Temple Isaiah

Lexington, Massachusetts, USA

Areas of Inclusion: Architectural & Physical Accommodations and Transportation, General Inclusion, Mental Health, Religious School, and Youth Group, High School, and College Programming

About the Congregation

55 Lincoln Street

Lexington, MA 02421

Number of Congregants: 2300

Contact Information

Lawrence Fuhrman

Inclusion Programming

Does this congregation have an inclusion committee?


Developing Our Program

The Inclusion Committee was created when we received the Ruderman grant in the spring 2016.
The Mental Health Initiative was created in 2012. The idea for our Mental Health Initiative began in a Boston-area psychiatric hospital, where the Temple Isaiah member who is now the senior co-chair of our mental health team had been hospitalized for an episode of severe depression. As part of her recovery, Cynthia—who is a health educator—was determined to do something to educate the Temple community about depression in particular and mental health challenges in general. When our senior rabbi, Howard Jaffe, visited her in the hospital, she started a discussion about how to go about this, and then they had more talks after she had recovered more fully. He encouraged her to meet with other interested members of the Temple because he felt strongly that new ideas should be implemented from within a congregation not just by the rabbi.
So when Cynthia had recovered and was back in the community, she pulled together a team of congregants who shared her passion for creating a mental health initiative in our congregation. Rabbi Jaffe suggested some team members and some have had personal connections with Cynthia. In our team we have congregants who have family histories of mental illness or family members with current lived experience as well as congregants with their own lived experience. In addition, our team includes several mental health professionals—a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a social worker, and a certified peer counselor.

Number of people involved in the effort: 50

Involving People with Disabilities

Both the Mental Health Initiative Team and the Inclusion Committee include people with lived experience of mental illness, family members of people with disabilities or mental illness, and behavioral health professionals.

Funding This Effort

The initial efforts of our Mental Health Initiative were entirely voluntary, with small funding from the Temple's Social Action Fund and the Rabbis' Discretionary Funds from 2012-2017. In 2017 -2018 a portion of the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project grant was allocated for mental health programming.

Helpful Agencies & Organizations

We have had speakers from McLean's Hospital, Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Riverside Community Care, NAMI, Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, and others. We have also tapped professionals in the congregation as speakers and facilitators.
We have had resource tables at the receptions after speaker events with resources brought by NAMI, DBSA, Lexington Youth and Family Services, and others.

Spreading Awareness About Our Work

We publicize programs through the Temple Bulletin, Email Digest, Social Action in ACTION eblast, and digital monitor; local weekly and monthly newspapers and electronic postings; connections to other synagogues and churches through connections such as the Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization; NAMI Central Middlesex and NAMI Mass; the McLean's consumer advisory council and similar connections.

Process & Sharing

History, Materials & Processes that Guided Our Approach

We have a list of all the Mental Health programs we have done (see attached).
We have the script for a talk by team members at congregations interested in starting their own mental health initiatives (see attached).
We have several handouts on combatting stigma (attached).
We have a report of the Inclusion Committee to the Temple Bulletin (attached).

Evidence of Successful Inclusion Efforts

Congregants have come forward to publically share their own stories of lived experience starting with our launch event in 2012 through events in 2017 on eating disorders and 2018 on spirituality and mental health as well as at inclusion Shabbat services. Congregants have shared their stories at house meetings (community organizing conversations). A number of congregants have approached members of Mental Health Initiative team for referrals and advice.

Evidence of Changing Attitudes

The topics of mental health and disability are more openingly discussed in both informal and formal conversations. Our Religious School as requested and received from the MHI team support for programs on resilience for teens, coping with anxiety and depression, and how to deal with families undergoing divorce

How We're Using and Sharing the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center

All members of the MHI team are aware if the learning site and have the URLs and are sharing it with the Inclusion Committee. Several of us have participated in URJ inclusion webinars.
We have two copies in the Temple library of "Caring for the Soul: R’fuat HaNesh—A Mental Health Resource and Study Guide," ed. Richard F. Andress, UAHC Press 2003, and have used material for our programs.

Future Inclusion Efforts

Temple Isaiah is currently hosting a 12-week NAMI Family to Family group.
We have scheduled a full-day program at Temple Isaiah of Mental Health First Aid in collaboration with the Town of Lexington next month.
We continue to work on strengthening our team's collaborative efforts with our Religious School.
We have scheduled in the fall 2018 a reprise of our presentation on combatting stigma to the Temple Board.
We will continue to offer programming to our congregation and larger community.

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