The Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund presented two powerful conversations for the community

by | Oct 21, 2021 | Trending News

Each year, the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund of the Congregation Beth El Foundation’s Tidewater Together Series shares opportunities for the community to connect Jewishly to a variety of topics. This year, the series impacted the Jewish community, as well as connected and inspired the greater Tidewater community in a two-event series focusing on mental illness and wellbeing.

The evening of Sunday, October 3, Stephen Fried, investigative journalist and best-selling author of A Common Struggle, shared his presentation, Brain Health and Faith. Following his presentation, Rabbi Michael Panitz, Rabbi Rosalin Madelberg, Rabbi Ron Koas, Cantor Jennifer Rueben, and Cantor Wendi Fried joined Fried on the stage for a panel discussion that focused on the importance of bringing mental illness and addiction out of the shadows, and how the organized Jewish community can support those who need help.

The following evening, Fried participated in a conversation with representatives from four local organizations: Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, NAMI – Coastal Virginia (National Alliance of Mental Illness of Coastal Virginia), the Virginia Beach Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team, and I Need a Light House. The panel discussed the work currently being done in Tidewater to help those with mental health problems. They reflected on what work still needs to be done, and ways the community could help.

“No matter what our background is, educationally, faith…” said Kathy Wakefield of I Need A Lighthouse, “we are all in this together, and we all need to work together.”

Representatives from the Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation, Chesapeake Behavioral Health Services, Kempsville Behavioral Health, Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center, Out of the Darkness Walks, and Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters were all available before and after the event with more resources for attendees.

“Bringing mental health and substance use disorders to the forefront of our Jewish community, with representation from our clergy, was powerful and timely,” says Brad Lerner, a Congregation Beth El member. “A recent study showed that during the pandemic, four out of 10 adults living in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from one in 10 in 2019. We need to work together to help our family, friends, and community members to end suffering in silence—there are evidence-based treatments and help is available. When we talk about it, we reduce stigma and help others speak up.

“Stephen Fried eloquently framed discussions on how our Jewish community can work together (in partnership with the mental health organizations and resources available in the community) to improve dialogue and openness on this topic,” says Lerner. “Through his journalistic investigations and work with leading mental health advocate, Patrick Kennedy, Fried has had a front-row seat to see what solutions have been successful and what work is left to do. I can’t think of a better event to come out of my house during this pandemic to attend in-person. It was a meaningful and educational night.”

To learn more about the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund of the Congregation Beth El Foundation’s Tidewater Together Series, or the resources made available in these programs, visit or contact Sierra Lautman, director of Jewish Innovation, at or 757.965.6107.

-Sierra Lautman