire Jewish community here, across Canada and the United States to dedicate that Shabbat as part of the Community-Wide Mental Health Awareness Shabbat,” said Goodman, a psychologist in private practice. Over 50 shuls across North America have joined, including several from the tri-state area including those in Bergenfield, East Brunswick, Englewood, Livingston, Teaneck, Manhattan, Oceanside, New Rochelle and Riverdale.

Dr. Rona Novick, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration of Yeshiva University, will be the keynote speaker throughout the weekend. She holds the Raine and Stanley Silverstein Chair in Professional Ethics and Values. In addition, she serves as the co-educational director of the Hidden Sparks program, which provides professional development to Jewish day schools and yeshivas. She is internationally recognized for her expertise in human growth and development, social-emotional learning, spirituality, positive psychology, trauma, cognitive behavioral interventions, diverse learners, and family dynamics. She has published a children’s book on resilience, “Mommy, Can You Stop the Rain,” available on Amazon.

On Thursday evening, May 6, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., there will be a community-wide mental health symposium featuring a panel of speakers, including Novick, Rabbi Yechezkel Freundlich from TBDJ, Ometz Chief Clinical Officer Barbara Victor and AMI Quebec family caregiver Perla Muyel. Goodman will serve as the moderator. The theme will be “Getting Back to Normal when Life Isn’t Normal.” “Other synagogues will each be dedicating that Shabbat in their own way, whether it be a speaker, the rabbi’s sermon or an email to their community,” said Meyers.

On Friday, May 7 at 10 a.m., Novick will address high school students. The theme for this talk will be “Check-Up From The Neck Up: Thinking About What We’ve Been Through and Moving Forward.” More than 20 high schools across North America have signed up, including Bruriah, Central, DRS, Maayanot, Naaleh High School for Girls, Ramaz Upper School, SAR and SKA.

Finally, on Sunday, May 9 at 10 a.m., Novick will speak on “UnMASKing COVID: Strategies & Tools for Staying Strong & Well in the Days Ahead.” This will be followed at 11 a.m. by educational consultant and mental health advocate Marc Fein, whose topic is “Beyond the Diagnosis: Life as a Jewish Depressed Mental Health Advocate.” He has experienced depression and has over a decade of experience creating interactive workshops that have empowered thousands of individuals and organizations with practical tools to manage stress, provide emotional support, and break the stigma around mental illness. He is certified in youth mental health first aid and is pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit management and leadership at Hebrew University. He also leads a summer program for NCSY to Poland and Israel.

Registration for these events (high school is limited to students) is free and you must log on to www.mentalhealth.tbdj.org. If your shul or high school are interested in getting involved or for more details you can email [email protected].

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