JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE of MetroWest has been awarded a $25,000 matching grant by the Jewish Funders Network and Genesis Prize Foundation as part of the “Breaking Barriers” initiative.
The award is part of a program created in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize laureate Itzhak Perlman, the world-renowned violinist and activist for people with disabilities. Perlman directed that his prize money be used to promote inclusion of those with disabilities in Jewish life, as well as to support young people pursuing careers in classical music.
The grant provides a match to a gift previously announced by the Eric Eliezer Levenson Foundation for Hope, established in memory of Eta and Mark Levenson’s son, and supports programming related to mental health awareness. JFS MetroWest will use the funds to train staff on treatment modalities; offer programming in the local Jewish community related to the stigma of mental health issues, including the potential impact of anxiety and depression; and provide programming on suicide prevention.
“We are excited about the initiatives under way to combat the stigma associated with mental illness,” said Lauren Hennion, LCSW, JFS director of clinical services. “Raising awareness about mental health is a critical part of making this community more inclusive.”
After a 14-year battle with depression, Eric Levenson took his own life in 2016 at the age of 28. In a statement, the Levensons said that their “beautiful, talented, sensitive, intelligent son…suffered in silence, and yet still managed to graduate from Muhlenberg College in 2010, with a degree in music and psychology.” A care worker for people with developmental disabilities and other challenges, he “felt strongly that someone needed to be the voice for those who cannot advocate for themselves.”
His family, they continued, “are committed to continuing this legacy in Eric Eliezer’s name and ensuring that others not suffer in silence, not be stigmatized because of their challenges, and not see suicide as the only option to those challenges.”
A total of 22 organizations in 19 cities across the United States received a Breaking Barriers Award, resulting in $3.17 million in new funds dedicated to this philanthropic area.