Amudim Launches Amudim Israel’s Sephardic Division

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Rachel’s dorm counselor called the Amudim Israel office concerned about Rachel’s recent change in mood and behavior. At first, she didn’t make much of the fact that Rachel was recently becoming withdrawn from friends and less attentive in class, or that she was regularly sleeping late. She simply assumed that Rachel was homesick, and it would pass on its own. However, after attending the seminary staff mental health training, she decided to call Amudim’s Israel office for guidance.  

Within a few days, Rachel found herself sitting with one of Amudim Israel’s Syrian case managers. Although apprehensive, Rachel felt more at ease knowing that this was someone who was familiar with the community back at home and would approach her situation with the sensitivity she needed. And no, this was not just a case of homesickness. Rachel had tragically been a childhood victim of abuse in camp, and although she had moved on, dorm life in Israel brought back those traumatic memories. Her anxieties had been keeping her up at night, but she was too embarrassed to speak with a staff member – after all, she’d only been in Israel for two months. Baruch Hashem, the Amudim Israel case manager was able to provide the support and guidance Rachel needed, and found her the appropriate therapeutic resources to help her with her struggle.  

While, of course, identifying details in this story have been changed for confidentiality purposes, this very real scenario is what Amudim Israel deals with on a daily basis.  

Providing Support in the U.S. and Israel 

Amudim Community Resources, founded and led by Rabbi Zvi Gluck, has been providing clinical case management, awareness, and education throughout the United States and abroad for close to a decade, helping countless members of our own community in times of crisis, and dealing with the most difficult of circumstances, including addictions and abuse. Aside from day-to-day case management services, Amudim’s travel department was a pioneer throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating visas for thousands of students coming to study in Israel, helping people bury loved ones in Eretz Yisrael, and handling emergencies requiring international travel.

As the organization grew and started receiving more and more calls from Israel, by 2017 the time had come to open up the local Amudim Israel branch to best provide local support to gap-year students and the English-speaking communities.  For the first time, the Anglo population and gap-year schools in Israel finally had a professional mental health organization to turn to for help and guidance.

New Division Focuses on Needs of Sephardic Community in Israel

Since Amudim Israel started operations, access to vital resources for the English-speaking community has become more readily available. With this in mind, coupled with the increase in call volume from Sephardim, a new division, with strong support from the community rabbis, was opened to cater to the needs of the Sephardic community. Spearheaded by Solly Mizrahi, MSW, this new initiative addresses the needs of all populations; gap-year students, newlyweds, families, and lone soldiers, assisting with complex mental health issues, navigating Israel’s bureaucracy, and providing psychoeducational workshops.

The Sephardic Division debuted with a series of workshops for yeshiva staff members on understanding mental health issues. This three-week program addressed the dynamic role of rebbeim who are working with students struggling with issues such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and more. One participant explained that “the issues facing our students today are unlike anything in the past. There are so many challenges facing adolescents today that it’s important for a rebbe to understand when professional intervention is necessary.” 

Special Programs Address Critical Issues

Additional past programs included mental health presentations provided to students from Yeshivot Lev Aharon, Yesod HaTorah, Moreshet Yerushalayim, Torat Shraga, and Eretz HaTzvi, as well as a similar workshop for seminary students, hosted by Sylvia and Moshe Faham. These presentations were a crucial opportunity for students to identify when it’s important to reach out for help, and of equal importance, to know that help is available. As one student, who subsequently reached out to Amudim Israel, mentioned to his case manager, “That talk got me thinking, I really want to address my depression and take charge of my life.” Lastly, an event for community mothers on the topic of child abuse and safety was organized in May. These special programs, and more, were provided in addition to the ongoing day-to-day clinical case management, which has been delivering critical support to individuals and families from our community impacted by mood disorders, addiction, eating disorders, and trauma.

Looking ahead, we are pleased to announce two new programs that are taking off in the near future. The first is a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, which will be implemented in the various Sephardic yeshivot and seminaries and will include a weekly class on topics including building healthy relationships, effective communication, leadership skills, understanding the world of addictions, and preparing for life after the year in Israel. Preventative education is an evidence-based model to promote healthy development and a wholesome lifestyle. Second, also launching at the beginning of the coming school year, is the opening of a new therapy center, a joint venture of Amudim Israel and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. The therapy center will offer subsidized clinical services, allowing those in need to access quality and professional care at an affordable rate. In addition to these new programs, Amudim Israel’s Sephardic Division will continue to provide psychoeducational workshops to communities, educators, and students throughout the year.

Bringing Peace of Mind to Community Families 

At last, families can send their children overseas with the comfort of knowing that if and when professional intervention is necessary, they have who to call. Similarly, those families living in Israel now have a place to turn to for confidential and professional care. We look forward to working together to meet the ever-developing needs of our community members who are zoche to call Israel their home.  

For case management support or for more information about upcoming events, Amudim Israel’s Sephardic Division can be reached in Israel at 02-380-3075, from the U.S. at 516-636-0175 ext. 401, or by emailing support@amudim.org.il. 

Amudim Israel’s Sephardic Division Community Advisory Board: Stefanie & Charles Sakkal, Sylvia & Moshe Faham, and Vered Mizrahi.