It’s Time to Confront Mental Health in the Orthodox Community

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It’s time to bring the conversation about mental health to the forefront in our community.

It’s time to meet all of the wonderful resources for people in our community whose pain is from something you can’t see, but hurts no less.

It’s time for people to learn that they are not the only ones in the world who feel like they do, and there is hope, and help.

It’s time to end stigma and stereotypes of mental illness and begin a discussion in which we can talk about mental health.

Let’s learn how a person’s world, their surroundings, upbringing, perceptions, thoughts, feelings and biology all combine to create the person we know, and when there’s a problem, the best thing we can do is work with it, not dismiss it.  Rav Kook said, “Know yourself, know your world, know your feelings… find yourself, your source of life… you have wings of the soul, mighty eagles wings, don’t neglect them, lest they neglect you, seek them, and you’ll find them immediately.” (Orot Hakodesh 1:83) This holistic sense of a person must be the preamble to religious life and spiritual growth.

Let’s remember that no one is ever perfect, we’re all works in process. The Gemara (Gittin 43a) says that no one really understands life  torah, until they’ve struggled with failure.

Let’s learn the skills to help cope with the stresses of daily life, learn to accept our frailties, stop looking over our shoulders wondering what they neighbors or future mechutanim will think.

Over the last 10 years we have spent working as the directors of  OU-JLIC at Brooklyn College. We have been mentors, friends and educators to hundreds of Jewish students from our community in Brooklyn. We have helped them as they developed into adults and started families of their own. This experience has allowed us a rare snapshot into the world of our community’s emerging adulthood, and its trends.

We have seen the how a holistic view of mental health will benefit all us all. We’ll start creating, in the Rambam’s words, a healthy body, and a healthy soul.  Join us for our panel “Anxiety and Depression: Let’s talk about it” on Wednesday June 7th at the Brooklyn College Hillel 2901 Campus Rd, from 7:30-9:00. We will hear from our robust panel which includes a variety of disciplines, including a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social workers, as well as a Rabbi and the head of a unique crisis response organization.

We’ll begin our discussion.  Where do mental health and religious life and growth intersect? When is a good friend and religious mentor optimal? When must I seek help professional help? What’s the difference between feeling sad and being depressed? How can you tell the difference between religious devotion and psychological struggle?


Rabbi Reuven Boshnack
OU-JLIC at Brooklyn College Hillel

Visit JLIC’S Website

Photographs are of OU-JLIC students at Brooklyn College.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.