When a crisis occurs, after the first responders have stabilized victims and secured the scene, it’s time for the real healing to begin. But where do people turn for help processing the unimaginable? In Los Angeles, cue the second responders: the Jewish Community Crisis Response Team (JCCRT).
Formed three years ago by Jewish Family Service and Chai Lifeline in partnership with our Federation, JCCRT provides “mental health first aid” when there is a crisis in a synagogue, school or privately that affects members of our Jewish community and beyond. Whether there’s an accident, an unexpected death, an act of terror, or even a natural disaster, JCCRT is positioned to enter the scene as auxiliary help, allowing trained emergency personnel and/or the Red Cross to complete their life-saving rescue efforts first.
“A crisis isn’t over for a family or community after a fire is extinguished, or a funeral has ended. Many people haven’t even begun to heal at that point — and that’s where JCCRT comes in,” said Vivian Sauer, Director of Quality Management and Program Development for Jewish Family Service. “Whether it’s a one-on-one with a volunteer who provides a referral for ongoing counseling, or a support group that gives students or school staff a chance to talk through their feelings, JCCRT is offering an extremely valuable resource that puts our community on the path to healing.”
Over the past three years, JCCRT has grown into a strong team of approximately 30 volunteers of a variety of ages representing our diverse Jewish community. Comprised of individuals who can provide support and coping tools, the team mobilizes to help ease pain and comfort victims, their families and others affected by traumatic events. JCCRT volunteers also connect individuals to resources in the community for ongoing support.
“We are very proud of the JCCRT volunteers for their willingness to jump in wherever they are needed,” said Vivian. “Out of their commitment to our community, they are giving of their time and energy to support those who have experienced a trauma or crisis.”
While some volunteers have a background in crisis intervention, many do not — that’s why JCCRT provides training sessions throughout the year to better prepare them for what they may face, and to ensure that best practices are being followed. Workshops have been led by Chai Lifeline as well as Eyal Fruchter, a visiting professor from Israel who presented a model of crisis intervention he developed as head of mental health services for the Israeli army.
Jenna Fields, Women’s Division Director of The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance, participated in the very first training of JCCRT three years ago. “When people are in crisis situations, there is a medical team and an emergency response team, but who is there to be the listening ear and give someone a cup of tea and hold their hand, to sit next to them and say, ‘this is really hard and we’re here to listen’? People need to process their shock. JCCRT volunteers are present and ready to listen,” she said.
JCCRT is also in the process of designing a hybrid curriculum for synagogues so that members can create a supportive environment internally when and if a crisis occurs in their community. In addition, JCCRT has reached out to the LAPD to let them know the team is available if anything occurs within a Jewish institution. This partnership will ensure that JCCRT does not miss an opportunity to provide support within the Los Angeles Jewish community.
“I feel proud and reassured that we have something like this available because who knows what’s going to happen next,” said Jenna Fields. “We’re aware of what an unstable world we’re living in and security is so important, but so is mental health.”
For more information about JCCRT, or to inform the team about a need within our community, please contact (213) 260-7971 or email@example.com.