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Jewish students struggling with anti-Semitism at university now have access to walk-in mental health clinic

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Touro University, one of the largest private Jewish universities in the United States, recently opened a free, walk-in mental health clinic on its Times Square campus in New York City.

One of the goals of the clinic is to help students who may be experiencing anxiety about growing anti-Semitism in town, according to the university.

Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, clinic director and current student, spoke to Fox News Digital about the importance of protecting students’ mental health, especially in times of conflict and persecution.

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With more than 20,000 students spread across many different campuses, Touro has always prioritized mental health services, Lichtman said in a Zoom interview.

“Research has shown that since the pandemic, levels of anxiety and depression haven’t decreased, they’ve either stayed the same or they’ve even increased,” said Lichtman, director of student mental health services at the university.

Students demonstrating

Touro University students are photographed during a pro-Israel protest on campus. “There’s a lot of anxiety, a general malaise and a kind of pervasive sadness,” the mental health clinic manager said. (University of Touro)

In many cases, students will seek help with anxiety related to studies, relationships, illness, or career uncertainty. Yet in recent months, concerns have grown over waves of anti-Semitism reported across the city.

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Although the university has not experienced blatant acts of anti-Semitism, Lichtman said there have been “minor, low-intensity incidents.”

“There’s a lot of anxiety, a general feeling of unease and a kind of pervasive sadness,” he said.

“You put the information out there and there’s not much other than who was killed today, or what violence is happening in different parts of the world or in your own city,” he said. he continued.

Touro University Mental Health Clinic

Touro University, one of the largest private Jewish universities in the United States, recently opened a free, walk-in mental health clinic on its Times Square campus in New York City. “There is a lot of anxiety, a general feeling of unease and a kind of pervasive sadness,” a university official said. (University of Touro)

“But people’s individual lives continue, with a kind of heaviness. So we try to give them some perspective and balance to help them.”

The bulk of mental health services offered by the university are individualized counseling, but some students prefer the “relative anonymity” of a group session or may crave a sense of belonging.

“You know, it’s a lonely world, in the age of social media,” Lichtman pointed out. “You can have 1,000 friends and not have any meaningful friendships or relationships. And so being part of a group can start to solve that problem in some way.”

“Despite all the challenges that may exist in the United States, it is still an incredible and wonderful country.”

The clinic also offers workshops on managing anxiety and practicing mindfulness.

The goal of the new drop-in center is to provide an additional option for students who need impromptu support without having to make an appointment.

“Maybe they’re on campus and they’ve had a rough day, and they just want to take a look and see who’s there,” Lichtman said. “We try to support students in a way that speaks to them.”

Dr. Jeffrey Lichtma

Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman is the head of the new mental health walk-in clinic. “We try to support students in a way that speaks to them,” he said. (University of Touro)

For some students, the Welcome Center served as a springboard to obtain long term care.

“It’s a first step: We get them through the door and then many want to continue with individual counseling,” Lichtman said. “The main goal is to get them to engage in a more continuous and engaged way.”

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Yakira Colish, a political science major at Lander College for Women in Touro, told Fox News Digital that she appreciates the additional mental health services offered by the university – especially in the wake of the October 7 attacks on Israel .

“It has been more difficult at our university, especially the one I am at, which is entirely Jewish and Orthodox, with very strong ties to Israel,” she said.

Touro Students

Two Touro University students are pictured in a classroom. “It’s been more difficult at our university, especially the one I’m at, which is entirely Jewish and Orthodox, with very strong ties to Israel,” one student told Fox News Digital. (University of Touro)

“We’ve all been following the news, and it’s contributed to increased anxiety levels. Checking to make sure your loved ones are alive is a real concern.”

She added: “There is a general feeling among many Jewish students – not just at Touro – that America could be just as dangerous. like Israel“.

Mental health resources are particularly vital in New York, Colish noted, a city she described as having “some anti-Semitic overtones.”

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“There have been threats against Jewish schools and synagogues“, she said. “And when I walk around my dorm, there are posters of kidnapped children torn down. I feel like anything can happen at any time.”

Even though Touro students have been relatively “sheltered” from anti-Semitism, according to Colish, she worries about what will happen when they move on to graduate school or law school.

Touro University Mental Health

Most of the university’s mental health services consist of individualized counseling, but some students prefer group sessions. (University of Touro)

“I think many of us follow the news of what’s happening at top universities — and we can’t escape the fact that there is anti-Semitism,” she said.

Colish, who is pursuing a diplomatic career, recently applied to Harvard Divinity for a master’s degree in theology.

“In my circles, there’s a lot more hesitation now when people find out I’m leaving,” she said. “There is a real fear for my safety.”

“There is a general feeling among many Jewish students … that America could be just as dangerous as Israel.”

On the other hand, Colish said she doesn’t think avoiding these places is the solution.

“I don’t believe the solution is to leave out pro-Israel voices,” she told Fox News Digital. “I think it might be more dangerous. But I think there’s a very strange irony in today’s world.”

Yakira Colish

Yakira Colish, a political science major at Touro’s Lander College for Women in New York, told Fox News Digital that she appreciates the additional mental health services offered by the university, especially after the October 7 attacks on Israel . (Yakira Colish)

Some students also experienced feelings of guilt, Lichtman and Colish agreed.

“These are 20-year-olds applying to college, trying to move on with their lives or just having a good time with their friends, while they have family in Israel,” Lichtman said.

“Some of them told us about feelings of guilt, saying: ‘How can I spend time with my friends when my cousin or my brother is in the Israeli army?’”

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Not all anxiety is necessarily bad, Lichtman emphasized.

“Low anxiety is actually completely normal and even healthy, but when it becomes so intense and pervasive that it interferes with daily functioning, that’s when it becomes problematic,” he said.

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It’s important for students to know when they need help, the doctor said.

“We live in a culture of rugged individualism, where the message is that we should be able to handle this ourselves, but that’s not true: everyone needs help,” he said. declared.

Talking about anxiety is a simple but very effective strategy, Lichtman said — something he calls “naming the monster.”

Torn posters on kidnappings in Israel

Yakira Colish, a student at Touro, told Fox News Digital that she saw posters of kidnapped Israelis torn down near her dorm. (Yakira Colish)

“Talking about the source of the anxiety literally helps bring it down,” he said. “For one it might be food, for another it might be maybe it’s religion. Naming the monster helps tame it. »

Recognizing and expressing gratitude is an important tool for fight anxietyLichtman said.

“Despite all the challenges we may face, we also have blessings,” he said. “Sometimes it’s family, sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s something else.”

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For many Touro students, they may be the first in their family to go to college, for example, or the first to live in the United States.

“With all the challenges that may exist in the United States, this remains a incredible and wonderful country” Lichtman emphasized.

“I think it’s important to reflect on these blessings because they give us perspective and balance that help us better manage anxiety.”

Touro Students

The students are pictured working in a laboratory at Touro University. More than 20,000 students are enrolled on the university’s campuses. (University of Touro)

From a student’s perspective, Colish recommended that young people keep up to date with current affairs, but in moderation.

When it comes to managing anxiety, exercise is one of its most effective tools.

“Whenever I feel big emotions, I like to run or climb,” she said. “Movement is incredibly helpful.”

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“I also find it strangely comforting that this is a sort of historical wave that has happened before,” Colish added. “Jewish history is like that, with ups and downs.”

“As a nation, we have been through this before and we will see it again.”

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