Building Inclusive Spaces: A Conversation with Autism Inclusion Advocate Capt. Udi Heller
February 27, 2023
A Zoom conversation with Captain Udi Heller, the highest-ranking autistic soldier in the IDF and recipient of the Chief of Staff Award. He’ll tell his story of growing up autistic in Israel and establishing Titkadmu (Move Forward), a one-of-a-kind program for autistic soldiers. In the presentation, hear how Capt. Heller created systemic change in the IDF, revolutionizing the draft system and shifting mindsets around inclusion.
“Living with Mental Illness: Words to Say, Things to Do”
February 12, 2023
Dr. Susan Noonan, MD, MPH, discussed practical ways to respond and communicate in order to provide support for those experiencing mental health challenges — what to do and say as a family member and/or friend in the role as caregiver. Specific challenges such as mood disorders, stigma, refusing treatment, and suicidal thoughts were addressed. Noonan is the author of five books on managing mental health and mood disorders, most recently Reconnecting after Isolation: Coping with Anxiety, Depression, Grief, PTSD and More.
In Our Own Voice: A Mental Health Awareness Presentation and Conversation
November 13, 2022
One in five adults experiences a mental health condition each year. “In Our Own Voice” is a powerful presentation that aims to change attitudes, assumptions and stereotypes about people living with mental health conditions. Two trained presenters with lived experience of a mental health condition talked openly about their experiences and how they have found pathways to hope and healing. Audience members have the opportunity to ask questions, learn more about mental health and challenge misconceptions.
Let’s Talk About Mental Health: A Jewish Community Forum
February 16, 2022
A virtual community forum sponsored by Jewish Learning Venture focusing on eradicating the stigma of mental health challenges. We heard from keynote speaker Sharon Rosenblatt and people with lived experience with mental illness and experts in the mental health field, and invite participants to choose breakout groups for reflection.
Making Inclusion Happen: Three Leaders Share What Works
February 10, 2022
A discussion moderated by Rabbi Michelle Robinson featuring Tamar Davis, CEO of Gateways: Access to Jewish Education; Liz Offen, director of New England Yachad; and Deborah Flaschen, president and founder of 3L Place. Panelists discussed how their programs embody inclusion by providing education (secular and religious), work training, and opportunities that promote social, recreational, and independence skills. We learned how each leader got involved and how the pandemic affected the programs and their participants. Drawing from both the successes and challenges of their respective programs, panelists suggested how synagogue communities can further extend their efforts to be more inclusive.
Beyond the Basics of Teens & Anxiety: What Helps, What Doesn’t, and How to Know the Difference
February 9, 2022
The emotional health of our young people was suffering even prior to 2020. As we now emerge from a time like no other, teens need strategies to reduce and prevent the negative impacts of anxiety, stress, and depression, both at school and home. Going beyond the basic information most people have already heard, this program with Lynn Lyons, LICSW, showed parents and teachers how to help teens tolerate uncertainty, understand the links between anxiety and depression, and pay particular attention to the role of social media in our social and emotional lives. Sponsored by Gateways: Access to Jewish Education.
LGBTQ+ Concepts and Best Practices
October 29, 2023
Have you heard a bit about the LBGTQ+ community and you have questions? What do these terms mean? Why is there a “+”? Why is it important that people who are not LGBTQ+ know about that community? Why are there different Pride flags? An educational presentation, questions, and discussion about “LGBTQ+ Concepts and Best Practices” with Sam Hipschman, a community builder and facilitator based in western Massachusetts. They currently work as Director of Community Organizing and Engagement at Lab/Shul in New York and as a mental health therapist. Sam loves exploring the ways in which their trans/nonbinary and Jewish identities support and deepen one another. Sponsored by the Inclusion Committee and the Beth El cohort of the Keshet Shivyon Equality Program.
Members spoke of their experience of inclusion at Beth El at a Shabbat morning service. As they shared their moving stories, it was clear that some in the room were learning about these issues for the first time. Several commented that it made them feel safer to speak out themselves in the future.
Interactive Teen Programs
Through interactive programs, Beth El teens discover the differences and similarities that affect how each of us function in the world and in relationship with each other. Beth El’s middle schoolers, high schoolers and young adults participated in an interactive program led by an improvisation troupe with a focus on mental health. The program addressed stigma and offered ways that young people can learn from each other’s experience. In a powerful discussion, the teens explored ways that they can reach out, speak up and support each other. With a grant from Gateways, our younger teens participated in a hands-on program about learning disabilities. Students in grades 4-6 explored different learning styles and reflected on their own.
“Jewish Perspectives on Mental Health in Trying Times: A Two Part Conversation”
Beth El congregant Andy Nierenberg, M.D. guided us through an understanding of how mind, brain and spirit are unified and through a Jewish lens, we discussed how as a community we can counteract stigma and nourish and support all of our members.
Mental Health Awareness Program: “Wellness Without Overwhelm”
This program, presented virtually by BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, explored these topics: understanding how and why COVID is impacting our mental health; how to prioritize wellness in our social, emotional, physical, and spiritual lives and nurture self-care and wellness during this unprecedented world moment; how to connect to others with gratitude for what is, and hope for the future.