BOCA RATON, Fla. — David Steinhardt, the senior rabbi of B'nai Torah Congregation, said for most of the last year, the chairs inside the temple in Boca Raton have sat empty.
“I think the primary struggle that people had was loneliness,” he said. “As a rabbi, I serve as an interpreter of text and a teacher I am a pastoral counselor. I do lifecycle events.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic further changed his outlook on mental health and its role in the temple.
“The greatest challenge people were facing wasn't the challenge of physical health, but it was the challenge of mental health because of the pain loneliness can cause,” he said.
“To be able to bring me on to assist was really wonderful,” Michele Scher said.
Scher is a licensed social worker with the congregation. She said in the last year, they've had five members impacted by suicide.
“The pandemic has really exacerbated the mental health needs of everyone, “she said.
Scher helped the temple for four years, but recently her role expanded.
“We started support groups that are really geared towards helping people get through the pandemic,” she said.
Senior Rabbi Steinhardt said he wants people to know it's OK to go beyond spiritual counsel.