With optimism, we look forward. We let go of the past and we focus on the upcoming year. We say, “L’Shana Tova,” meaning we wish you a good and sweet new year.
With reflection, we look to our past and we ask for forgiveness. We think about how we could have done something differently or how we’re going to change something for the next year. We say “Yom Tov,” meaning have a good holy day.
My wish for the Hebrew year 5780 is for members of the Atlanta and other Jewish communities to extend a hand and raise one another up. Too often shame and stigma create barriers that prevent us from responding to the mental health needs of the Jewish community. Not only do these barriers prevent people from discussing their needs and hopes, but they make it harder for organizations, such as synagogues and community groups, to identify who is suffering and understand how they can help guide congregants or constituents.
A community is a home. As an Atlanta transplant from South Florida, I now consider this incredible Jewish community my own and truly believe we are unique among other cities in how well we create a welcoming community for all individuals. We are lucky to have Jewish organizations, agencies and synagogues that are working to create a kind-hearted and knowledgeable community when it comes to mental wellness and other topics. We’re all working to create a community that we can be proud of, one that impacts not just our fellow Jews, but the entire metro Atlanta community.
Many individuals suffer silently and alone. We, as a community, must embrace all individuals with compassion and empathy. While you may not personally connect with someone’s struggle, you can offer empathy and compassion, which can go far in a mental health crisis. You can offer your understanding and desire to help. After all, as a Jewish people we value the idea of tikkun olam, repairing the world.
Sharing stories creates personal connections. Think about all the times when you’ve learned you have a connection with someone – the response is typically, “no way, me too!” As our community becomes more and more comfortable with talking about mental health and substance abuse, I ask you all to share stories with one another in hopes of learning from each other. Sharing stories can save lives and you’d be surprised to hear how many people will also respond, “no way, me too!” We are all more alike than we are different.
If you’re looking for a unique way to show your support for mental health and substance abuse awareness, consider wearing a Blue Dove kippah during the upcoming Jewish high holidays and throughout the year. Kippahs are $10 each, including shipping, and can be ordered online, www.thebluedovefoundation.org/kippah.
In Atlanta, there are several Jewish organizations focusing on mental illness and addiction. If you or someone you know is in need of help, please reach out to:
The Berman Center, www.bermancenteratl.com/
HAMSA (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse) at Jewish Family & Career Services, www.hamsahelps.org/
Jeff’s Place, www.chabadintown.org/jeffsplace/
Derech Transitional Living, www.derechhomes.com/