At The Well: Engaging More Women at the Intersection of Jewish Practice, Mental Health, and Wellness
June 10th, 2022
Since 2015, At The Well has addressed women’s mental health and wellness using Jewish rituals that have always existed—but were never widely taught or invested in. Today, amid the growing challenges of disconnection and isolation, ATW’s collaborative model delivers Jewish wisdom directly into the hands of women who want to claim it. Many of these women seek wellness in a spiritual context, outside of a more traditional Jewish context. ATW offers a pathway into these experiences, helping women learn, create new practices and rituals, and then lead others to access ancient Jewish ritual and adapt it for modern times. Through its resources, large-scale events, and Well Circles around the country, women take ownership of their journey toward meaningful transformation for themselves and their community.
Over the past year especially, more women sought out At The Well’s resources and engaged in its Well Circles—independently-run groups of 6-12 women who meet every month to story-tell, support each other, and share spiritual experiences. As a result of this community care model for wellness, women in Well Circles report significant growth in relationships with themselves, their community, and their Judaism, and in their leadership skills and confidence to help their family and peers lead Jewish lives. For some people, Well Circles are the first and only Jewish space where they feel comfortable participating in Jewish community.
I’ve been going through a journey of reclamation and finding my Judaism, as opposed to the Judaism that I learned as a child. I’m owning it for myself and rediscovering amazing things about Judaism. That process didn’t start with ATW but ATW is definitely part of it. Learning about the lunar calendar and Rosh Chodesh and the meaning of the months has been really inspiring. It adds to this journey that I’ve been on. It also has a lovely feminist slant which helps me connect with Judaism.
Beyond Well Circles, ATW’s other offerings make learning around Jewish time and embodied spiritual practices accessible for all—both enhancing the Well Circle experience and engaging new participants. Big Gathers, for example, are bi-monthly, donation-based, online events designed to serve as an entry-point for a Rosh Chodesh practice. These gatherings attract about 100 participants, many of whom serve as co-hosts, modeling ATW’s collaborative leadership approach. The Big Gathers provide a taste of the Rosh Chodesh ritual and a broader sense of community among people in the ATW network.
Another resource, Moon Manuals, are digital guides with themes, activities, and rituals related to each Hebrew month. Moon Manuals are written by At The Well’s staff with contributions from network members, many of whom come from communities that historically have not been centered. Moon Manual contributors work with ATW’s Scholar in Residence and experience a learning journey of self discovery and Jewish inquiry as they create content for the diverse ATW community. In this way, they become leaders for others, helping to create sacred space through writing exercises, singing, intention-setting, and movement. This year alone, more than 1,700 women have engaged in Well Circles and more than 1,800 are using Moon Manual Readers.
My Well Circle showed me how ritual and an intimate Jewish community have supported my own resilience. At work, I am now hosting conversation circles about spiritual resilience and how Jewish ritual can support us in times of change, conflict, and challenge. I would not have gotten to that topic without the learning I’ve done through ATW.
The pandemic only exacerbated feelings of loneliness and isolation that ATW helps fill. According to a 2021 survey by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “one-third of Americans described themselves as seriously lonely–up from one-fifth before the COVID pandemic.” In response, ATW quickly scaled its approach and reach to broaden its audience. They created more virtual offerings, in addition to Big Gathers, to meet the moment and provided opportunities for deep connection when it was needed most, including:
As more and more women yearn for wholeness and connection—looking for ways to bolster their well-being and seeking to learn and practice Judaism in relevant and meaningful ways—At The Well is poised for greater growth and impact through its proven approach to:
Enhanced well-being has a strong ripple effect on a person’s own life and on a society’s soul. At The Well is committed to connecting women to themselves, their communities and their Judaism. The next three years of our strategic plan will enable the creation of a strong foundation. We are building a legacy for future generations to be energized by the power of ancient Jewish practices — and to see these practices as welcoming paths to enhanced well-being and spirituality, accessible to all.
– At The Well Strategic Plan
The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of At The Well. Learn more at atthewellproject.com