Jewish Federations Tackle Mental Health Crisis with New $2.75 Initiative

Jewish Federations of North America are proud to announce the launch of BeWell, a first-of-its-kind mental health initiative that will equip the Jewish community with tools, resources and training to support the mental health and overall well-being of teens and young adults. This $2.75 million mental health initiative is a partnership of Jewish Federations with the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA) together with the generous support of Crown Family Philanthropies, Jim Joseph Foundation, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.   

BeWell offers a comprehensive, coordinated, system-wide response to the nation’s teen and young adult well-being and mental health crisis, equips dozens of organizations with resources and tools that are infused with Jewish values and train thousands of professionals, parents and teens to provide the care our youth need. The initiative’s focus is on support for teens and young adults between the ages of 12-26, their parents and the professionals that support them.

“The mental health crisis affecting our communities is something we must confront head on,” said Jewish Federations President and CEO Eric Fingerhut. “This is a major investment in our teens and young adults, and not just the future of the Jewish community, but its ability to flourish in the present as well.” 

The pandemic took a particularly harsh toll on the mental health of young adults. A 2020 study of the Jewish community conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies in partnership with 10 Jewish Federations found that younger adults reported more difficulty coping with the pandemic than older adults.  The disruptions to their lives were dramatic and, in many cases, impacted them more than their older peers. An alarming CDC study published in March of this year reported that 4 out of 10 teens feel “persistently sad or hopeless” while 1 out of 5 have contemplated suicide. 

“Many Jewish professionals are themselves young adults and may be struggling, but they often lack the skills and resources to promote adolescent mental health. The education and training we offer both helps them develop critical skillsets and bolsters resilience,” said Sara Allen, Associate Vice President, Community & Jewish Life, Jewish Federations of North America. “Young people most often turn to their peers first when they seek help or advice, which is why we are ensuring that they are empowered and equipped to be able to help their friends in distress.”   

BeWell works in close partnership with both Jewish educators and mental health professionals—many of whom are affiliated with the member agencies of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies—to build connections among the engagement and clinical and Jewish human service worlds, focusing on three levels of care simultaneously: 

  1. promoting intensive field-building and communities of practice as part of the Resiliency Roundtable; 
  2. providing desperately needed education and training in Mental Health First Aid and other evidence-based courses through a Jewish lens to thousands of teens and adults over three years, with a focus on prevention and resiliency-building; and 
  3. profoundly boosting capacity among a wide range of Jewish communities and organizations.  

“The member agencies of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies are front line responders, providing an extensive range of mental health supports and community education efforts to address the troubling dynamic of youth mental health.  The agencies are committed to bringing their clinical expertise and additional support resources to strengthen local partnerships with Jewish education and engagement organizations, and in doing so will help ensure a strong continuum of mental health and wellness resources in local Jewish communities,” added Reuben Rotman, President & CEO, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies.

A particular focus will be placed on marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ teens and young adults and Jews of color.

Jewish Federations and NJHSA are also launching Special Incentives Grant Funds that will fund organizations to raise awareness for youth well-being in their communities, develop grassroots initiatives and other innovative approaches to youth well-being mental health.  



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