New Kollel for the Mentally Ill


gemara-learningEven the secular were impressed with Ezer Mizion’s program for mental rehabilitation entitled Torat Chaim Kollel. A national conference marking the tenth anniversary of legislation for rehabilitation of the mentally ill was hosted by Israel’s Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Israel Psychiatric Association and the Israel Association for Mental Health

Among the guest lecturers were Professor Graham Thornicraft and Dr. Mike Slade, both from the Institute of Psychiatry of Kings College in London, Michael F. Hogan, PhD, chairman of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in New York State, and Professor Robert E. Drake, MD, PhD, of the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center in New Hampshire, USA.

The conference booths were a splendid representation of the programs serving the rehabilitation of the mentally ill population in Israel. Prominent among these was the Ezer Mizion booth, which focused on the unique “Torat Chaim Kollel” project serving men with mental health issues as part of their recovery process.

Most of the two dozen members of the Kollel are active participants in Ezer Mizion’s broader mental health rehab program. Many are employed in Ezer Mizion’s sheltered workshops, which does outsourcing projects for a variety of companies. Members of the mental health rehab “social club” who express sincere interest in Torah study and in developing their spiritual character are eligible to join the Kollel.

The men meet twice a week at the Kollel for challenging and spiritually uplifting sessions, under the able direction of Rabbi Yehoshua Wachspress. A phenomenal person with vast experience in rehabilitation and coaching, Rabbi Wachspress exudes energy and joy that envelope all the attendants.

The Kollel program offers lectures and chavruta learning on a variety of topics – Talmud, Midrash, Halacha, and more. The lectures are interspersed with sing-along sessions, as well as segments prepared and presented by the participants, under Rabbi Wachspress’s guidance.

At the Ezer Mizion conference booth, Rabbi Wachspress presented a sample lecture, bringing along two of his “students” to actively participate – a remarkable step for the rehabilitating men, who handled the exposure beautifully. The booth attracted extraordinary interest, and was visited by a wide range of attending mental health professionals – both religious and secular.
Among the visitors to Ezer Mizion’s booth was Mr. Yechiel Shereshevsky, director of the Ministry of Health’s National Council for Rehabilitation of the Mentally Ill in the Community.

Mr. Shereshevsky was deeply impressed by the Kollel Program, as well as by Ezer Mizion’s commitment to integrating recovering mentally ill individuals by employing them in paid positions as part of the Ezer Mizion staff.

“Ezer Mizion is a model in the absorption and acceptance of people undergoing the recovery process. They are leaders in the practical implementation of the goals which this conference seeks to apply nationwide!”

{Yair Israel}


  1. Very nice…however it would be more appropriate and respectful to modify the title of the article to “for individuals with mental illness” instead of “for the mentally ill”.

  2. Lets not forget the trailblazing work of Rabbi Sholom Udwin and his Jerusalem Yeshiva Kol Bonayich which is the first and only institute geared toward giving the mentally ill a chance at a Torah life.

    Rabbi Udwin, who besides for his work with the mentally ill is also the author of Birchas HaTorah – a 28 volume commentary on Shas Bavli- is often forced to spend extended periods of time in America in order to raise funds for his programs. He can be reached at 646-345-9845.