Spreading the Light During Chanukah

By: JoAnne Forman, Mental Health Initiative Program Coordinator, Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, CA.

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, began this year on Sunday evening, December 6th. While not a significant religious holiday, its proximity to Christmas has brought with it the American pressure to feel joyful, to be surrounded by friends and family, and of consumerism. The holidays are a time when our stress levels go up and our ability to cope with our everyday challenges seems to disappear. For those of us who are already struggling with loneliness, grief, loss, or mental illness, the demands and pressures of the holidays can intensify feelings of isolation, depression, and shame.

That’s why it’s so important, particularly during this season, for faith-based communities to focus on ways to be more inclusive, to work harder to reach out to isolated congregants, and to offer meaningful opportunities for community connection. With most schools closed for the second half of December, and many staff members taking time off work to be with their own families, community support systems may not be at their most robust right when some congregants need them the most. This is the time when faith-based organizations can focus on things like creating a system for offering rides to services, delivering meals to isolated individuals, and hosting community-building events (like a senior luncheon) for congregants who may not otherwise connect or need help over the holidays.

Seasonally, Chanukah falls at the darkest time of the year, when the days are the shortest and provide us with the least amount of light. It is up to us, then, to share our own light with those who need it most during this holiday season. This Chanukah, Congregation Rodef Sholom will remind our congregants that no one needs to be alone; that our offices are open, our clergy is here, and services are ongoing. Our lights are on.

For more information about the Mental Health Initiative at Congregation Rodef Sholom, click here.

JoAnne Forman

JoAnne Forman is the Mental Health Initiative Program Coordinator at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, CA. Rodef Sholom is the first Jewish congregation in the Bay Area to hire a Mental Health Initiative Program Coordinator to focus on the initiative’s mission: Striving to end the isolation and stigma of mental illness in our Jewish community.  JoAnne holds a master’s degree in both Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, CA, and is a registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern in the state of California. She can be reached at[email protected]. The Mental Health Initiative at Rodef Sholom is supported by the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation.


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