Atlanta Jewish Groups Battle ‘Superwoman Complex’

Atlanta Jewish Groups Battle ‘Superwoman Complex’

A multi-year grant by Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta also addresses mental health with Sandy Springs mikvah and Jewish Family & Career Services.

More than two decades ago, Jocelyn Schorvitz wrote her college senior year thesis on the “superwoman complex,” that towering expectation of oneself to be perfect and to handle anything that comes her way. Now she has created a program for women caregivers who may struggle with this condition, to be held at MACoM (Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah). Schorvitz is executive director of Atlanta’s unaffiliated mikvah in Sandy Springs.

Jocelyn Schorvitz wrote her senior year thesis on the “superwoman complex.”

The Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta is providing a three-year $225,000 grant to MACoM and Jewish Family & Career Services to create POW! a Pragmatic Outlook for Women, “that will help women find a pragmatic approach to life,” Schorvitz explained. JWFA said it is their largest grant ever.

Starting in October and lasting through May, the program will be open to primary caregivers who assist anyone besides themselves, whether children, parents or others. Additional cohorts will follow.

“The weight of caregiving often falls on women’s shoulders,” Schorvitz said. “There are a lot of programs on the spiritual side, but people need help to get through the process.” The program, created under this grant, starts with three two-hour sessions, after which participants will receive a gift certificate to immerse in the mikvah, followed by once-a-month meetings. Schorvitz described the mikvah as a “place for healing and to mark transitions.”

Programming will facilitate social change, said Rebecca Brown, a clinician at JF&CS.

Especially after the past year plagued by the pandemic, during which women have taken on more responsibilities, Schorvitz saw a serious need for a program like POW! She wrote a letter of intent to submit a grant proposal, at the same time as Rebecca Brown, a clinical social worker at JF&CS, did as well. Brown is also the outreach and prevention social worker for the JF&CS Shalom Bayit (Peace at Home) program.

JWFA Executive Director Rachel Wasserman recalled when the two applications were submitted. “They came in as separate proposals and our leadership proposed they do it together. They clearly all felt the need so deeply.”

According to Schorvitz, MACoM was already aligned as an organization with JF&CS. “We had hoped to work with them, and the JWFA accelerated that idea. From the first conversation, there was beautiful synchronicity.” JF&CS will provide the therapists and trainers to facilitate the POW! participants.

“Our leadership was blown away by the thoughtfulness, scope and depth of the grant proposal presented by JF&CS and MACoM, and we could not be more pleased to throw such major support behind this important initiative,” Wasserman said.

The idea for the signature grant came out of JWFA’s 2020 community study, conducted by researchers at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. The study exposed the ongoing work-life balance challenges for both teens and working women, resulting in mental health struggles and an increase in anxiety and stress levels. And this was before the pandemic struck.

Brown noted that the two biggest issues the JWFA grant wanted to address were the “superwoman complex” and mental health, especially anxiety. JF&CS already provided a mental health first aid program for adults who work with youth. That program will be modified for women and teen girls, she said.

In fact, JF&CS is designing a variety of curricula to break the stigmas associated with mental health challenges, with a special emphasis on teenage girls. Brown said JWFA had asked for programming on social change. “If we can reach the younger generation, then we can hopefully make changes for the future,” she said. “If we start changing behavior for younger girls, that’s part of the social change piece.”

JF&CS CEO Terri Bonoff called the multi-year grant “extraordinary.”

Commenting about the JWFA grant, JF&CS CEO Terri Bonoff said, “This extraordinary show of financial support from JWFA will enable us to create strategic programming and innovative resources geared specifically to meet the immediate needs of women and girls in Atlanta.”

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