Thursday, / September 24, 2020
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Mental Health Support and Memorial in Mineola

Rabbi hosts virtual meeting in memory of mental health victims and in support of their families

Rabbi Anchelle Perl has officiated at what he called “an inordinate amount” of funerals since the coronavirus pandemic began. Many of the deceased were young people who suffered from mental illness and addiction.

Since 2018, when his community buried a young member who died from an opioid overdose, Rabbi Perl has made it a priority to look out for those struggling with their mental health. The rabbi, who moonlights as a chaplain in a hospital, jail, and rehab center, visits youth affected by drug abuse weekly. He runs popular Narcan training sessions for community members as well as local colleagues, At his Chabad center, he initiated a weekly misheberach prayer for those suffering mentally, or with physical disabilities.

But after such a heartbreaking number of funerals, he felt more had to be done, not just for the stricken, but for their families and loved ones. “I wanted to make a safe space for any families of those battling substance abuse, or mental health to come together and get strength from each other,” Rabbi Perl told Lubavitch.com.

So earlier this month Rabbi Perl organized a Zoom memorial for those who had passed. Forty people joined the event where they shared memories of their loved ones, and bonded over their mutual experience of loss and grief. 

“When tragedy strikes, we can’t understand the ‘why.’ We can only look for a way to keep going and to connect to the soul of the one we have lost by doing the mitzvahs they can no longer do,” the rabbi said as he opened the meeting. Lisa Rosenblatt LCSW led the support group and pointed out the therapeutic relevance of Jewish laws of death and mourning.

“To lose my one and only daughter is literally ripping my heart out, so thank you Rabbi for giving me some hope that at least she’s in a better place,” said one participant whose daughter passed away recently, alone in a motel, after spending much of her teenage years in and out of psychiatric care.

Another whose aunt, mother and son suffered from debilitating mental health struggles thanked all who joined the meeting for their strength and commended the rabbi for his support. “There are many of us on Long Island, you never know which person you meet at the grocery will turn up at a meeting like this one,” she said.

Rabbi Perl says he has seen the worry of the pandemic and the loneliness of lockdown exacerbate the anxiety and despair among his community members. In response to the marked thirst for connectedness and meaning, Chabad of Mineola held many virtual get-togethers. Participants reported that they felt more hope, faith and belonging where they’d previously felt alone and disconnected from community.

Comment 10
  • Jeanne Bradwnsten

    This is so typical of Rabbi Perl. He always goes above and beyond to do whatever he can to help anyone regardless of their race or religion. I hope this will inspire more people to open up about this major issue. It’s an honor to know him!

  • Shlomie Rosen

    Unofortunately Rabbi you make it sound like all people who have mental conditions are doing harm to themselves, when an inordinate many people who do have mental conditions don’t harm themselves and are able to live stable, committed, and organised lives, whilst taking doctor approved medication, or to those who don’t need to take medication and continue to live happy, stable lives.

    • Chana Sara

      @ Shlomie, I for one, certainly didn’t take it that way! Some people with or without mental illnesses are able to cope by themselves, others need support and for those that do Rabbi Perl is there for them and is asking us to be aware that “should there may be someone in our vicinity/acquaintance, that may need help, to be sensitive enough to notice and possibly be there for them. … At least this is how I took his meaning to be.

  • Yasher koach, some if the most amazing work needed to be done.

  • Yasher koach! Some if the most amazing work needed to be done.

  • Linda Mendenhall

    Rabbi Perl is a true angel of mercy in the Long Island Community at large
    He is the real deal
    A true heart and spirit
    Luv

    Linda Mendenhall

  • Rabbi Anchelle Perl is to be commended. I work in the mental health field as a clinical social worker and these kind of programs are sorely needed. A beautiful blend of tradition and modern technology. This is typical of what Chabad can a d continues the work of the Rebbe.

    • I completely agree! I including in my daily tehillim prayers for those who are suffering from the stress of this pandemic as well as those who are still mourning the recent loss of loved ones. Mental stress can be wearing on a person in a similar way to physical illness.

  • Rabbi Perl you take selflessness to a whole new level.

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