Mental Health
Awareness Shabbat

20-21 January 2023

The Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (MHAS), launched in 2017, aims to raise the profile of mental health in the Jewish Community.

This year the MHAS falls on Parashat Va’eira. In Parashat Va’eira, Moshe tells the Jewish nation that their woes have ended and that redemption is at hand. This should have been a time of elation, but the Israelites were too overwhelmed by their own stresses to absorb this message. They had lost hope and could not imagine a positive future for themselves. Stresses in life may be inevitable but it is comforting to have hope that the future can bring our own personal redemption and in turn can bring us from darkness into light.

The theme of the MHAS 2023 will be “Community”. How does our sense of community help or hinder our mental health? In what ways can we support one another in our community?

To arrange a speaker or for any further information on how to mark the MHAS, please contact laura.bahar@jamiuk.org

Our Toolkit of resources to help mark the MHAS are available here.

A message from Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis

Jami welcome

Dear Friends,

As the 7th Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat approaches, I have reflected on how our community has taken huge strides in recent years to raise the profile of mental health. 

Community is the theme this year, and there is no doubt that by coming together to talk and learn about mental health, we gain more power as individuals and as groups to support all those around us. 

Feeling comfortable to openly talk about the problems we are having, in the same way we may talk about physical illness, brings us closer to creating a more accepting and inclusive community where no one has to feel alone in their struggles.

We are excited that synagogues throughout our community, schools, youth and university groups, organisations, individuals and families will be joining us to mark this special Shabbat.  And we hope that you will make full use of the available resources in our MHAS Toolkit and share your plans and stories with us.

Working to create a mentally healthy future for the community is something we should all feel proud of. 

Thank you for your support.

Best wishes,

Laurie Rackind
Chief Executive

“The MHAS is an incredibly important initiative, as it acts as an impetus to get conversations going, which is probably the most important first step anyone can take in gaining a better awareness of mental health.” – Judy Silkoff, Board of Deputies

“It was a privilege to take part in the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat which has now become a well-deserved and important fixture in our calendar. ” Rabbi Wollenberg, Woodford US

“We used your extremely helpful resource pack to plan the day and had a number of people join who said their reason for coming to shul that day was precisely because of MHAS, we saw several who had never been before. ” – Kevin Darvill, Exeter Synagogue

Examples of past Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat projects:

Edgware United Synagogue held a talk entitled “Is there such a thing as Jewish Counselling?” with Sara Cooper, Head of Clinical Services at Raphael Jewish Counselling and a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist with 30 years of experience working with clients as well as teaching and supervising counsellors and therapists.

Hampstead Synagogue Dennington Park United held a talk presented by one of their congregants who is a psychotherapist specialising in supporting people in distress.

A cross communal event was held at The Shrubberies in Manchester, in association with Stenecourt, Heaton Park Hebrew Congregation, The WHC and Holy Law South Broughton Congregation with Ivan Lewis MP, entitled “My Battle With Depression” followed by a panel discussion with Estelle Gillis, Mental Health Occupational Therapist at Neshomo, Dr Emma Santhouse, Chartered Clinicial Psychologist and Dr Jeff Schryer, GP and Chair of Bury NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.  Chaired by Dr Paul Abeles, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Kol Chai Reform Synagogue held a brunch with a panel discussion featuring representatives from the Harrow Samaritans and the OLLIE Foundation (One Life Lost is Enough) and from the Harrow Citizens Mental Health Action Team.  They discussed current issues affecting society’s mental health and what their organisations are doing, followed by a Q & A.

St Albans United Synagogue Screened the movie Screenagers which focuses on the subject of social media and tech time and the impact this has on kids development as well as holding a panel discussion with the heads of Yavneh and JFS as well as the CEO of Jewish Interactive and a family and child / adolescent psychotherapist.

Alyth North Western Reform’s Head of Community Care and Life Cycle gave a Mental Health Awareness Sermon.

Clore Tikva Primary School held a presentation at their assembly to introduce the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat, created a special display in their hall and took part in  activities from the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat Youth Pack.

Central Square Minyan Orthodox Synagogue’s community were addressed by Rabbi Rafi Zarum along with a programme of professional speakers discussing mental health issues across the lifecycle from infancy through childhood, adulthood and old age including Prof Gill Livingston Professor of Psychiatry of older people at University College London, Dr Michael Peters Head of British Medical Association Wellbeing Support Services, Angela Hodes Barrister specialising in the Court of Protection and Assistant Coroner of London Inner West, Ann Peters Health Visitor and Registered Nurse qualified in obstetrics, Emma Gershon Head of Pastoral Care for year 8 at St Mary and St Johns school in Hendon, Debby Lipkin consultant headteacher of JFS, Dr Irene Sclare Consultant Clinical Psychologist at South London and Maudesley NHS Foundation Trust and Helen Bender Consultant Psychotherapist.

1 Minute for Mental Health – Hollie Geey

A message from Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis

1 Minute for Mental Health – Ashley Lerner

Dr Ellie Cannon & Samantha Simmonds in conversation

Cake is my Super Power with Ilana Epstein

Zaki Cooper in conversation with Monty Panesar