NEFESH International Hosts a Virtual Melave Malka for Its West Coast Members

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NEFESH International Hosts a Virtual Melave Malka for Its West Coast Members

Yehudis Litvak

This past year has been tough for everyone, but especially so for those on the front lines. Some front line workers, such as doctors and nurses, are easy to spot and acknowledge. Others provide much needed help to people in crisis in the privacy of their offices and homes. Among them are mental health professionals, who have been fielding an unusually high amount of calls for help and who have gone above and beyond the call of duty this year to support our community through these challenging times.

NEFESH International, a network of Orthodox mental health professionals, hosted a special event this past Motzaei Shabbos to connect and give chizzuk to frum mental health professionals on the west coast. In previous years, NEFESH had hosted various in-person events, where Orthodox mental health professionals from all over the world could attend trainings and network with each other. Due to pandemic, there have been no in-person events for a year now, and the west coast NEFESH members have been feeling particularly isolated.

The LA Connect virtual Melave Malka gave the west coast frum mental health professionals an opportunity to reconnect with the colleagues they’ve met at previous events and to meet mental health professionals who are either new to the area or new to the field. LA Connect was chaired by the NEFESH West committee, consisting of Lizzy Weisinger, Psy.D., Mindy Hajdu, LCSW, and Rebecca Wurzburger, Psy.D.

At the event, hosted by LA-based Debbie Fox, LCSW and New York-based Dovid Becker, LCSW, the 27 attendees were randomly assigned to break out rooms and given questions to discuss. Then the attendees met again in the main room and talked about what they learned from these break out sessions.

Among the topics discussed were the favorite and the challenging parts of working in the mental health field, self-care, and inspirational role models. Several attendees mentioned Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, ztz”l, as their inspiration and spoke about his tremendous contribution to the frum community and the world at large.

While most attendees are based in Los Angeles, several live in other west coast communities, such as Las Vegas and Silicon Valley. They were especially appreciative of the opportunity to connect with other frum mental health professionals. “There is a need for Jewish networking for a bigger collective purpose,” said Danielle Wischenka, Ph.D., located in Northern California. “What we are seeing is similar, regardless of our specialty.”

Several therapists expressed appreciation for a local WhatsApp group for frum mental health professionals. Whenever a frum mental health professional is looking for a specific therapy for a client, or for insurance information, or for a referral, they turn to this active and helpful WhatsApp group.

The event concluded with a beautiful musical kumzitz with Elimelech Adler, an east coast-based musician. The attendees were energized and inspired to continue their difficult yet meaningful and rewarding work.