The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat – 22-23 January 2021

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

The MHAS falls annually on Shabbat “Bo”, the weekly Torah portion which tells about the Plague of Darkness, which has resonance with mental illness.

This year’s theme is The Impact of the Pandemic. Living through the ongoing pandemic has affected all our mental health, and this special Shabbat is an opportunity for the entire community to focus on and raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.

Please use our toolkit of resources to help arrange your activities to mark the MHAS. Don’t forget to let us know what you have planned.

Mental Health Awareness Shabbat Toolkit

A message from Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

A message from our CEO

The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2021 is possibly the most important yet. In the past year we have all lived through the most extraordinary of times. For so many of us, physical health concerns, uncertainty and social distancing restrictions have led to increased feelings of anxiety and stress.

For those already living with mental illness or caring for someone with mental health problems, these past months have been tougher than ever.

Raising awareness and promoting conversations around mental health is a vital step to ensuring people who need support, will get it. Stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness has for too long, prevented those needing help from seeking it.

We are delighted to be joined by synagogues throughout our community, as well as schools, youth and university groups, individuals and families, who are marking MHAS with sermons, Zoom events, speakers and other activities.

Please take full advantage of all the available resources in the MHAS Toolkit and be sure to share your plans and stories with us. Together we are transforming the mental health landscape in our community, and I could not be prouder.

Laurie Rackind
Chief Executive

Jami’s MHAS programme of events

Friday 22nd January 3.15pm

United Synagogue MHAS dedicated Kabbalat Shabbat with Rabbi Daniel Epstein

Saturday 23rd January 8-9.30pm

Mental Health Awareness through a Covid-19 Lens – Looking after ourselves, our families and our communities (Interactive Head Room Education session)

Sunday 24th January 8-9.15pm

MHAS Community Conversations (Interactive Head Room Education session)

Monday 25th January 7-8pm

Getting through lockdown: taking care of myself and my friends (interactive Head Room Education session) for ages 14-16

Tuesday 26th January 8-8.30pm

Supporting our children during these difficult times – Samantha Simmonds in conversation with Dr Ellie Cannon

Thursday 28th January 8-8.30pm

Monty, Mental Health and Mazal – Zaki Cooper in conversation with cricket legend Monty Panesar

Thursday 28th January 8.30-8.45pm

Cake is my Super Power with Ilana Epstein of Ta’am – Judaism on a Plate

To find out more information and register email


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 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

1 Minute for Mental Health

As part of the 2020 Mental Health Awareness Shabbat weekend, on Sunday 2nd February all Maccabi GB affiliated football matches held ‘1 minute for Mental Health’. Delaying kick off by 60 seconds at every football match, we encouraged players, managers and spectators to think about their own mental health and wellbeing, or how they can support other people to look after their mental health.

Examples of past MHAS 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 Mental Health Awareness Shabbat, created a special display in their hall and took part in  activities from the 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.