Arnold experienced a deep grief-triggered depression after the death of his son. He was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit during Chanukah.
The unit had red and green decorations and there were treats like Christmas carols and cookies, meant to lift the spirits of those in the unit. But, as a Jewish person, these only led to a deeper sense of isolation for him. When the interfaith chaplain on the unit brought him the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center’s Holiday-in-an-Envelope for Chanukah, including prayers for those with mental illness, he felt connected to the Jewish community at a time and in a place where he least expected to.
He asked to see one of our rabbis. While they were visiting on the unit, Arnold expressed how isolated he felt as a Jew at Christmas on a psych unit. As they talked about this isolation, Arnold started sharing his favorite Jewish jokes about being a Jew at Christmas. For Arnold, being able to share jokes was a deep part of what it meant to him to be Jewish and what he missed about hanging out with his teen-aged son. As they laughed and grieved together, Arnold realized that he felt less alone.