Finding Strength in our Communities: How We Care for Each Other


May is Mental Health Awareness month, and in recognition of that we wanted to focus this month’s Special Feature in Leadership Connections reflecting on our recent Mental Wellbeing Conference which took place this March. The pandemic has created a unique opportunity for our leadership to come together as a continental organization to learn together virtually thus extending our reach.

Rabbi Blumenthal noted, “Even before the pandemic, people were reporting greater levels of stress and anxiety. Now with an end hopefully in sight, more people are beginning to reflect on ways to reset and take control of their emotional wellbeing.  Synagogue leadership has the opportunity and obligation to find ways to show they care and find ways to provide support. USCJ is deeply committed to providing resources on how to empower support of this important topic.

Covid has worsened the stress, anxiety and isolation of our daily lives. Between building closures, burnout, job cuts and safety concerns, the needs and concerns of our members, clergy and staff have dramatically increased. USCJ has asked “now what,” and many of our congregants have begun to answer.

Mental wellbeing is defined as a state in which individuals can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and are able to make a contribution to their community. Belonging to a sacred community promotes personal and emotional wellbeing. How can our synagogue leadership provide support for members, clergy and staff who need us now more than ever? This past conference was our first step in this process and we welcome your thoughts and support.

To better understand the needs of our communities, USCJ conducted a survey of our member congregations and 240 responded.  What we learned from our congregations informed the conference presentation. The survey was modified to create USCJ’s Mental Wellbeing Assessment which can be viewed here. This survey enables congregational leaders to assess how they were addressing their own community’s needs. Emotional health is still not widely talked about and many may be uncomfortable with the topic but as leaders we need to find ways to show we care and provide assistance to members, clergy and staff. This assessment can be a first step in that journey.

Synagogue leaders presented their great work in the area of mental wellbeing and spirituality. We learned what they are doing to help their community members to better cope with the strains created by Covid, safety concerns and a 24/6 unplugged world. Click here for conference resources.

Based on the success of this project we are thrilled to announce our new program, Rey’im. This program was created by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin to train synagogue members to serve as spiritual companions for congregants and friends as they “walk through” life’s challenges. Here is the link to learn more and register for our introductory webinar.

We look forward to continuing to promote and prioritize mental wellbeing this month and into the future. You can find more resources each month in Leadership Connections to help you bring mental wellbeing to your community. You can also find resources on our website here.

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