With the shutting down of the world, people have been grasping for any attempt of normalcy. In many areas across the globe, conference calls and video meetings have become the new way of learning Torah bechabura. As Lakewood resident Usher Parnes transferred his learning to the Zoom platform, he noticed that attendance was not as strong as it could have been. Upon investigating, he discovered that friends and neighbors were being affected and having trouble.
Usher quickly learned that, true, people can usually hold it all together. Regular life struggles are typically managed well and with the status quo we are okay. However, during the current climate of COVID-19 and social distancing, things have changed. Pain, greif, anxiety, loneliness, depression and more have risen their heads and are tormenting people all over the globe. Topics that have been taboo until now have become subjects that can no longer be ignored. COVID-19 is no longer representative of silly memes, elbow bumps, and pseudo quarantine and social distancing. Now, the virus is representative of the horror and damage it is causing. Usher realized there is another unspoken side effect of the coronavirus and that is what it does to our psychological and emotional wellbeing.
In many cases, Usher found people frantically scrambling for help. Familial discord, personal isolation, and financial loss are causing people raw hurt. The word Coronavirus itself triggers anxiety for many. Countless people are up at night haunted with worthlessness and fearing the onset of clinical depression. Jumping into action, Usher contacted his friend Rabbi Menachem Bernfeld, a well respected Certified Life Coach and mentor. And just like that, Usher’s small neighborhood group evolved into a therapeutic haven. The original group of twenty attendees swiftly exploded into meetings of hundreds, with no advertising or promoting of any kind.
The program Menachem Bernfeld has designed is structured as a safe place of open-mindedness and sharing. With the world shut down and in crisis, many are attempting to create some sort of order in their lives. Menachem is managing this chaotic time in a dynamic, interactive way. The program starts off with a short introduction by Coach Menachem as well as the featured guest of the week. Menachem and the visiting therapist simply introduce a few relevant ideas, which are followed by an open Q and A session.
Previous guests on the meetings have been Social workers Mordechai Weinberger LSCW (a noted author and radio talk show) and Rabbi Shloime Schwartzberg LSCW (renowned maggid shiur and therapist). Mordechai Weinberger joined for two meetings titled, “How to continue when everything stops”, addressing facing your fears in turbulent times. Rabbi Shloime Schwartzberg joined a meeting after Pesach “going back to the norm when things are not the norm” with a focus on dealing with children, financial and marital issues.
This Sunday, May 3 2020, Rabbi Yaakov Salomon will be joining as a guest. Rabbi Yaakov Salomon, LCSW, is a noted psychotherapist, in private practice in Jackson, NJ, for over 35 years. He is the author of five best-selling books published by Artscroll, and is a sought after lecturer, speaker, and film producer who has appeared everywhere from Harvard to Broadway. Rabbi Salomon will open the conversation in the next session titled “A deeper understanding/meaning of these unprecedented times.”
What started as a means for small community chizzuk has adapted into a large-scale platform answering a true need. In isolation, it is easy to feel forgotten; to give up and despair. However, there is truly no need to suffer alone. Hope exists and it is here. While we all have our personal demons, don’t forget we also have each other. The meetings are weekly on Sunday nights at 10:15 Eastern Time. With a small click you can be connected to Klal Yisroel in a whole new way.
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For personal meetings with Coach Menachem Bernfeld, feel free to reach out to him directly at [email protected].
To access previously-recorded meetings, please go to https://menachembernfeld.com/.
With any sponsorships or to donate your professional time as a guest on this special chessed program, please feel free to reach out to Usher Parnes at 848-525-0066.
Special thanks for all the people who are behind this program with their time and energy.
Menachem Friedman and Pinky Friedman for giving all they got for this Chesed platform.
This article was written by:
Daniel is a graduate from Beth medrash Gavoah and a psychology major at T.U.W