Heal Me!

by Karen Pearlman June 21, 2010


The Jewish Healing Center, a service of Jewish Family Service, is a place to open your Neshama

It would be nice if there was, but the reality is: there is no one single path to finding spiritual fulfillment.

Being born with a Jewish neshama (soul), we are already given a head start of sorts. And yet with each of us seeing things differently and each of us seeking different things out of life, so it should go that there are different ways for each of us to connect with G-d.

The Jewish Healing Center, a program of Jewish Family Service of San Diego in collaboration with the United Jewish Federation of San Diego, offers myriad ways to do just that.

Who knew there was a “Jewish way” to do yoga, meditate and chant? The Jewish Healing Center also offers addiction recovery groups and retreats with social events that provide help and support for everything from food addiction to drug/alcohol problems to unhealthy relationships.

“It’s called the Jewish Healing Center and we define healing as nourishment, resources and support for feelings of loss and brokenness,” said Rabbi Lenore Bohm, who is the spiritual leader of the center. “Those feelings transcend age, gender, class and everything else. Our program is designed to give people a place to talk about how they cope with either personal loss or societal loss.”

Whether it’s a divorce, the death of a loved one, the onset of a serious illness or another life change, everyone goes through times that test the soul. The Jewish Healing Center offers a place to find solace, to have their concerns listened to, to get validation of feelings.

“Life is always going to throw something at us,” Bohm said. We are not always prepared for it but we can build up a reservoir of understanding that will help us grow through something.”

With classes and seminars held year-round, mostly led by Rabbi Bohm, the Jewish Healing Center has a mission to offer comfort and strength to those living with serious illness, their caregivers, families and the bereaved, through psychological and spiritual counseling, resources and advocacy.

Starting this month, the center is offering a study program that runs through next May for those who want to know “What is the Jewish way to be spiritual?”

Bohm and guest lecturers will follow an 18-class curriculum based on a program developed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality based out of New York. The program also includes two Shabbat retreats and three private meetings with an instructor.

Titles of the upcoming classes the Jewish Healing Center offers in this program include “Foundational Questions: The Search for Oneself,” “Jewish Spirituality, Spiritual Judaism,” Jewish Mindfulness” and “Our Lives as Torah: Spiritual Autobiography.”

The center, which has been around since 1999, has an office on Bernardo Center Drive, but it does something even more powerful in its quest to provide healing and guidance—it takes its proverbial spiritual show on the road, often where it is needed most.

“We’re really trying to highlight spiritual growth and spiritual practice, to provide people with opportunities to develop their own inner resources and activities to bring a richer practice of Judaism into their lives,” Bohm said.

One opportunity the Jewish Healing Center provides getting out into the Jewish community is by meeting with senior citizens twice a month in four separate classes at Congregation Beth Jacob.

“What a blessing this has been,” said Elissa Landsman, senior activities coordinator for Jewish Family Service, who oversees the Jewish Healing Center’s classes at Beth Jacob, which are built around an exercise class, lunch and Bingo games. “This is not just about being entertained, but this is interactive and they have a chance to vent their feelings.”

In a morning seminar, Bohm and Jan Yaffe, MFT, lead a class called “Finding New Paths To Happiness,” which incorporates conversation, Torah, poetry and more. In the afternoon, the two lead a class called “Nosh ‘n Drash,” a spiritual support group for those with serious illness.

We’ve broadened the definition and the scope of the Jewish Healing Center,” Bohm said. We’ve become more overt about spirituality.”


The spirituality classes are being held in two locations, at Seacrest Village in Encinitas and Congregation Beth El in La Jolla.

While Bohm said many of the Jewish Healing Center‚=’s members are those in their 70’s and 80’s, the search for healing and answers and the desire to connect with G-d on a spiritual level brings in every type of person.

“It’s not just for seniors,” Bohm said. “It’s for people who have to face something and are trying to find a way to move forward.”

Like Bohm, Yaffe teaches and facilitates some of the Jewish Healing Center programs, including one this month called “Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days” which will be Sept. 17 at the Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas.

“It’s about living a life of wholeness, living more richly,” said Yaffe, who also runs a twice-monthly bereavement support group at Ohr Shalom Synagogue downtown. It’s more supportive than therapeutic. We want people to know, “We are here for you.”

For feedback, contact editor@sdjewishjournal.com.


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