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Introducing the Los Angeles Resiliency Roundtables: Strengthening Mental Health Support in the L.A. Jewish Community 

Mental health struggles affect a significant portion of the population at some point in their lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness1. The U.S. Surgeon General has also acknowledged a youth mental health crisis, further exacerbated by the lasting impacts of the pandemic2. Managing mental well-being has become increasingly challenging for individuals, leading to a heightened demand for support. Unfortunately, a critical issue intensifying the crisis is the shortage of mental health professionals3. The scarcity of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists has created a significant gap between demand for services and availability of resources, leaving many without assistance. 

In response to these challenges, The Jewish Federations of North America and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies launched BeWell, an organization dedicated to promoting mental health within the Jewish community. In July of 2022, BeWell began the North American Resiliency Roundtable. Resiliency Roundtables bring together mental health experts and Jewish organizations that cater to young individuals, fostering an environment of education and collaboration within a Jewish context. These meetings facilitate a valuable exchange of knowledge, where professionals from Jewish education and engagement organizations learn from clinicians and leaders in the mental health field. By leveraging these Resiliency Roundtables, the Jewish community aims to mobilize efforts to more effectively address mental health challenges. 

Jewish Federation Los Angeles recently joined 13 other communities by adopting this national model. Los Angeles Resiliency Roundtables place a primary focus on the mental health of Jewish young adults. These quarterly gatherings are a vital platform for local experts and participants to come together to discuss and strategize around issues directly related to the mental health of young adults aged 18—30. Resiliency Roundtables actively promote education, awareness, and open dialogue. They cultivate a supportive environment where professionals from social services and Jewish education and engagement organizations can engage in meaningful conversations about mental health. Further, these Roundtables allow for the development of a vibrant network where people build personal relationships. Through this network, professionals deploy the vast offerings of the Jewish community to the people they serve.  

Our first meeting

Bright and early on May 15, 2023, Jewish Federation Los Angeles launched its first Resiliency Roundtable. We were joined by 45 lovely participants from 18 organizations! The gathering began with an uplifting introduction, where we recognized the significance of collaborative strategizing to tackle this urgent issue. To set the stage for the discussions, we presented mental health findings from the Federation’s 2021 Study of Jewish L.A., an in-depth community-wide study conducted in partnership with the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and NORC at the University of Chicago. The Federation’s Associate Chief Program Officer, Jewish Education & Engagement Shira Rosenblatt shared some key findings at the Roundtable. 

Mental Health and The Study of Jewish L.A.  

Equipped with these eye-opening insights, the participants delved into the findings of the Resiliency Roundtable Survey, which was designed and released in February 2023 to explore the perspectives of local professionals who work with Jewish youth regarding mental health challenges. A total of 51 professionals completed the survey. During the Roundtable, Research and Evaluation Associate Denise Barth presented a selection of compelling findings, some of which are outlined below. For a comprehensive memo detailing additional survey findings, please reach out to me!  

Top Perceived Mental Health Experiences from the Resiliency Roundtable Survey

  • Excessive worry, fear, or anxiety  
  • Loneliness 
  • Low self esteem  

After covering the landscape, we held a panel discussion featuring esteemed representatives from three trusted Federation partners: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), JQ International, and Maple Counseling Center. During the discussion, the professionals in the audience gained valuable insights on identifying key signs that indicate a young adult may be struggling with mental health. The panelists provided expertise on common behavioral and emotional indicators professionals should be attentive to which enable early intervention and support. This knowledge will empower professionals to recognize and address mental health concerns among the young adults they serve. The panel also emphasized the significance of responding to a young adult’s struggles empathetically and with care. The panel gave guidance on how to create a safe and nonjudgmental space for young adults to share their challenges. The experts outlined effective communication strategies and active listening techniques, enabling professionals to build trust. Additionally, the discussion highlighted the importance of appropriate referrals to organizations such as NAMI, JQ, and Maple Counseling Center. 

Participants engaged in dialogue and networking with one another throughout the session. A thought-provoking discussion broke out, during which participants posed questions to the room inspired by the meeting’s content.  To close the gathering, we drew upon a Jewish text, adding a meaningful and reflective touch: וְכָךְ הָיָה מוֹנֶה, אַחַת, אַחַת וְאַחַת, אַחַת וּשְׁתַּיִם, אַחַת וְשָׁלשׁ, אַחַת וְאַרְבַּע, אַחַת וְחָמֵשׁ, אַחַת וָשֵׁשׁ, אַחַת וָשֶׁבַע. יָצָא וְהִנִּיחוֹ עַל כַּן הַזָּהָב שֶׁבַּהֵיכָל 

“This is how he (the Kohen Gadol) would count: One, one and one, one and two, one and three…” Mishna, Yoma 5:3  

As I reflect on the meticulous counting methodology employed in this text, I am reminded of how important it is to embrace our origins as we forge ahead. Moreover, this text serves as a testament to the transformative power of incremental progress. True impact is often born from patient determination and unwavering dedication. Roundtables help us make strides in our community together. As we commit to nurturing the mental well-being of our community, let us embrace each step with purpose and determination. Let us bring hope, healing, and resilience to all of Los Angeles.  

If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, our findings, or mental health resources, feel free to reach out to me anytime at EMendelson@JewishLA.org. 

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