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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Nefesh International’

Nefesh Conference Nourishes Mind, Body And Soul

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

As we become more aware of and willing to face the various maladies of a psychological nature that face us as a community, we also become more concerned about who is treating us.

We expect trained, expert and frum mental health professionals to help, guide and heal. Whether facing depression, anxiety, child abuse, domestic abuse, borderline personality disorder, eating disorder, an addiction or other issue, putting ourselves, a child or a spouse in someone’s hands at a vulnerable time is not an easy thing to do. How can we be sure the mental health professional is up on the latest developments and knows what he or she needs to know to help?

Nefesh International was created, nearly twenty years ago, to bring together frum mental health professionals to learn about the latest developments in their fields, meet other professionals, and keep current with all the newest resources in order to do their work more effectively.

Earlier this month, Nefesh held its fifteenth conference and achieved all those goals and more.

The participants were able to attend advanced workshops on topics including, among other others, depression, sexual addiction, domestic violence, divorce, schizophrenia, trauma, drug abuse, eating disorders, premarital counseling. Sessions focused on a variety of modalities including working with children, couples, individuals and families.

There were invited speakers of national and international acclaim in their fields from outside of the community who graciously agreed to share their expertise and advance the professional knowledge of the attendees. In addition, there were experts from within the community who came to share their advanced training and experience and help develop the skills and knowledge base of all who participated.

Over Shabbos, participants had the opportunity to be enriched spiritually while further enhancing their understanding of where halacha and mental health converge. Jewish mental health professionals from across the spectrum of Orthodoxy – wearing shtreimels, knitted yarmulkes, fedoras and Sephardic garb – joined together as brothers to train, learn, sing zemiros and share.

HaRav Dovid Cohen shared profound insights with his d’var Torah during Shacharis and addressed questions on important and current issues during his “Ask the Rav” session.

In addition, everyone who attended was privileged to hear from Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD. There is no one more capable of educating the professionals in our community in developing their understanding of psychological approaches in the context of proper religious and hashkafic perspectives.

Everyone was also inspired by the wit and wisdom of Rabbi Ronald Greenwald.

On Sunday, at a special lunch reception, Dr. Judith Guedalia was given the Esther Solomon Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Mental Health in the Torah Community. Dr. Guedalia has been an active board member of Nefesh International for years and co-founded Nefesh Israel.

After moving remarks from her son and a beautiful introduction by longtime colleague Dr. David Pelcovitz, Dr. Guedalia spoke movingly of her ongoing battle with cancer and how the asher yatzar prayer’s reference to bodily openings and closings inspires her to appreciate the healing capacity of her body, as well as the soul’s ability to handle and discharge stress.

Throughout it all, participants were nourished and rejuvenated in multiple and important ways. It is important to connect with others who understand what it takes to try to heal those in our community who are often in so much pain. When mental health professionals can share experiences and struggles it deepens their ability to properly treat those in need.

And when those mental health professionals are treated to an elaborately planned menu, it energizes them as they face their responsibilities and challenges. (Pomegranate, with the generosity of Mr. Avi Banda, did an unbelievable job in sending everyone home revitalized.)

Here are what some of the participants had to say about the conference:

“I want to thank each of you [conference attendees] for making my and my wife’s time at the Nefesh weekend spiritual, invigorating, educational and productive.”

“The presentations were fantastic, the bonding much needed, and I’m still thinking of the words spoken by Judi [Guedalia] – so inspiring.”

“The achdus, the sessions, and the food were amazing and memorable.” For those who missed it, recordings of most of the sessions will be available at www.nefesh.org.

Lisa G. Twerski, LCSW, is on the board of directors of Nefesh International, maintains a private practice in Brooklyn, and lectures locally and nationally on domestic abuse, marriage and dating. She has just released a book on domestic abuse titled, “I’m So Confused, Am I Being Abused?” (Israel Bookshop Publications).

At Orthodox Mental Health Group’s Forum, Openly Gay Jews Get Their Say And Some Support

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – The 15th annual conference of Nefesh International, an association of Orthodox mental health professionals, was a study in inclusion. Dr. Judith Guedelia, the director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s neuropsychology unit and a regular contributor to The Jewish Press, became the first woman to receive the conference’s Esther Solomon Mental Health Award. Several participants noted the increased chassidic representation. And three openly gay men for the first time were permitted to set up a table. Members of Jewish Queer Youth, a support group for Orthodox and formerly Orthodox LGBT Jews, they distributed informational materials and debated – and occasionally berated – conference participants. The JQY members were allowed to participate in last weekend’s conference at a Long Island hotel only as individual advocates raising awareness, not under the banner of an organization. And only after a special appeal to Nefesh. “They wanted to talk about their struggles as homosexuals in the Orthodox world,” said Nefesh president Simcha Feuerman, a marriage and family therapist in private practice in New York and a weekly Jewish Press columnist. “Mental health professionals should be aware of those voices.” Feuerman noted that as an organization that abides by halacha, or Jewish law, Nefesh cannot support any organization that “normalizes” homosexual behavior. “On the other hand, we certainly have great compassion and interest in the challenges and struggles that persons with homosexual desires and orientation experience,” he said. The inclusion of openly gay men at the conference represents yet another shift, however incremental, in the willingness of the Orthodox community to candidly discuss homosexuality. It also comes as Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing, or JONAH – an organization that promotes reparative therapy for Orthodox gays – did not participate in the conference after its controversial appearance last year. JONAH co-founder Arthur Goldberg told JTA that he had a prior engagement in Florida. “The last few years have seen a seismic shift in attitudes toward LGBT people in Orthodox communities,” said Jay Michaelson, the author of God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality. “To an outsider, things may seem barely to have changed. But to those of us who are part of or work with Orthodox communities, the change has been dramatic.” Last year, a gay Shabbaton in Connecticut attracted more than 150 guests. In the summer of 2010, a group of more than 150 Orthodox rabbis and mental health professionals endorsed a statement that called for greater sympathy from rabbis and counselors, urged families not to cast out homosexual children and cast doubt on reparative therapy, which most mental health professionals consider a sham. And just last month, a self-described Orthodox rabbi performed a gay commitment ceremony in Washington. The developments are not without their opponents, however. A statement on homosexuality signed by several leading Orthodox rabbis and Orthodox mental health professionals asserts that homosexuality is a curable condition and calls for resistance against “the infiltration” of homosexual activists in the Orthodox community. The statement, publicized last week on the Huffington Post, forbids a gay individual from being alone with a member of the same sex and cautions Orthodox individuals about “accepting some false notions.” On Saturday evening, Rabbi Dovid Cohen, one of three rabbinic advisers to Nefesh, spoke on making a distinction between sin and organized sin – comments interpreted by many conference-goers as targeting homosexuality in general and JQY in particular. In an interview with JTA, Rabbi Cohen said that anyone who organizes to reject a provision of the Torah should be regarded as a traitor. They should still be treated for their illness, he said, but not with compassion. “It’s as if someone was asked to treat an enemy soldier who is trying to kill him,” Rabbi Cohen said. “We shouldn’t have empathy.” At the conference, JQY members sought to distinguish between homosexuality as an orientation and gay sex as an act, with only the latter prohibited by the Torah. “JQY doesn’t challenge anything in the Torah,” said Mordechai Levovits, the co-executive director of JQY. “We understand that there are some acts that are halachically problematic, but we believe that [gays] can be openly themselves and still be part of the community and their families.” According to Levovitz, JQY does not “support or encourage sexual or intimate behavior…and adheres to the principal of tzniut [modesty], which demands that intimate behavior stays private and discrete.” The group, he says, only seeks “to combat shame, bullying and ostracizing while making families, yeshivas and communities safe and welcoming to their gay members.” Despite the debate, many conference participants appeared supportive of the JQY members and were pleased by their presence. A steady stream approached their station at the end of the hall featuring a well-stocked collection of testimonials about harmful therapeutic practices and statements from Orthodox rabbis on homosexuality. One of two television screens played a video of gay men describing the trauma they experienced as youths in the Orthodox community. “People need to hear that there is a gay population in the Orthodox community that needs to be integrated,” said Malka Engel, a social worker and psychoanalyst who practices in Manhattan and on Long Island. “Why not?” said a therapist who preferred to remain unnamed. “We’d rather find a way to treat than kick them out. How can we learn anything without talking to them?” (JTA)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/at-orthodox-mental-health-group%e2%80%99s-forum-openly-gay-jews-get-their-say-and-some-support/2011/12/07/

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