TJF Community Impact Grant helps William & Mary Hillel with new mental health and wellbeing cohort

by | Jun 2, 2022 | Other News

Mental health and wellbeing has received a larger spotlight over the past few years. With the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantines, lack of in-person contact, and day-to-day stress, it’s no surprise that everyone from Olympic athletes to college students have made mental health and wellbeing a greater priority. For William & Mary Hillel, the staff saw an opportunity to create programs and services to enhance the lives of Jewish students on campus.

“We saw a real need to help students, especially during COVID,” says Rabbi Gershon Litt, director of William & Mary Hillel. “Students are stressed and anxiety and depression are rampant among college students today. Giving them a safe space to deal with their anxiety was important for us.”

Starting in the fall of 2021, William & Mary Hillel created a cohort to offer student-initiated programming in the mental health and wellbeing space. Mental health professionals were brought in to offer guidance and advice on how to implement a well-rounded mental health program. Additionally, the program worked closely with the campus counseling department to educate Jewish students about what counseling services they offered.

“Most Hillel programs are social, religious, cultural, or historical,” says Litt. “Self-help programs, or programs that deal with the wellbeing of the student, engage the whole student and allow them to be more mentally present and healthy for their college experience.”

Tidewater Jewish Foundation’s grant of $2,000 helped William & Mary Hillel offer programs such as de-stressing knitting sessions, meditation programs, cooking programs, group conversations with mental health professionals, and more.

“By investing in this program, TJF’s support granted our students the opportunity to have programming that spoke to their mental health needs,” says Litt. “The TJF Community Impact Grant really made a difference for us.”

“TJF is proud to support an innovative program that tackles a complex issue like mental health,” says Naomi Limor Sedek, president and CEO of Tidewater Jewish Foundation. “Not only is William & Mary Hillel providing the mental health resources and services Jewish students need, but they’re also laying down a foundation that will support mental health and wellbeing for years to come.”

So far, the cohort has proved to be incredibly successful. W & M Hillel expected 10 to 15 students to enroll in the cohort in fall 2021, with an increase to 25 students by spring 2022. Yet, by the end of the first year, almost 100 students had participated.

“Not only were we able to run amazing programs and offer a category of programming that we were not able to offer in the past, but the effect the program had on our Jewish students carried over into the rest of our Hillel programming, as well as into our students’ personal lives,” says Litt.

Thomas Mills