REAL - Mental Health Initiative

Striving to end the stigma of mental illness in our Jewish community

The Mental Health Initiative has influenced the beginning of many changes in our congregation over the past year. People are coming forward and participating in activities, sharing their personal experiences, and meeting to address and improve our caring community. To assist us with this work, we have hired a Mental Health Initiative Program Coordinator, JoAnne Forman, to work with the clergy, staff and congregation to collaborate on ways to end the stigma and shame around the issue of mental illness.

upcoming real events

Contemplative Shabbat Services
January 25, March 22 & May 31 | 6:15 pm in the Sanctuary
Contemplative practice including meditation and mindfulness has always been a vital part of Judaism, though at times more implicit than explicit. With growing recognition that contemplative practice has health and healing benefits we bring this stream of Judaism into Shabbat. In our contemplative services we will explore Shabbat through Jewish chant, silence, quieting the mind, and Torah reflection. Together we will weave a space for healing and introspection and experience the gift of Shabbat anew. 
REAL hosts a screening of I Am Maris
Tuesday, February 5, 7:00 pm | $7 per ticket
After a childhood of mounting anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, Maris is hospitalized as a teen to confront her illnesses. Struggling to cope once released, she finds solace in the healing powers of therapy, art, and yoga. Maris's recovery and self-awareness become our inspiration to embrace our imperfect selves, and a message of how amazing we can be, not only in spite of, but because of our struggles. This powerful movie is presented in partnership with Jewish LearningWorks.
Far From the Tree with Andrew Solomon
Tuesday, May 14, 7:00 pm 
To what extent should parents accept their children for who they are and to what extent should they help them become their best selves? Drawing from his award-winning novel, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children & the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon will discuss the ways families accommodate children with physical, mental and social disabilities and how these unusual situations can be invested with love. 
Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts. He is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center, and President of PEN American Center. 

Click on each of the following to learn more about the ways in which JoAnne and her team are implementing the REAL Mental Health Initative and how you can get involved:
Support Programs

Why Stigma Reduction Matters to All of Us

The mission of our REAL Mental Health Initiative is:  Striving to end the stigma and isolation of mental illness in our Jewish community.  Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what stigma means and why it’s so important that we identify and work to end it.

Approximately 1 in 5 people experiences a mental illness in a given year. Stop and think about what that means: How many people are in your family, or your group of friends? Chances are you, or someone you care about, has faced a mental health challenge this year. In our congregation of nearly 2,000 adults, statistically almost 400 of our fellow community members are likely affected by a mental health issue.

What we know from research is that with treatment and support, 70-90% of people with mental health challenges report an improved quality of life. But stigma makes it difficult for people to reach out for that support; leading to an increased chance of school dropout, difficulty finding or keeping employment, or feelings of isolation and reluctance to engage fully with our religious and spiritual community.

When Rabbi Stacy Friedman gave her 2014 Kol Nidre sermon about mental health, she made a promise that Rodef Sholom would “work to create a safer place for more people to come out from behind the shadows and find the support and care they need to go on with their lives.” Rabbi Friedman also forged the way for Rodef Sholom to start having open and honest conversations about mental health and mental illness. These are the conversations that break down barriers, help family and friends learn how to support each other, and encourage community members to reach out to others.

Stigma reduction happens when we all come together to fight against it - whether we suffer from mental illness, love someone who does, or simply care about being an ally to the cause. By uniting together to reduce the stigma of mental illness we are creating change - strengthening our community, changing the system, and helping to make Rodef Sholom a safe place where everyone - no matter what - feels welcome and comfortable.

To get involved in the REAL Mental Health Initiative or for more information, please contact me at [email protected] or 415.479.3441 x3011.

JoAnne Forman
REAL Mental Health Initiative Program Coordinator



The REAL Mental Health Initiative at Rodef Sholom is supported by the Lazlo N. Tauber Family Foundation