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Kadimah: A Different Kind of Place

By: Esty Moradi  

Yonatan* is a 40 year-old man who lives in Boro Park. He looks just like anyone else except that he suffers from depression. After his last psychiatric hospitalization five years ago, Yonatan was successfully treated for his symptoms with medication and psychotherapy. Yet there was something missing in his life. For a while he filled that void working part-time, but he found working to be too stressful and found his symptoms of depression creeping up again. Then he found out about Kadimah. "If it wasn't for Kadimah who knows where I'd be?" says Yonatan. "I'd be sitting at home all depressed. Kadimah is a real lifesaver." What is Kadimah? 

Kadimah Psychosocial Club, part of Adult Mental Health Services at Ohel Children's Home and Family Services, provides recreational and socialization opportunities for psychiatric adult clients. Various groups, such as "Building Self-Esteem", "Stress Management", "Social Skills", "Health and Nutrition", and "Psychology Today" are scheduled each day. The objective of these groups is to stimulate members' thinking, encourage interaction, and to learn important skills. Kadimah also provides access to a computer room where members can practice skills such as typing and learning how to use the Internet; and a Beis Medrash which houses a library containing a wide selection of Jewish books and provides a quiet place for members to study Torah. 

Since the inception of Kadimah five years ago, members have been encouraged to take initiative and assist in the daily activities of the psychosocial club and to use these opportunities to enhance their lives outside of the Kadimah environment. It took some time, but eventually members began to actively participate in the programs offered at Kadimah and to utilize the services made available. Some members even began to socialize outside of the Kadimah Psychosocial Club! Many of these members, like Yonatan, were isolated and had no place to go to meet other people and make friends, a vital ingredient to good mental health. The Kadimah Psychosocial Club met the need for social interaction and recreation that many of its members had lacked. 

More recently, the members of Kadimah showed initiative in their desire to provide each other with support. This was the moment that the Kadimah staff had hoped for - the moment where men and women with varying psychiatric illnesses were motivated to initiate a group of their own accord. The staff at Kadimah agreed to assist interested members in starting the peer support group by making calls to notify other members, setting a day and time that was convenient for most members, and providing a room for members to meet. Initially, one of the staff members sat in on the group to provide guidance and act as a facilitator. After a few sessions, the members and staff felt comfortable enough to allow members to meet and run the groups independently. It was agreed that members would call upon staff if they felt that professional intervention was needed. 

This support group has become one of the many successes at Kadimah. Some members attend Kadimah especially for this support group and many look forward to attending the group every week. The group has become a place for members to support each other, give advice, and to listen to each other. Most importantly, it was an idea initiated and pursued by its own members, which is what makes the support group so successful. As a result of the support group's success, its members continue to support each other outside of the group, as well. The impact the support group has had on some of Kadimah's members is evident in the following statement made by Yechiel*, a regular attendee: "Kadimah is an important part of my life. It provides me with the structure that I need and keeps me from falling into depression. I find the groups stimulating - I like to have a chance to use my mind. The support group is my favorite. It is a kind of group therapy where we get a chance to talk about our problems and give each other support and encouragement." 

Another activity that is enjoyed by many members and has a large participation is the Kol Kadimah newsletter. Members demonstrate their creative writing talents, whether in a poem, an article about an upcoming Jewish holiday, or a personal experience, and in the "Newsletter Preparation" group, they type, edit and lay out the submissions using a publishing program on the computer. The Kol Kadimah newsletter is issued at least four times a year and is anticipated by many members. 

Sruly*, one of the members of Kadimah, with increasing self-confidence, recently took the initiative to start a chesed project to raise funds for a poor, struggling family in Israel. He successfully collects money by appealing to people with his statement about showing support for Israel by helping to preserve even one struggling family that lives in Israel. This one-man operation had collected almost two thousand dollars in the past few months! Sruly's self-esteem has grown because of the realization that he is able to make a difference and to help others in need. He receives tremendous satisfaction by forwarding all of the funds he raised to this family in Israel. 

Members' involvement in leading groups has increased, as well. One member suggested that Kadimah start a Creative Writing group and he has been co-leading the group with staff. His knowledge of the written word and creativity has been insightful and inspiring to many other members. Another member agreed to contribute her creative talents, by leading a Jewelry-Making group. Additionally, Kadimah is looking to expand its repertoire of groups to include job skills groups. These new developments have provided wonderful opportunities for members to learn useful, life-enhancing skills from each other. 

To find out more about the Kadimah Psychosocial Club and other Ohel programs, please call the intake department at (718) 851-6300. 

*The names are fictitious 

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