By Josh Satok
One day last October, while working as the Senior Assistant Director of URJ Kutz Camp, the Reform movement’s teen leadership camp, I got the news that would rock my world. The leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism, our parent organization, had decided that they were going to shut our camp down after 54 years of operations, plunging my world into chaos. How could we plan for a last summer of camp? How could this be happening? How could we guide our community through such challenging times – and what was I feeling in all of it? How could I keep giving it my all, knowing I was losing my job, but still trying to be strong for my community? A grueling personal and professional challenge emerged, one that had so many layers of difficulty, and was, frankly, nothing short of traumatic to go through.
I’m reminded almost every day now of the challenges I went through last year, from the time we found out the news in October, through to the last summer and the subsequent sale of Kutz and all of our team losing our jobs. There are strikingly obvious parallels to camp professionals right now who are dealing with their camps being shut down or potentially shut down for the summer, but also to all Jewish professionals working at institutions perched on the edge of the unknown, and indeed to the whole world around us. In fact, Melissa Frey, my former boss, put it best the other day when we talked and she told me that she felt like our experience with the end of Kutz meant we had spent the previous year “pregaming coronavirus.”
And I keep thinking about one thing that, probably more than anything else, helped us get through: having someone on the outside to talk to. Melissa found us someone who we came to think of as our fairy godmother: Wilma. She is a therapist based in California who specializes in workplace trauma, who we each talked to whenever we needed someone to vent to, to process with, to give us support, to give us the push we needed to persevere through hard times and become more resilient when our feelings were battered and our spirits were bruised.
In these wild and crazy times, I strongly believe that everyone needs their own Wilma. But needed supports can often be too expensive and too inaccessible for too many people. Which is why I’m so proud to be part of the volunteer leadership of RUACH: Emotional and Spiritual Support. As so many in the Jewish professional world are called on to support others through this moment of crisis, it is critical that we also are supporting ourselves. RUACH is a 100% volunteer- run network of therapists, social workers, Jewish clergy, chaplains, and providers-in-training offering support during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Caregivers span the full spectrum of the Jewish community and provide inclusive and accessible care to clients of all walks of life, regardless of religion/observance level, age, nationality, gender identity, orientation, ability, or political affiliation.
RUACH is offering short-term supportive care that is 100% free in order to lower barriers to access. When a client signs up, they are matched with an emotional or spiritual caregiver within 72 hours. They are provided 1-6 supportive care sessions, and can be referred as needed to local service agencies for long-term support.
RUACH is here to support everyone in the Jewish community for any needs, and we hope to exist long beyond this current moment of crisis and bring accessible spiritual and emotional support to all those who need it.
So my charge to everyone – especially in response to the courageous article published on this site the other day, Raise Your Hand if You Need Help, laying bare the challenges facing so many in our line of work during this moment of crisis – is to make sure you’re taking care of those around you, and also taking care of yourself. Sign-up here for free RUACH support sessions, or visit RUACH to learn more, and spread the word to anyone in your organization, family and beyond who you think could use some support right now. Take care of yourself. Find your Wilma. You – and our Jewish world – deserve nothing less. You owe it to yourself to find your support.
Josh Satok is part of the volunteer leadership of RUACH: Emotional and Spiritual Support, leading RUACH’S operations. He is passionate about making sure everyone has access to the emotional and spiritual support that they need in this time and beyond. He earned a Master’s degree in Jewish Professional Leadership and an MBA in Nonprofit Management from Brandeis University and a Bachelors degree in Religious Studies from Yale University. He is an alum of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. He can be reached at [email protected], and would welcome hearing from anyone interested in joining the RUACH team as a volunteer or with any questions about the initiative.