Healing of the soul, healing of the body

September 23, 2021

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Stephen Fried with area clergy
Sunday, October 3, 5:30 pm

Stephen Fried with area professionals
Monday, October 4, 7 pm

If someone were to ask what’s in your pillbox, you may answer blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication, immunosuppressants, something needed to keep diabetes under control, etc. Would you tell them about your anti-depressants? Would you let them know about the medicine you take for anxiety, OCD, or depression?

These are the diseases only discussed in a whisper. Societal beliefs have led to the shame that many feel when talking about their mental wellbeing and brain health. When these illnesses are taken out of hiding, people can support one another.

As it says in the Talmud, kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, which translates to “All of Israel are responsible for one another.” How can this be extended to issues of mental health? This year, the Tidewater Jewish community is going to begin to address this challenge.

Author and award-winning investigative journalist, Stephen Fried, is coming to Tidewater as a part of the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar in Residence Fund of the Congregation Beth El Foundation’s Tidewater Together series. This part of Tidewater Together consists of two programs over two days, and is in partnership with Jewish Family Service of Tidewater.

In the first program, on October 3, Fried will be joined by local Jewish clergy including Rabbi Michael Panitz, Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg, Rabbi Ron Koas, Cantor Wendi Fried, and Cantor Jennifer Rueben, to discuss why brain health and mental well-being matter to the Jewish people and what can be done as a Jewish community to bring these topics out of the shadows.

The second program, on October 4, will feature representatives from local organizations: Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), Virginia Beach Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team, I Need a Lighthouse, and VB Strong Center. In conversation with Fried, these professionals will explore what work is currently being done locally to address the mental well-being of the community, what work still needs to be done, and how to help.

The Mi Shebeirach, the traditional healing prayer, asks for a refuat hanefesh—healing of the soul—refuat haguf—and healing of the body. Bodily health and mental/spiritual well-being are knotted together. Without both, the healing is not considered to be complete. The issue of mental health and well-being is deeply embedded in Jewish tradition and values. It is time that mental health is openly discussed.

These free and open to the community programs offer in-person and virtual tickets. Pre-registration is required for both. With something to offer to everyone, The Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund’s Tidewater Together series will continue this spring with visiting authors, podcasters, and artists. To learn more, or to register, visit JewishVA.org/TidewaterTogether or contact Sierra Lautman, director of Jewish Innovation, at United Jewish Federation of Tidewater at 757-965-6107 or SLautman@UJFT.org.

-Sierra Lautman and Alene Jo Kaufman
Letter to the Editor