Bridging The Couple Chasm At Yeshiva University

Apr 21, 2010 — More than 320 mental health providers, researchers in the social sciences, fourth-year RIETS rabbinical students, YU roshei yeshiva, and clergy attended a seminar on couples therapy presented by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman at Yeshiva University. The event—organized by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and Nefesh, an international network of Orthodox mental health professionals—brought the prominent husband-wife team to YU for a two-day workshop covering a range of topics aimed at helping couples to compassionately manage their conflicts, deepen their friendship and intimacy and share their life purpose.

“A happy marriage is one of the key ingredients in terms of long-term happiness in life,” explained Dr. David Pelcovitz, Straus Professor of Psychology and Education at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. “The Gottmans are world renowned for the research that they have done and published in the finest peer-reviewed journals—breaking down the science of improving relationships and marriages. Bringing them in and making them available to the community is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, senior rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida and a RIETS graduate, flew to New York for the seminar to hear the Gottmans, who rarely lecture on the East Coast.

“As a rabbi of a large community, I interact with a lot of couples. Some of them are in crisis, some have failing marriages and some just want to strengthen their marriages,” said Rabbi Goldberg. “In these difficult economic times, a lot of marriages are under distress—the opportunity to learn from the experts and to hone my counseling skills in an informal way was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.”

The audience at the workshop represented a diverse crowd—all looking for ways to improve relationships in their respective communities.

“The Orthodox community is no different than any other,” said Aaron Orlander, LCSW a graduate of YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work who counsels couples in Borough Park. “They have marital issues just like everyone else. Even if they don’t have issues, they can always improve and enhance their marriages.”

Rabbi Barry Holzer, MD, a board member and co-founder of Nefesh was “happy to partner with YU to serve the community.

“The Jewish community is dealing with a rise in marital discord and divorce,” said Rabbi Barry Holzer, MD, a board member and co-founder of Nefesh. “We need to train therapists and rabbis to give couples the tools to improve their relationships so they can have happier and more fulfilling marriages.”

The Gottmans are co-founders of the Gottman Institute, an internationally renowned organization dedicated to researching and restoring relationships. John Gottman has over 35 years of research working with over 3,000 couples. He was recently voted one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past 25 years by the Psychotherapy Nertworker and has authored or co-authored over 40 books. Julie Schwartz Gottman is the designer and clinical director for Loving Couples Loving Children, a curriculum for couples suffering the effects of poverty. She has authored or co-authored three books and has been a frequent guest on radio and TV talk shows.

“One of our mandates is to convene resources that support and empower communities,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “Working in synergy with an organization like Nefesh to train rabbis and mental health professionals in areas of marital therapy is critical in developing stronger communities.”

To learn more about the Center for the Jewish Future please visit www.yu.edu/cjf.

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