Self Help

The Amen Effect Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World - Sharon Brous

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Matheus Puppe

· 28 min read



  • The author sees her role as a rabbi not just in major life events like funerals, but also in the daily struggle and small moments of human connection.

  • She reflects on 20 years of witnessing tragedy and triumph, heartache and joy, and how people come together in between to support each other.

  • Examples given include being with the dying, celebrating love, protesting together for change, reconnecting after hardship, and mourning loss.

  • These human connections of bearing witness, comforting, and finding meaning together are what she calls the “amen effect.”

  • The amen effect is a spiritual strategy rooted in ancient wisdom to navigate hardship through deeper connection, meaning, direction and knowing we’re not alone.

  • The book aims to capture insights from tradition and real life experiences of the power of saying “amen” to each other through presence in both sacred and ordinary moments.

So in summary, the introduction outlines the author’s perspective on her role as a rabbi, experiences witnessing human connection in times of struggle, and defines the “amen effect” as finding meaning through being present for one another.

  • The author became a rabbi in the early 2000s, when many young Jews were disengaging from organized religion. Religious institutions were struggling with relevance and dull conformity.

  • He was inspired by Rabbi Heschel’s call for “spiritual audacity” rather than religious tranquilizers. Faith was also being abused for political repression in some cases.

  • In 2004 in Los Angeles, the author co-founded IKAR, a Jewish community seeking to make faith spiritually alive and morally courageous. It started small with just a shared vision.

  • IKAR grew rapidly through soulful and meaningful Shabbat services. It focused on deep learning, the prophetic tradition, working for social justice, and openness to new ideas.

  • Building IKAR transformed the author’s understanding of faith’s role and Jewish texts. The community experience nurtured personal and communal growth through challenges.

  • The book draws on Jewish wisdom and also intersections with neuroscience, psychology and human relationships. It aims to foster compassion and social transformation through openhearted encounters.

  • The author sees similarities between reconciliation in relationships and social systems. Training the heart in compassion is important for social and spiritual health.

  • Spiritual practices at the end are meant to cultivate wakefulness, gratitude and empathy on a daily basis.

The passage touches on the very heart of our shared humanity - our deep vulnerability in times of suffering, our inner spiritual strength that sustains us, and our resilience as a community.

It speaks of showing up for one another in good times and bad. When we are joyful, we celebrate together. And when life brings darkness and pain, we offer comfort through our caring presence alone.

Connecting in this way recognizes our common struggles. No one is exempt from facing hardships, yet in community we need not weather storms alone. With empathy and compassion, we can lighten each other’s burdens through simple acts of seeing, holding and understanding one another.

Overall it promotes embracing both the light and shadows of life, finding meaning even in suffering, and drawing strength from uniting in our shared vulnerability and humanity. The message is one of tenderness, hope and togetherness during both celebration and sorrow.

  • The passage talks about the importance of sharing joy and celebrating together. It describes several examples of joyous occasions where friends and community came together to dance, celebrate love, and affirm each other.

  • Research is discussed showing how sharing joy with others activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as experiencing it oneself. Mirror neurons allow us to feel each other’s emotions.

  • The author learns that there is always good news to be found, even in difficult times, and sharing the good news is a biological and spiritual imperative.

  • Two examples are given of weddings where the whole community shared in the joy of finding love after a long wait. This communal sharing magnified the joy.

  • The story amends the rule to show up not just for celebrations but also for hard times like funerals, to be present for others in both.

  • In general, the passage advocates making the effort to join together in each other’s joy and sufferings, as this sharing and affirming of emotions strengthens community and our common humanity.

  • The author struggled to help Jonah make sense of reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer after suddenly losing a loved one. The prayer focuses on praising God rather than directly addressing grief.

  • The author later realized the true importance of the prayer is that it allows the mourner to publicly express their grief, while the community responds with support and presence by saying “Amen.”

  • Jewish mourning traditions emphasize community support - things like sitting shiva with mourners, escorting them after a burial, and filling their home with food and stories. The community says “Amen” to acknowledge the mourner’s sadness and affirm they are not alone.

  • The author wishes they understood this aspect earlier to help Jonah. They came to see rituals like reciting Kaddish as a dialogue between mourner and community, with the community providing critical support through their responses.

  • Community support in times of grief and celebration is a sacred obligation, according to the author’s grandmother’s rule. The author aims to explicitly teach this lesson going forward in their religious community.

  • The author put together a care basket for Abigail and Eric, who had just moved to LA and were now hospitalized. The basket included magazines, snacks, chocolate, and a handmade book of blessings written by members of their synagogue community, IKAR, though Abigail and Eric did not know many people there yet.

  • When the author delivered the basket, Abigail wept with gratitude upon reading the messages of support. She promised that one day she would pay this love forward, which she later did by guiding and supporting other parents of struggling children.

  • This act of compassion showed the author that they needed to explicitly teach their obligation to love one another through both good and difficult times, and to be present for each other. Building community within their synagogue would help them build a “beloved community” in the wider world.

  • The 9th plague of darkness described in Exodus was terrifying not just because of the physical discomfort, but because it brought spiritual anguish by rendering people unable to see or support each other in suffering. This total disconnection was uniquely devastating.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic threatened both physical health and psychological/spiritual well-being by forcing social distancing and isolation. The rabbi worries about how elderly congregation members and those grieving will cope without community support.

  • Loneliness, defined as the subjective feeling of lacking needed social connections, was already a public health crisis pre-pandemic due to cultural and technological factors. Prolonged isolation further endangered individuals’ cognitive, emotional and physical health as well as society.

  • Genesis describes creation as transforming from chaos to order, and declares all of God’s creations as “good” except for humanity being alone. Relationships and community are a core human need according to spiritual, biological and psychological evidence. The pandemic underscored how social connection is essential, not just a luxury, to human well-being and purpose.

  • Jonathan was a prominent member of the community who would always socialize at Shabbat services and introduce people. However, after abruptly losing his job, he became guarded, isolated himself, and started declining invitations.

  • Months later, he met with the author and shared how ashamed and humiliated he felt after being fired. He withdrew from friends out of fear of further humiliation and anger over what happened.

  • The author realized that those who isolate themselves the most are often the ones in greatest need of care and support. Building social connections is the remedy to loneliness, but becoming vulnerable gets harder as self-worth decreases.

  • Deep, meaningful relationships are rooted in mutual concern, trust, forgiveness and accountability. Shared purpose relationships inspire belonging through working towards a common goal or vision.

  • With support from the community, Jonathan eventually started volunteering and getting involved again. His vulnerability in sharing his experience with suicidal thoughts helped others in similar struggles know they are not alone.

  • The community committed to being there for each other, especially during hard times, and to prevent further isolation or loss through compassionate social connection. Tamar also reached out for help after feeling she was disappearing.

  • The author recalls a dangerous backpacking trip during a severe thunderstorm where they feared for their lives.

  • The next day, they learned that a young woman named Layla died saving her baby brother when a tree fell on them after the storm.

  • The author reached out to Layla’s mother Denise and helped raise funds for the burial. Denise was devastated by the loss of her daughter.

  • It was revealed the tree had been threatening the housing project for over a decade but the city did not remove it. Denise sued the city.

  • When offered a small settlement, Denise refused, believing her daughter had immense potential. This experience reinforced the author’s religious teachings that every person is created in God’s image and has infinite worth and potential.

  • The story highlights the Jewish teaching that destroying one life is like destroying an entire world, and saving one is like saving the whole world. It calls for respecting the dignity and worth of all people.

The passage discusses the importance of recognizing the inherent dignity and value in every human life. It tells stories from Jewish texts that emphasize treating all people, including strangers, foreigners, the poor, and vulnerable groups, with compassion.

The stories of Sodom and Gomorrah are presented as a warning of what happens when a society fails to uphold human dignity. These cities oppressed outsiders and the poor, and murdered those who showed compassion.

A character named Plotit helps a starving poor man in secret, risking her life to do so. When discovered, she is meant to be executed as a warning. Her anguished cry awakens God to the injustices, showing how important it is not to forget the image of God in each person.

Other examples discuss how failures to see human dignity have led to historical injustices like slavery and the Holocaust. The passage calls for building a society where all people are treated with equal worth and respect, regardless of attributes like race, wealth or status. It encourages shifting perspectives to see “Henry, my neighbor” rather than just a stranger in need.

The passage reflects on the soul’s calling and responding to those in need. It shares two personal experiences where the author felt a strong calling.

The first was in college during a weekend program in Jerusalem where the author suddenly realized they believed in God. This prompted them to declare they wanted to be a rabbi, surprising even themselves.

The second calling came years later in rabbinical school. Reading about catastrophic floods in Mozambique and women stranded in trees without rescue, the author was overcome with grief and shame that their studies seemed disconnected from helping real people.

Overall, the passage examines the mysterious force of feeling called to a purpose or mission in life, and the transformative impact of taking such callings seriously despite doubts or obstacles. It encourages discerning one’s core purpose and actively working to live into that calling.

  • The passage describes three personal experiences that challenged the rabbi to reconcile urgent human needs with their academic/spiritual work and paths.

  • The first was witnessing crisis in Mozambique which made them drop out of rabbinical school to raise rescue funds, until convinced to integrate human rights studies.

  • The second was a cryptic lecture from their rabbi, urging them to shine on their own and not stay in his shadow, prompting them to leave and find their own calling in Los Angeles.

  • The third happened after a community member’s death, when responses to “What are you waiting for?” revealed deep anguish, frustration and waiting for validation/purpose beneath the surface in many people.

The experiences underscored for the rabbi the importance of integrating academics with activism to serve human needs, marrying past/present and finding their own calling or “coming alive” to their purpose rather than staying in others’ shadows. Crises like death can force confronting life’s brevity and translating purpose into meaning and urgent action.

  • Life is fragile and fleeting. Standing at the edge of death, one feels a sense of urgency and purpose that fades quickly over time as we return to normal life.

  • The rabbi has officiated many funerals and seen how short life can be. This gives them little patience for wasting time. They want to encourage people to pursue their passions and potential while they can.

  • The Talmud story emphasizes living each day as if it were your last, doing the important work of self-reflection and growth daily rather than waiting until it’s too late.

  • Each person has a unique purpose or mission to fulfill during their lifetime. We should reflect on how we can meet the challenges of our time and utilize our gifts to make a difference. No one else can fulfill the specific role we are meant to play.

  • Angels in Jewish tradition appear at critical moments to provide hope, clarity or subtly guide events in a way that advances God’s plan. Similarly, each person is meant to show up when needed and contribute in their own angel-like way through supporting others during dark times.

So in summary, it’s calling on people to reflect deeply on their purpose and unique role, and to act with urgency to fulfill it rather than wasting time, drawing parallels to how angels function in Jewish scripture.

Angels can be seen as messengers or beings that help others in times of need. The essay describes several examples of “angels” the author has encountered - people who helped them or others in meaningful ways without expecting recognition. These acts of kindness, even the small daily gestures, fulfill peoples’ higher purpose and answer the call to help others.

The passage also describes a tragic accident where a young boy named Gidi died, upending the natural order. His death served as a reminder of how fragile life is. During difficult times, the High Holy Days take on added significance as a time for communities to come together and grieve losses while drawing strength from rituals and tradition.

The overall message is that we all have the potential to be “angels” for others through both grand gestures and small daily acts of caring, listening, and comfort. Stepping in to help others in their moments of need fulfills our role and higher purpose. Tragedy can shake us from complacency and remind us to live fully and make the most of our time with loved ones. Rituals and community help in processing loss and finding meaning.

The passage describes two ancient Jewish stories that provide guidance on how to balance grief and celebration. The first story shows Rabbi Yehoshua telling mourners after the destruction of the Temple that they must continue living and taking joy in life, while still remembering their losses. The second story depicts a wedding celebration where the groom’s father breaks a glass to remind them of ongoing hardship even in joyous times.

The author reflects on how these stories teach that one must hold both sorrow and happiness within the spiritual heart. Life contains both pain and possibility. She relates personal experiences of navigating grief at family celebrations, like her cousin’s wedding near the end of the cousin’s battle with cancer. The stories and experiences illustrate that Judaism sees grieving and living, as well as celebrating and remembering hardship, as equally important and not mutually exclusive. One must cultivate the ability to experience both at once.

Here is a summary of the update on Lizzie’s boys:

  • Lizzie’s sister Nancy was also diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma cancer, the same type that killed Lizzie. Nancy was 50 years old and left behind her husband Kurt and their two young boys.

  • The author witnessed over the next year as the cancer progressed rapidly in Nancy, taking away her ability to do activities she loved like rowing and working.

  • Nancy’s condition deteriorated to the point where she was moved to hospice just one day before the author’s son Levi’s bar mitzvah.

  • Despite Nancy actively dying, family still flew in for the bar mitzvah per the family’s rule to attend celebrations (simhas). There was much weeping seeing each other amid so much grief.

  • The family found a balance of mourning Nancy but still celebrating Levi’s milestone, as advised by a relative that it would be unfair to Levi to let the sadness take over the whole day.

  • Nancy passed away a couple weeks after Levi’s bar mitzvah at the age of 50, leaving behind her husband and two young sons, in addition to the wider family who were devastated by this second loss.

The passage discusses the importance of visiting those who are sick or suffering. In Jewish tradition, visiting the sick is considered both an act of kindness and a religious duty. God models compassion by visiting Abraham after his surgery, and we are called to emulate God’s attributes of love and kindness.

Visiting the sick can help alleviate their suffering. One story describes how each visit relieves one-sixtieth of the patient’s pain. While visitors cannot cure illness or fully heal suffering, their presence, love, and prayers can bring slight relief incrementally.

The passage then explores how those who take on caregiver roles as “healers” are affected. Rabbi Yohanan was able to connect deeply with mourners because of his own experiences with profound loss. However, even he needed help from others when he became ill, showing that no one can heal themselves and we all depend on each other.

The key lessons are that effective caregiving requires meeting suffering with one’s own vulnerability, and we can only serve others by embracing our shared frailty and entering spaces of pain from a place of humility rather than invulnerability. Visiting the sick models God’s compassion and is a way to live out religious values of love and kindness.

  • The passage discusses the risks and vulnerabilities that come with being a caregiver who opens their whole self up to others in pain. Absorbing even small fractions of others’ trauma can take a toll over time through vicarious or secondary trauma.

  • Caregivers are oriented towards giving care, not receiving it, so may resist acknowledging or addressing their own needs. There is also guilt in diverting attention from others in greater need.

  • Over time, repeated exposure to others’ pain can lead to numbing, avoidance, burnout, and leaving the caring field if secondary trauma is not addressed. The human capacity for feeling and absorbing pain is limited.

  • Examples are given of caregivers like the author’s mother who fully empathize with those in pain without hesitation. The dangers of this for the caregiver are discussed.

  • A story is shared of a gentle healer named Jordan who was able to relieve the author’s daughter of a headache through acupressure, demonstrating compassionate caregiving.

  • Jordan was a healer who had a tender heart and cared deeply for others. He helped relieve people’s pain through loving care and touch. However, he carried a heavy burden himself and seemed to take on the pain of those he helped.

  • Eventually, the accumulated pain became too much for Jordan to bear and he tragically died by suicide. The author wonders if Jordan filled up on all the pain from others until his own body and soul couldn’t take it anymore.

  • The author thinks often of Jordan and his mother Ellen, who has processed the grief of loss in both profoundly sad and determined ways. The author recognizes that what happened to Jordan - becoming overwhelmed by caring for others - could potentially happen to any healer or caring friend.

  • The author experienced shoulder pain while grieving the death of two cousins. A healer diagnosed it as embodied grief from years of absorbing others’ pain in her role as a rabbi conducting funerals and providing pastoral care. The healer helped release the stored grief from her body.

  • This experience taught the author that grief can physically manifest, and healers must take time to process their own feelings or they risk becoming overwhelmed by others’ suffering. Even healers need healing themselves.

  • The author recounts two personal experiences where she showed up for others while also grieving - her own miscarriage during a ritual for a newborn, and supporting a congregant through a late-term termination - and recognized the importance of acknowledging one’s own pain even in service of others.

The speaker discusses speaking with their friend Shifra, who has just learned her partner Michael has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. They reflect on the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel and insisting on a blessing before letting go, seeing it as a message that even after struggle, blessings can emerge.

However, they’ve come to question if it’s always realistic to expect blessings in the “morning” - sometimes struggles are so great the “night of suffering never ends.” Reverend Otis’ story of his daughter dancing in the darkness despite threats around her offers another perspective - finding blessings even in the midst of darkness.

When speaking with Shifra, the speaker emphasizes focusing on finding blessings now, in this difficult time, rather than fantasizing about a future miracle. Shifra and Michael spend their final months together making the most of their time through activities like walks with family and friends. The story suggests we should face darkness directly rather than avoiding wounds, and blessings can still be found even in the night of suffering.

  • Strike 1 was failing to be honest with her dying grandmother about the fact that she was close to death, and joining others in giving false assurances of recovery instead of confronting mortality. She regrets not having a more truthful conversation.

  • Strike 2 was avoiding visiting a young congregant diagnosed with breast cancer out of fear of saying the wrong thing and potentially harming her. Her rabbi advised her not to put so much pressure on herself and to allow space for God/the holy.

  • Strike 3 was misreading the joyful, dancing atmosphere at a Shabbat service shortly before 9/11 and reprimanding excessive behavior, when she should have recognized it as a beautiful moment of communal spirituality and connection.

The overall theme is times when the author, a rabbi, held back from important spiritual conversations or moments out of death denial, fear of failure, or misreading a situation, and came to regret not being fully present or missing opportunities for deeper connection and honesty. She describes learning from these experiences.

  • Oman, a mourner whose mother had died that week, asked the rabbi if she was allowed to dance during the Shabbat service.

  • The rabbi, fresh out of seminary, was unsure of the correct Jewish legal/halakhic answer. Dancing could be seen as joyful, which mourners shouldn’t partake in, but Shabbat rules suspend mourning customs.

  • The rabbi was afraid of giving the wrong answer. He admitted he didn’t know and directed Oman to an older, wiser rabbi for guidance.

  • The older rabbi, Roly, embraced Oman comfortingly as she broke down in tears. The rabbi realized he had misunderstood - Oman wasn’t just seeking a legal answer, she needed emotional support in her grief.

  • The rabbi learned he should have sat with Oman in her pain, rather than getting caught up in legal details. His role was to offer empathetic presence, not just a rule-based response.

  • The passage discusses how social alienation and tribalization have driven a crisis of people no longer feeling they inhabit overlapping universes with those holding opposing views.

  • Social alienation refers to the disintegration of collective bonds and fragmentation of society, leaving people lonely and disconnected. This has been exacerbated by technology and social media.

  • Tribalization refers to harsh lines of social division that carve society into exclusive, homogeneous groups that are often oppositional.

  • The convergence of these trends is pushing society to the edge of an abyss, where people see those with opposing views not just as ideological opponents but existential threats, potentially devaluing their humanity.

  • Examples given include a congregant witnessing a stabbing at a pride parade and struggling to relate to someone at dinner who holds extremist views, as well as the author’s experience having a harsh critique written about their call for Palestinian justice.

  • The passage argues this crisis of no longer feeling like overlapping universes undermines the possibility of open-hearted human connection across divisions.

  • Personal relationships and community connections are increasingly rare today, with more people feeling isolated and alone. This level of disconnection is concerning and can enable the rise of extremism, as Hannah Arendt warned.

  • In addition to isolation, humans have a natural tendency towards tribalism - forming close bonds with similar “in-group” members but feeling indifferent or hostile towards “out-groups.” This tribal thinking in segregated bubbles hinders curiosity about others and empathy.

  • Lack of curiosity and empathy allows dehumanization and extremist views to spread. Meaningful encounters across group lines are needed to establish new “neural patterns” of seeing our shared humanity. Getting proximate to those suffering is the only way to create real social change.

  • A story is told of Abba Hilkiya, who despite treating rabbis poorly, explained his behaviors when asked, showing he was truly righteous. Curiosity about “every person’s battle” and willingness to be surprised can transform relationships. The author strives for such open-hearted curiosity in her own difficult encounters.

  • The passage discusses the importance of seeking to understand adversaries and find common humanity, even in those who spread harmful ideologies or engage in injustice. However, there are limits to this approach, and sometimes confronting oppression directly is most urgent.

  • It references the story of Derek Black, a former white nationalist who was “dereadicalized” through patient engagement with Jewish classmates over time. However, it notes targeted groups bear no responsibility to engage oppressors.

  • It describes a pastoral counselor’s breakthrough in understanding a difficult congregant by seeing her pain and humanity from past abuse, though disagreeing on the issue at hand.

  • It weighs the tension between confronting toxic viewpoints and retaining empathy/curiosity about what draws people to such extremes, to avoid “othering” and address societal influences.

  • Overall it explores the challenges but also transformative potential of directly engaging ideological opponents, though recognizing related risks and that change often happens gradually through relationship, not confrontation. It calls for discretion and awareness of positional privilege in such encounters.

  • The author recounts two experiences engaging with individuals promoting hateful or harmful rhetoric.

  • In the first, they have lunch with a writer whose work is fueling racism and anti-trans hatred. The meeting is unfruitful, but the author hopes future interactions may help change his views over time.

  • In the second, the author speaks to Jewish leaders about religious extremism and is confronted by an ultra-Orthodox rabbi. Surprisingly, the rabbi agrees to sit with the author for three hours. Though they disagree, seeing each other as people seems to have some positive impact.

  • The author also discusses Hannah staying to talk with Asher after witnessing an extremist hate crime. Through curiosity and not walking away, Hannah is eventually able to help shift Asher’s views and he becomes an LGBTQ ally.

  • The author suggests engaging even those promoting harm, like the ancient practice of including the ostracized at the Temple. However, safety must come first and vulnerable groups are not obliged to engage dangerously. The goal is opening hearts on all sides through respectful interaction over time.

  • The passage discusses the Jewish ritual of kriah - tearing one’s clothes as a symbolic act of mourning when attending a funeral.

  • It shares an anecdote of the author’s father-in-law protesting when the rabbi told him to tear his best suit at his father’s funeral, instead choosing to tear his tie as a compromise.

  • Kriah involves tearing either the garment or ribbon close to the heart, and wearing it for the first week of mourning as a visible sign of one’s broken heart.

  • After a week, the tear can be tacked together roughly, and after a month it can be repaired more carefully, with the repaired garment still showing the scar of one’s loss.

  • The author likens this ritual of tearing and repairing to the process of healing from deep wounds - it will never be perfect but finds beauty in imperfection, requiring the support of community to slowly stitch oneself back together through this sacred work.

  • Spiritual practices like kriah help transform ideals into daily behaviors rooted in commitment, connection and compassion for self and others.

So in summary, it discusses the Jewish mourning ritual of kriah and uses the metaphor of tearing and repairing garments as a spiritual practice of openly acknowledging loss while finding communal healing over time.

Here is a summary of the key practices and insights presented in the chapters:

  • Attend funerals even if inconvenient, as showing up for others in their times of loss is important.

  • Get to know your neighbors by taking walks in the neighborhood and checking in with those nearby.

  • See each person you pass as bearing the image of God and treat them with dignity.

  • Find purpose and self-discovery through service, by looking for ways each day to help others.

  • Take regular “joy breaks” of 18 minutes each day to experience joy even in hard times, as joy and mourning can coexist.

  • Be honest about how you’re feeling when asked, rather than pretending you’re okay if you’re not, so others can offer real support.

  • Sit in discomfort with others without trying to immediately fix things, to foster openness and listening.

  • Stay calm and keep listening to opposing views for understanding, rather than reacting or disengaging, as this can open doors to real dialogue.

The overall message is about cultivating everyday practices of connecting, serving and supporting others through both difficult and joyful times, with an emphasis on showing up, listening fully, and finding meaning through small acts of compassion.

  • The author expresses deep gratitude to their agent, editor, publishers, early readers, friends, family, congregants, and colleagues for their support and feedback in writing this book.

  • They thank their agent for believing in the project from the start and pushing them to develop the “amen effect” idea into a full book.

  • They are grateful to early readers who generously provided advice and encouragement throughout the writing process.

  • The author also thanks their community and clergy team for their partnership in building the community and for supporting them in taking time to write.

  • Finally, the author expresses love and appreciation for their husband, children, parents, and other family members for their patience, editing help, and for inspiring the content of the book.

So in summary, the acknowledgments section expresses immense gratitude to the many people who helped make the book possible through their guidance, encouragement, and personal support of the author during the writing process.

  • The passage references a quote from Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet and mystic, about how every moment holds the voice of love.

  • It mentions a quote from Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Alter about how the deepest darkness lies within our own selves.

  • It discusses how loneliness has three dimensions according to research: intimate longing for a close partner, relational desire for social companionship/friends, and collective need for a broader community network.

  • It notes that loneliness has been found to be dangerous to health, with many suffering from it. Some groups are more vulnerable than others due to unequal access to resources and the effects of prejudices.

  • Technological advances while meant to connect us have had unintended consequences that contribute to isolation from one another.

  • Loneliness touches all of us to some degree according to research on college students and older adults. The passage advocates for addressing this widespread issue.

Here is a summary of the key points from the report “Isolation, Loneliness, and Social Connections: A National Survey of Adults 45 and Older,” AARP Research, September 2018:

  • The survey assessed levels of isolation and loneliness among American adults ages 45 and older.

  • It found that 27% of U.S. adults ages 45+ Report sometimes or always feeling isolated from others. Levels of isolation were higher among certain groups like unmarried adults, those with lower income or education levels, and those with disabilities.

  • 23% of adults ages 45+ report sometimes or always feeling lonely. Levels of loneliness were also higher among certain groups like unmarried adults, lower-income adults, younger seniors ages 45-49, and LGBTQ adults.

  • Both isolation and loneliness were linked to higher risks of physical and mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline. Isolated and lonely adults also reported worse overall well-being.

  • Social media and technology were not reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. In-person interactions and participation in social organizations/religious groups were more strongly tied to lower rates of isolation and loneliness.

  • The findings highlight the importance of community involvement and social connections for older adult health, wellness, and quality of life. They suggest more efforts are needed to combat isolation and loneliness, especially among vulnerable populations.

In summary, the report presented survey results finding that over 20% of US adults ages 45+ experience isolation or loneliness, which are linked to health risks. It emphasized the ongoing value of in-person social interaction and community involvement for older adult well-being.

Here is a summary of the provided material:

This document contains summaries and references for a number of sources relating to empathy, healing, social connection, and spiritual or religious teachings. Some of the key topics and sources discussed include:

  • The Talmud and stories of ancient rabbis helping heal the wounded.

  • The book “The Wounded Healer” by Henri Nouwen about ministry and dealing with one’s own pain.

  • Research on secondary or vicarious trauma experienced by those working with people in pain.

  • Ideas about how challenging experiences can strengthen empathy and understanding if integrated properly.

  • Studies discussing limits to empathy and how dealing with large-scale suffering can lead to detachment.

  • Stories from various religious and spiritual traditions about bearing witness to hardship with compassion.

  • Concepts of maintaining wonder, connection with strangers, and being open to different perspectives.

  • References to works discussing erosion of social ties and how that relates to political polarization.

  • A Talmudic story exemplifying seeing beyond surface impressions to hints of truth in others.

  • The story of Derek Black renouncing white nationalism after befriending people of other backgrounds.

It provides summaries and references for exploring various ethical and spiritual approaches to empathy, healing, community, and open-mindedness. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

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About Matheus Puppe