Our Stories

On Supporting “Flourishing:” Reflections from BaMidbar MESH-EE Training

By Alisha Pedowitz, Jewish LearningWorks Senior Educator

What is the difference between mental health and wellness, and how and where do they intersect with our core work as Jewish educators? What opportunities do we have in doing that work to move Jewish adolescents along the axis from languishing to flourishing? And what do mouse traps have to do with all of this?

These are the very questions, and more, that 8 educators from youth-serving organizations across the Bay Area gathered to explore on Thursday, December 7 in a MESH-EE (Mental, Emotional, and Social Health for Experiential Educators) training with BaMidbar. Offering this training was part of Jewish LearningWorks’ focus this year on what it means to support a sense of shleimut (feeling whole, authentic, and at peace) for adolescents right now. And, more specifically, how we at Jewish LearningWorks can continue to help bolster the educators who do this important work with support, resources, and continued deepening of understanding and tools for doing so.

Jory Hanselman Mayschak and Liora Bernstein from BaMidbar led us in a full-day, deep-dive into incorporating the research on adolescent wellbeing into our practice as experiential Jewish educators in serving youth, as well as what it means to recognize our own wellbeing, needs, and boundaries as we do this work. (Without spoiling too much of their training, this is where the mouse traps came in–through an activity that helped each of us identify where and how in our body we start to experience stress.) It was a powerful way to head into the first night of Hanukkah, as we think about what it means to kindle light in ourselves, so that we can shine that light out into the world for others.

In the words of some of the educators who attended, the day was “informative, playful, engaging” and “considerate of not just our teens’ programmatic needs, but our own as well.”

“[This training] was wonderful. I learned so much and walked away with tools I am immediately able to put into practice.”

As we head into the second half of the program year, we will continue to focus on issues and practices that help build resiliency and cultivate wellbeing for teens through our Jewish programs — with offerings on zoom as well as in person. If you would like to learn more and be on our email list for these programs, please be in touch with Alisha Pedowitz, Senior Educator at Jewish LearningWorks at alisha@jewishlearning.works.