Supporting the Resilience of Youngish Adults in the Jewish Community

Supporting the Resilience of Youngish Adults in the Jewish Community

With Jewish Federation of St. Louis / 4 months

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world have struggled with their mental health. Isolation, fear, and rapid change have all impacted the ability for individuals to cope with both existing and newly-emerging stressors. 

One group that has particularly struggled in the United States is youngish adults, between 22 and 40 years old. The Building Resilient Jewish Communities Study conducted by Brandeis University researchers in May 2020 found that youngish adults in the St. Louis Jewish community had more trouble coping with the psychological effects of the pandemic despite having similar or greater social support than adults of other ages.

Public Design Bureau partnered with Jewish Federation of St. Louis to build on their existing commitments to and strength in community-led development and decision-making. The project team designed a series of virtual workshops and conversations for participants in a Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Roundtable, consisting of leaders and stakeholders from across the Jewish community. The workshops and associated learning and feedback sessions centered the experiences and stories of youngish adults, defined strategic areas of opportunity for support, and produced and refined actionable concepts to improve long-term resilience for youngish adults. 

Process + Outputs

  • Facilitated Workshops: We hosted 3 collaborative workshops, creating interactive virtual experiences that centered the lives of youngish adults while incorporating the diverse expertise of the roundtable participants. Each session included a mix of relationship building, reflection, small group discussion, and group prioritization. Sessions elicited stories, generated potential ideas, and refined tested ideas for future implementation. 
  • Empathy-Building: We learned from youngish adults in the St. Louis community, exploring their experiences, needs, and barriers through both in-depth interviews and interactive activities. In addition, roundtable participants brought stories and experiences that they had seen across the Jewish community, presenting a wide range of experiences that youngish adults faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Actionable Framework: Insights from youngish adults shaped a framework for action, which defines four Supports for Resilience utilized by youngish adults. Reframing the challenge around resilience, rather than the pandemic specifically, opened a wider perspective on how to support long-term mental health of youngish adults and inspired diverse and innovative ideas 
  • Prototypes & Testing: After prioritization by the roundtable participants, we created low-fidelity prototypes of ideas, showing the outlines of potential ideas, to test with youngish adults. Through rounds of feedback, concepts were further refined to be more specific to the needs and context of youngish adults in the St. Louis Jewish community. 
  • Guides for Implementation & Discussion: We created a comprehensive document outlining 9 proposed strategies for supporting resilience and mental health for youngish adults. This document brought together feedback from youngish adults, refinements from roundtable participants, and models to learn from. 

Jewish Federation of St. Louis is working closely with partners across the region to identify opportunities to pilot and implement these strategies, both to support immediate needs during the pandemic and to increase resilience for future challenges.

Public Design Bureau’s design thinking approach to solving problems was new to our organization, and we are finding great value in both the results of the process, as well as in having experienced the process itself. Liz and Annemarie did a fantastic job facilitating a large group of people on Zoom, using creative engagement tools that were new to many of the participants. They were delightful to work with throughout this project: communicative, inventive, prompt, thorough, and careful to ensure that the process and product were meeting our needs.

Nava Kantor, Manager, Community Assessment & Planning, Jewish Federation of St. Louis