Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fighting Eating Disorders in Yerushalyim

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by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon

Eating Disorders- A Deadly Disease

In recent years, the Orthodox community has awoken to the need to battle eating disorders.  Eating disorders, primarily anorexia and bulimia, have one of the highest mortality rates of any psychological disorder (link).  Orthodox Jews are far from immune to eating disorders (link).   

Factors such as exposure to general media, genetics, communal pressures and other psychological illnesses (such as depression or obsessive compulsive disorder) make us as susceptible to eating disorders as the general population. Orthodox Jews of all kinds are victims.  As we are all too aware, denial of the problem and reluctance to get treatment threatens lives.

In Israel, eating disorders are also prevalent in all segments of the community.  However, there are limited options for intensive treatment.  In addition, there are almost no options for treatment within an Orthodox setting.  This makes it far less comfortable for Orthodox Jews to seek help. 

Mercaz Female- Filling the Gap, Fighting to Save Lives

About one year ago, Mercaz Female in Yerushalayim opened its doors to fill this critical gap.  It is the only intensive, outpatient center established by and for Orthodox Jews.  Patients come from all segments of the Orthodox community.  Patients come two to three times a week for counselling from psychologists, dieticians, mentors and an art therapist.  Parents are involved in weekly family therapy.  The clinical staff works closely with patients’ family doctors and (if applicable) psychiatrists.  English speaking therapists are available for immigrants and students whose treatment needs to be in English. 

The fact that the clinical staff is highly trained, totally dedicated and Orthodox helps make it very successful in serving Orthodox families.  Over the past year, Mercaz Female has successfully helped all its patients to be able to return to school or work, and to avoid the need for more intensive, inpatient treatment.  The staff wants to reach even higher levels of excellence.  Therefore, Mercaz Female has a partnership with Professor Moriah Golan’s Shahaf Institute in Tel Aviv, one of the most successful eating disorders treatment centers in Israel.  Though the Shahaf Institute is not Orthodox, the members of Mercaz Female’s clinical staff recognize their wealth of knowledge and experience.  They learn from Shahaf’s staff eight hours monthly, and apply what they’ve learn to Mercaz Female’s setting.

You can learn more about Mercaz Female, and about eating disorders, at www.mercazfemale.org

Helping Mercaz Female Save Lives:

The biggest challenge to Mercaz Female’s work is economic.  Most of the patients come from families that are low to middle income.  They cannot possibly afford more than a fraction of the cost of treatment.  Though treatment costs of about $1800 monthly are not high by American standards, for many of the patients’ families this may be most of their entire after-tax pay check!  At the same time, unlike other private clinics, Mercaz Female does not want to turn away needy people who need lifesaving treatment.  In fact, the goal is help additional patients and to add educational programs to spread awareness in the community. 

Naturally, all of this costs money.  If Mercaz Female is going to fulfill its holy mission, it is critical to find additional supporters who will contribute funds to help save lives.  HaRav Shlomo Aviner recently wrote that such contributions fulfill both the mitzvah of tzedakah and of pikuach nefesh!

Readers of Emes ve’Emunah are known to be caring people who want to solve problems and help others.  Therefore, I am hoping that you will help Mercaz Female save lives by making a contribution today.

In the United States, tax deductible donations may be made out to the Central Fund for Israel with Mercaz Female in the “memo.”  Please mail your check to: Mercaz Female, c/o Jablon, 4393 Park Vicente, Calabasas, CA 91302.  Mercaz Female will receive 100% of your gift.

In Canada, tax deductible donations may be made out to Beth Oloth, with Mercaz Female in the memo.  Please mail your check to: Beth Oloth, 32 Brookview Drive, Toronto, On M6A 2K2. Mercaz Female will receive 100% of your gift.

In Israel, please mail your check to: Mercaz Female, Rechov HaIluy #9, Kiryat Moshe, Yerushalayim.   Please note that Americans living in Israel who would like a U.S. tax deduction and have a U.S. checking account may make their American checks out to the Central Fund for Israel with Mercaz Female in the memo.

For more information, including making contact with our clinical staff if you are in Israel and you or a loved one need help, contact shmuel@mercazfemale.org