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From The President/CEO's Desk

Embracing Community this Mental Health Awareness Month

Last spring, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s wrote a piece for the Sunday New York Times, “We Have Become a Lonely Nation. It’s Time to Fix That.” In his article, Murthy writes vulnerably about an experience of deep disconnection that he felt after a time of intense work, which made him feel helpless, unhealthy, and alone. Indeed, he shares, extended feelings of loneliness are intertwined with poor health outcomes and have real consequences for individuals’ and communities’ well-being. And, considering how pervasive loneliness is in our society, considering the disruption of the pandemic, our ubiquitous and addictive relationship to our screens, and the challenges each of us face in our individual lives, it requires urgent, meaningful attention. 

I have been thinking a lot about Murthy’s piece as we have continued to investigate and invest in what mental health support can and should look like at the JCC. We are not a site for clinical support or intervention. However, Murthy’s framework speaks to building community organizations that offer programs that help people of all ages feel seen and connected. That’s what we do every day! I feel so proud for the kind of work we do at the JCC to be recognized in that way, and hopeful that we will be able to expand the visibility of the value that the JCC adds to the social fabric of our community. I was also struck by what Murthy identifies as our individual responsibility to rebuild our connection to one another. Whether it’s greeting one another with a smile and a chat, or taking the time to reach out to one another to check in, schedule times to go for a walk or have lunch together, and helping each other out, all of those acts of attention and connection build a healthy organization, community, and society.  

The JCC’s commitment to building a strong social fabric is in our organizational DNA. Being of service in the creation and strengthening of community, and being an antidote to loneliness, emerges from our core values of belonging/b’tzelem elokim, joy/simcha, collaboration/kehillah, and transformation/shma, values that are deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and that are good for everyone! Being a place that actively chooses to build culture and community through kindness, attentiveness to one another, and formal and informal moments of connection lets us feel nourished and at home at the JCC, and models for our community the kind of world we seek to create. During Jewish American Heritage month, Mental Health Awareness month, and throughout the year, I am so grateful to be in a place that leans into these values and puts them into action. 

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