Making an Extraordinary Impact and Saving Lives

One evening last month something extraordinary happened… 

As part of its We Need to Talk initiative on youth mental health, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit in partnership with the Friendship Circle, hosted a community-wide event featuring suicide attempt survivor Kevin Hines. Kevin is an author, filmmaker and mental health advocate who has the distinction of being one of the very few people to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge — attempting to take his own life — and live.  

With vulnerability, inspiration and humor, Kevin shared his story in front of hundreds of people at the Detroit Country Day Seligman Performing Arts Center. His message of hope, healing and recovery teaches the art of mental health wellness and the ability to survive pain with true resilience.   

With vulnerability, inspiration and humor, Kevin shared his story in front of hundreds of people at the Detroit Country Day Seligman Performing Arts Center.
With vulnerability, inspiration and humor, Kevin shared his story in front of hundreds of people at the Detroit Country Day Seligman Performing Arts Center.

As Jews, we’re taught to do what we can, when we can, to help heal the world. Yet often it’s difficult to see the real impact we make when we support a group or a cause, financially or otherwise. But this time the difference was clear.  

After Kevin’s presentation, during Q&A and beyond, some young members of our community expressed their own struggles with suicidal thoughts and feelings of helplessness. With Kevin there to listen, empathize and offer hugs, and with support staff from Jewish Family Services on hand, we were able to keep them safe and to get them the help they needed. Now they know that no matter how hard life gets, it’s ok to ask for help… with no stigmas attached.  

It’s Ok to Talk.  

If you see someone struggling with mental illness, don’t turn away. Ask them if they’re ok and offer to assist them. As Kevin shared, people who are suicidal don’t want to die, they just want someone to help them. 

We Need to Talk is the youth mental health initiative of the Detroit Jewish community supported by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. It’s aimed at raising awareness, reducing stigma and changing the community conversation around mental illness., the We Need to Talk website, is a great resource for parents, educators and young people to find information and crisis support.  

To learn more about Kevin Hines and to order copies of his book visit  

The Schlichim Are In the Hood.

Shinshin (ש”ש). It’s the Hebrew acronym for Shenat Sherut which means Year of Service. Kind of like our “gap year” between college and what’s next, Shenat Sherut is a yearlong program some Israeli students opt for prior to their military service. Four of those schlichim (emissaries) recently touched down in metro Detroit.

Starting this month, Alon Lachman, Noa Sabag, Yuval Weiss-Izhaki and Tamar Schnitzer will make Detroit their home away from home. With home being the Central Galilee, famous for its kibbutzim, moshavim, dance and music festivals. It’s also Metro Detroit’s partner region where programs like the Israeli Camper Program, Teen Mission and Detroit Community Taglit-Birthright Israel give families in Israel and Michigan the chance to connect.

They’ll volunteer at Hillel Day School, the Frankel Jewish Academy, synagogue schools, camp programs, the Pitt Child Development Center and with the Jewish Community Center’s JFamily programs, as well as participate in community events that focus on Israel. But mostly they’re so excited to be in Detroit–where they also feel like they have family. 

“I already feel part of the Jewish community and part of the family in the States,” Alon says.

When she first met members of Detroit’s Jewish community, “they were so welcoming, smiling and wanting to learn about Israel,” Noa says. “I was very impressed by their love of Israel.”

“I really noticed how welcoming the community is,” Tamar adds. “Everyone I met was so interested in my well-being. In addition, I could see that the community is very strong and united, with a rich community life.”

“I love how much the [Detroit] community’s kids are interested in getting to know the Israelis…asking questions about our way of life and sharing their life experiences with us,” Yuval says.

“We hope they’ll be everywhere and meet everyone!” says Dona Stillman, Associate Director of the Israel and Overseas Department, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. “Their role is to bring Israel here in a very tangible way.” Americans often hear and read about life in Israel, she notes, but the schlichim help them understand “what it’s really like to be Israeli.”

“Welcome to Detroit” to our schlichim. We’re so happy and proud that you’re here.

Alon Lachman
Alon, who lives in Migdal Haemek, is the grandson of four Holocaust survivors; his father Boris is a physician, and his mother Natalia is an electrical engineer. In addition to playing all those instruments and learning music history and theory, Alon studies telecommunications. He loves reading and photography, and he’s very interested in politics and behind-the-scenes at TV and other media. Alon recently took up a new hobby: He builds drones.

Noa Sabag
Noa studies biology and theatre, and she enjoys working out and participating in sports. Noa sings professionally and has been dancing for 10 years. “And of course, like every teenager, I sometimes like to sit on the sofa with some popcorn and watch TV.”

Tamar Schnitzer
Tamar has two brothers and a sister, and she lives in Shimshit with her mother, a historian, researcher and lecturer, and father, who is the head of a sales department at Tosaf Compounds, Ltd. Tamar is majoring in physics (“Because I really like science”) and theatre (“Ever since I was young my dream was to act, write scripts and direct”). She also enjoys playing the piano, working out, running and swimming, and she loves being outdoors.

Yuval Weiss-Izhaki
Yuval resides at Kibbutz Ha’soelim in the Jezreel Valley with his father Ram, a manager at a high-tech firm, his mother Tahel, a vice principal at a junior high, and two brothers. Yuval studies physics and computer science, an interest he inherited from his father. When not learning about science (ever since he was a young child, “I remember sitting and watching ‘National Geographic’ and ‘Discovery’ channels,” he says), Yuval loves sports: running, swimming, CrossFit, snowboarding and most of all, hiking. He also enjoys reading science fiction and thrillers, photography and filmmaking.