Since October 7, 2023, I have read a number of blogs from Israel addressing the basic conversational question How are you? What was once a simple greeting has become complex, leading to a new response: We’re not OK.
I cannot remember a time when our concerns for the well-being of ourselves and one another has been more intertwined with concerns about the wellness of our family and friends in Israel. I also know that collectively we have all been paying special attention to the mood and tone being reported from Israel, while maintaining a vigilant stand to combat antisemitism locally. The situation can’t help but color our own feelings of urgency and make us question how we are doing.
This edition of Hakol focuses on health and wellness, and as our secular New Year approaches, many people may take time to reflect inward, reevaluate how they are, and recommit to improving their health and well-being in 2024.
The Talmud teaches that members of the Jewish community are responsible for one another. We are interconnected and must be invested in the mental wellness and overall well-being of everyone. When we are willing, informed, and prepared to help one another, we all benefit.
The connection between physical health and spirituality is rooted within Judaism. Judaism emphasizes a holistic perspective on wellness, viewing the mind, body, and soul as intertwined with one another.
I would add that the health and well-being of the community contribute to the wellness of the mind, body, and soul of the individual.
While every community needs to define its own notion of a healthy community, one definition has been offered by the Centers for Disease Control. The definition states, “A community that is continuously creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources that enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and in developing to their maximum potential.” Healthy communities are built on the relationships that we nurture and the efforts that we make to work through the problems we encounter along the way. A community must provide for its members’ spiritual and physical needs.
Social support, or close relationships with family and friends, has been linked to improving the health of the mind, body, and soul. Good social support has been associated with greater quality of life, increased overall well-being, improved coping skills, and engagement in health-promotion behaviors and better health outcomes in general. Social support is not something that a person can do alone; it is something that can be achieved only when multiple people work to bring a community together.
Let’s get back to the question How are you? For now, we can metaphorically hold each other’s hand, be there for one another, and provide communal support as, together, we go through not being OK. There will be opportunities to get together and provide support for one another.
Community engagement and individual health share a reciprocal relationship. Attending yoga classes at the JCC and swimming in the pool every morning are ways to focus on individual mind and body health, whereas involvement in Jewish organizations, attending community events, and participating in Jewish life focus on spiritual health. Likewise, investing oneself in the community, by donating financially or giving your time and energy, addresses the health of the community, building and creating a vibrant Jewish community that, in turn, contributes to the health and well-being of the members who take advantage of the tremendous resources offered. Both volunteering and donating financially have been associated with decreased risk of symptoms of depression as well as daily stress.
There will be multiple events through our synagogues and community agencies to focus on the health and well-being of our Jewish community and to appreciate the benefits of the social support that comes from a strengthened community. Our annual Super Sunday phone-a-thon on January 28, 2024, is one such opportunity to donate financially and will include an afternoon of mitzvah activities to benefit those around us.
In 2024, I welcome you to consider contributing to the health and well-being of our community in ways that matter to you and to know that the community is here for you too. Here for Good!