AKLA B’nai Mitzvah Scholarship, YU Mental Health Center in Israel

AKLA, a play on the Hebrew term meaning “great,” is a new organization for bar and bat mitzvah students designed to introduce them, face-to-face, to Jewish contributions to local and global society.

AKLA is led by Jeff Polack, president and executive director of the David and Janet Polak Foundation, established in 2012 to support Israel, American Jewry and other causes. In an interview, Polak said he “wanted to create a program that would inspire and excite kids about what’s going on in the Jewish community. I want them to understand the impact of the Jewish community on so many segments most of the b’nai mitzvah programs I have seen have been more about societal issues outside of the Jewish community.

The AKLA course spans five Sundays and the first run started in October. The inaugural cohort of two dozen students made five stops with an accompanying theme: Skirball Cultural Center (technology, startup nation), Annenberg Community Beach House (safety), Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (medical), Broad Stage (arts and media), and the Simon Wiesenthal Center (meeting with a Holocaust survivor).

Activities organized over five weeks included the meeting of students with a Holocaust survivor. Photo by Tucker Cattaneo/Christian Cheock

Polak’s main goal is for 12 and 13 year olds to see and digest the impact that Jews have on important segments of society.

“I was thrilled,” Polak said, “that at this age, when kids start charting their own paths, that they know they can make a difference in the world by succeeding in all avenues. children watch TV and they see movies. But do they understand that the formation of this entire industry was developed by Jewish immigrants? This is just one of the many paths our bnai mitzvah cohorts will take to make a difference in the world.

AKLA Advisory Board Members Include Independent Producer Tonia Barbiereducator Samara HutmanPresident of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles Evan Schlessingerjournal editor David Switzerland and Rabbi Lori Shapiro. New applications are being accepted for the next session, which begins February 26 and runs until March 19.

For more information visit https://aklausa.org


Yeshiva University has launched a new mental health therapy center in Israel.

Nechama Munk, director of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University in Israel.
Courtesy of Yeshiva University

Addressing a critical need for affordable English-language mental health services in Israel, YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work has partnered with Amudim Israel, an organization dedicated to serving community members in times of crisis, to open the therapy center in Jerusalem at the end of October.

The center is staffed by Wurzweiler graduate students, graduates, and other mental health professionals specializing in the treatment of anxiety, addiction, and trauma. The center has several therapy rooms as well as a classroom to meet the needs of patients and students.

“Wurzweiler is unique in its ability to educate the next generation of

health professionals and provide high-level services much needed by our community in Israel,” YU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Selma Botman said in a statement. “This is an exceptional opportunity to connect with YU’s larger mission of serving the needs of those living in Israel.”

The center will primarily serve the English-speaking immigrant community in Israel, including first-time gap year students away from home and new olim adjusting to life in an unfamiliar country. Generally, gap year students are not covered for mental health counseling by the tourist or temporary health insurance, and the center will provide lifesaving, affordable and quality mental health care to this vital population, according to YU.

A recent mental health exhibition in Jerusalem, co-organized by the YU Wurzweiler School, attracted more than 1,500 attendees. The success of the event was one of the catalysts for the creation of the new center.

According Nechama Munk, director of the Israeli program at YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, good mental health services have never been more necessary. Studies show that anxiety and depression have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, and while COVID-19 hasn’t necessarily created new mental health issues, it has certainly exacerbated existing ones, a- she declared.

“Our community really needs mental health services,” Munk said. “One of our core values ​​is to help those in need, and the therapy center will be there to offer relief and hope. Getting good, affordable treatment is a challenge for all Israelis, and even more so when your first language is not Hebrew.

AKLA B’nai Mitzvah Scholarship, YU Mental Health Center in Israel

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