Resilience of the Soul Breaks Ground in Adolescent Mental Health

Program Develops Emotional and Spiritual Strength for Teens and their Families

SAN DIEGO, CA—To help families and congregations offer teens a safe place to mature into adulthood, the Union’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns has published Resilience of the Soul – Developing Emotional and Spiritual Resilience in Adolescents and Their Families, A Resource and Program Guide. The book made its debut during the “What Teens Really Want” workshop at Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention.

Resilience of the Soul is deeply grounded in Jewish text and tradition that teach us how to help children become adults,” explained Rabbi Edythe Mencher, assistant director of the Department of Jewish Family Concerns and director of the project. “The program helps our teens deal with the pressures of adolescence and develop the strength needed to lead a righteous life.”

The book and its programs provide essential information for Jewish communities responding to the realities of teenage depression, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse and self-inflicted violence. Resilience of the Soul provides tested, practical exercises for teens, parents and congregational staff to ease stress including guided meditation, poetry reading and writing sessions, relaxation strategies and text study.

“We’ve seen in our pilot programs that by using constructive, Jewish outlets for stress and confusion—which are normal parts of teenage life—we are helping our children grow into strong, independent and healthy adults,” said Rabbi Mencher. “Throughout North America these ideas and approaches have been implemented with great success. We know, too, that dealing directly with these issues will save lives.”

“This is the only such program and resources guide set within a Jewish frame work,” said Rabbi Richard Address, director of the Department of Jewish Family Concerns. “This guide offers ways for parents to engage in validating communications practices in order to keep conversations going their teens, even when they may be saying outrageous and infuriating things. And it does so without any judgment.”

This resource guide draws upon a wide range of experts, including rabbis, educators, pediatricians, mental health professionals, youth workers, lay leaders, and, most importantly, young people. Resilience of the Soul was written and compiled by Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, LCSW with Yael Shmilovitz and Rabbi Michael Howald and is published by URJ Press.