By Jenn Ross
While attending Beth El Temple’s Human Rights Shabbat in December, I was incredibly moved by speaker Dr. Truong Phuong of the International Service Center, who provided an overview of the challenges his agency faces serving the time-sensitive and desperate needs of Afghan refugees moving to our region. Dr. Phuong choked up while recounting a recent experience, explaining that they are nearly at a breaking point with limited staff and high demands.
I empathize completely with Dr. Phuong as we have encountered similar staffing challenges and have had to repeatedly pivot for close to two years during this seemingly relentless pandemic. Even those of us who navigate these challenges seemingly unscathed can silently be suffering unless we find ways to continuously recharge.
Author Chris Bohjalian captured this sentiment in the Boston Globe article, “We’re all feeling fine. We really are. Except we’re not.”
He writes: “I would post images on social media about their work, and the posts would be celebratory and cheerful — the antithesis of what I or they were feeling… It’s even possible that the little lies we spread about ourselves helped keep us sane. I just wish I had known the pain that my two friends I met for breakfast were enduring and I know they wished they had known more of mine…There is catharsis in admitting that we have all been changed and that none of us in 2022 will be who we were in 2020.”
The impact of this stress is particularly concerning for children and teens if it isn’t addressed. I am proud of JCC Aquatics Director MarkJoseph Kasian for making youth mental health support a priority. He completed the Youth Mental Health First Aid Course with The Jewish Education Project (https://www.jewishedproject.org/).
MarkJoe reflected on the program by saying, “Mental Health is often put on the back burners when it should be at the forefront. It is wonderful that this course gives voice to those who need to be most heard, and develops the skills of those ready to listen.” Programs like these and direct support for children such as JFS’s Mynd Works Counseling can be invaluable in helping children through hard times.
Mental Health First Aid training for adults is a way to help others. If you need support for yourself, United Way has a helpline for a wide variety of services. Just dial 2-1-1. If you, or someone you know, is contemplating suicide, help is available twenty-four hours a day at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255. For less immediate challenges and to refresh regularly, I recommend The Blue Dove Foundation (https://thebluedovefoundation.org/) and Greater Good Science Center (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/).
I personally have appreciated the support of our community, JCC family (the entire team and our members and families), local and national colleagues, our local Jewish and interfaith clergy, and friends and family, who have all refilled my cup and been a source of strength. Thank you!
I want to particularly thank Lori Rubin who has been an amazing partner. Lori joined our staff just prior to the pandemic. She has helped navigate through every pivot and challenge and worked on important initiatives such as JResponse, Awareness in Action, and JCulture, in addition to all of her programmatic responsibilities. I wish her the best of luck in her new role as Associate Executive Director of the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill. I’m delighted she will still be part of the JCC family and look forward to connecting with her in this next part of her professional journey.
Taking my own advice in recharging and refilling my cup, I have been on vacation the first two weeks of January. I look forward to reconnecting with you next week and can be reached starting January 17 at 717-236-9555 x3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.