The Los Angeles Jewish Wellness Initiative
Submitted by: The Health Magnet Category: Engaging in Our Community
The Big Idea
Six months ago there was a webinar on Dr. Daniel Amen's website. Pastor Rick Warren from the Saddleback Church was talking about a program that Drs. Amen, Oz and Hyman put together to lead the congregation into a decade of wellness. Though not a member of the church, I attended the launch of œThe Daniel Plan and along with almost 7000 attendees, pledged to ourselves and to G-d to lead a more healthful life. What is the premise of this program? Good nutrition, movement, quit smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, decrease stress¦nothing we don't already know.
But why will it be so successful? First, there is leadership and commitment from the top. Pastor Warren has committed himself to be mindful of what he eats and to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Next, there is a sense of community, belonging, and support. Small groups were formed, volunteers stepped up to receive additional training to assume leadership roles, and the church itself committed itself to changing what they offered for food and snacks.
I sat straight in my seat listening to Pastor Warren and the doctors talk about our bodies being vessels from G-d and to truly honor G-d we must take the best possible care of ourselves. I danced when the musicians started playing and found that moving with a community of people surrounding me was not only good for me, but fun. I purchased a healthy lunch picnic and drove home feeling better about myself and my health goals than I have in a very long time. The following Friday night I attended a wonderful Shabbat service. Afterwards, I looked at the table of goodies at the Oneg Shabbat. Though my soul was nourished, my stomach was not. Yes, there was a tray of veggies and dip along with a small plate of fresh fruit. But those options paled before the beautifully displayed platters of baked goods that congregants quickly took onto their plates. A woman standing next to me whispered that she really wasn't supposed to eat wheat or gluten, but she just couldn't resist. This is a common theme.
I realized right then that just because it's always been that way doesn't mean that this is how it always has to be. We can make treats that are allergy free, made of good, natural ingredients, and delicious! And we can have fun doing it. Offering programs such as Jewish Penicillin From Around the World, or Healthy, Allergen Free Pesach Recipes that your Family Will Love or attending a Kabbalah Caf currently offered by Chabad of Cypress to learn about the Jewish significance of the foods we eat would make an excellent compliment to a Jewish wellness program. The past six months have been designated for research. We have reviewed programs run by Jewish communities all across the country. We have been working to create a resource bank of Jewish programs to match the needs of Jewish people to the services that they need. We are working together to create a cohesive wellness plan that targets the specific needs of the Jewish community. Most of the organizations vying for your votes now could play an integral role in this overall Los Angeles Jewish Wellness Campaign.
The ultimate goal of this program is to create a Jewish culture of wellness in Los Angeles. We would accomplish this by teaching the community to make small changes over time instead of coming in with an ambush makeover! Imagine how wonderful it could be to spend Shabbat dinner with fellow congregants, enjoying produce that was grown in the synagogues own organic garden or forming an alliance with a local farmer to deliver organic, locally grown produce to your temple? Then not only could congregants enjoy the food, but could also distribute fresh, healthy food to people in need. Accomplishing this is as easy as matching that synagogue with a group such as Hazon or JASC or Fresh to Fruition. What a mitzvah it would be to offer healthy goodies that would nourish your member's bodies as well as their souls. Take a look at recipes on the Jewish Diabetes website or call a local Jewish chef, such as Monique Lawee at Nourish To Heal. Yoga calms the mind and heals the body. Why not practice the Jewish way through Bibliyoga or ShalOM? And what fun it could be to have friendly competitions between synagogues and Jewish organizations with the big prize being better health. The Los Angeles Wellness Initiative links people to services and promotes services to the people.
This Is A Great Idea Because
The Los Angeles Jewish Wellness Initiative takes the best existing Jewish wellness and sustainability programs and acts as a matchmaker to ensure they are implemented where most needed throughout the Jewish community. The Jewish Health Initiative presents wellness and prevention in such a way that our community wants to participate. And, in this age of super specialization, we take a different approach and look at each person in the community as a whole being. We concentrate on wellness in the areas of heath, proper nutrition, movement, stress management, spirituality, fiscal health, emotional well being, social responsibility and sustainability at all stages in the life cycle.
We look with Jewish eyes to find wisdom from our past scholars such as Maimonides as well as our biblical text and then utilize the services of individuals and groups who practice with these underlying basic principles. And then we communicate. Through utilizing social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email and combining them with other forms of outreach such as telephone calls, print materials and face to face meetings, we can reach the entire Jewish population in the mediums that they feel most comfortable in. The approach is simple and direct. The first step is to engage the Jewish leadership. Then, together, we would ask the members of the congregations and community directly what their needs are. We would match the best programs to meet these needs, offer them for a reasonable price, and incentivize them to make them fun and meaningful. Most importantly, we would get the word out through an established chain of communication to be sure people know about the programs, are excited about them and will use them.