Adas Israel Congregation expands mental health supports

Adas Israel Congregation. Photo by APK. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Adas Israel Congregation is taking a greater interest in its members’ mental health.

“COVID definitely increased the necessity of grief groups for those who lost loved ones during that time,” said Mick Neustadt, the social worker and hesed and clergy liaison at the Conservative congregation. “They may not have been there during [their loved ones’] illness or death and because of the isolation, I think that made the grief more difficult.”

Neustadt helps the synagogue by providing support to members through groups, home visits and connecting members with resources in the community. Some of the groups now offered include mindfulness groups, grief groups and support groups.

“The groups are beneficial because people can process their feelings and grieve with others, so they’re not alone in their process,” Neustadt said.

“Offering mental health support felt like something that was necessary because of the times that we’re living in and the need for mental health professionals in our city,” said Senior Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt.

“There is a mental health crisis in this country,” Holtzblatt added. “I think we were forced to, for good reason, go inside our homes for such a long period of time, suddenly and really without warning. I think the normal things people struggle with, the normal struggles of life, were exacerbated. People have been inside their own heads and their own struggles for so long that they’re having trouble readjusting and figuring out how to face this stuff.”
The synagogue’s new program is a response to that.

Neustadt is in the office at the synagogue two days a week and sees people of all ages individually, in addition to the group sessions. He is also a trained meditation facilitator. The primary way Adas Israel Congregation fosters a caring spirit is through the Hesed Committee, chaired by Rae Grad. The committee helps the clergy, staff and volunteers coordinate their efforts to make sure all members of the community have regular, friendly and personal interactions with each other.

“We’re adaptive, we’re 150 years old. We’ve been in this city a long time but there’s also adaptability,” Holtzblatt said. “We carry both of those things well. Stability and adaptability,” she said, adding, “You want good Torah but you also want to live it out, and the community is really good at showing up out in the world.”

Holtzblatt sees the mental health program as a continuation of Adas Israel’s mission.

“We have three major areas we focus on: teaching Torah, taking care of the community inside Adas and outside the four walls of Adas, our social action committees.

“It’s just a very caring community,” she said. “Legions of people volunteer. They cook, they call and they show up. They’re present for each other.”

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