“Let’s Get Real with Coach Menachem,” a series of therapy meetings on Zoom, has reached its two-month anniversary. This program emerged organically in response to the negative emotional symptoms people are suffering in the current climate—people who don’t usually have them and especially those with underlying symptoms. It started as a small counseling session hosted by coach Menachem Bernfeld and soon grew into a therapy platform with hundreds of log-ins. Topics that have been addressed include anxiety, depression, trauma, and shalom bayis. How did all this get started?
In an attempt at normalcy in the face of the global lockdown, Lakewood resident Usher Parnes transferred his learning to the Zoom platform, the new normal across the globe for learning Torah b’chaburah. But he noticed that attendance was not as strong as it could have been. Upon investigating, he discovered that friends and neighbors were being affected in ways they were not prepared to handle.
Usher quickly learned that while people can usually manage to hold themselves together through regular life struggles, the climate of COVID-19 and social distancing has changed things dramatically. Pain, grief, anxiety, loneliness, and depression have reared their heads and are tormenting people all over. Topics that have been taboo until now have become subjects that can no longer be ignored. COVID-19 is no longer represented by silly memes, elbow bumps, and pseudo quarantine/social distancing. The virus has proven to represent the horror and damage it has been causing, including what it does to our psychological and emotional well-being.
He found people frantically scrambling for help. Familial discord, personal isolation, and financial loss were causing people raw pain. The word coronavirus itself was triggering anxiety for many. Countless people were up at night haunted by feelings of worthlessness and fearing the onset of clinical depression. Jumping into action, Usher contacted his friend Rabbi Menachem Bernfeld, a well-respected Certified Life Coach and mentor. And the small neighborhood group quickly evolved into a therapeutic haven. The original group of twenty attendees swiftly exploded into meetings of hundreds.
The program Menachem Bernfeld has designed is structured as a safe place of open-mindedness and sharing. With the world shut down and in crisis, many are attempting to create some sort of order in their lives. Menachem is managing this chaotic time in a dynamic, interactive way. The program starts off with a short introduction by Coach Menachem as well as the featured guest of the week. Menachem and the visiting therapist simply introduce a few relevant ideas, which are followed by an open question and answer session.
Over the last few weeks, “Let’s Get Real with Coach Menachem” has been visited by well-known therapists from the Orthodox world. Early on, Mordechai Weinberger co-hosted two sessions, after which Rabbi Shloime Schwartzberg joined as a guest therapist. In the course of the next weeks, Rabbi Yakov Soloman joined to discuss how to manage change in this time; Matis Miller and Menachem Friedman provided psycho-education and hosted a conversation about anxiety; Rabbi Shimon Russel addressed the sensitive topic of relationships and family dynamics during a crisis, and last week Dr. Meir Wikler joined the program in a candid conversation about shalom bayis, financial stress, and family dynamics.
This week there will be three guest therapists discussing the possible effects of technology overuse. David H. Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP; Dr. Eli Shapiro, Ed. D, LCSW; and Mordechai Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-C will be joining Coach Menachem. Each one will be sharing his unique perspective based on his scientific knowledge of what the disadvantages are and how to better manage it during this time.
What started as a means for small community chizuk has grown into a large-scale platform addressing a true need. In isolation, it is easy to feel forgotten, to give up and despair. However, there is truly no need to suffer alone. Hope exists, and it is here. While we all have our personal demons, don’t forget we also have each other. The meetings take place every Sunday night at 10:15 Eastern Time. With a small click you can be connected to Klal Yisroel in a whole new way.
Readers can join with Zoom Meeting ID 645 572 066 or by phone: 929-205-6099, meeting ID 645572066#.
To access previously-recorded meetings, please go to www.menachembernfeld.com.
For sponsorship offers or to donate your professional time as a guest on this special chesed program, please feel free to reach out to Usher Parnes at 848-525-0066.
Special thanks to all the people who have vested this program with their time and energy, to Menachem Friedman and Pinky Friedman for giving all they’ve got to this chessed platform.