The director of the Israel Trauma Coalition told a gathering of health-care professionals that a main focus of her work today is “psychological trauma.” In a natural disaster or terror attack, Talia Levanon said, “for every one physical injury there are 20 psychological and emotional traumas that need treatment.”
She spoke Dec. 10 to 50 members of the Maimonides Society, medical professionals who are supporters of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County. They had gathered at the home of Jonathan and Dawn Barofsky.
Federation executive director Keith Krivitzky addressed the group and thanked those in attendance for their support — “Because you care and because you can,” he said. The minimum contribution to become part of the Maimonides Society, whose activities integrate medical and Jewish concerns and which offers an opportunity for health professionals to support the Jewish community, is $1,800 annually.
As director, Levanon travels around the world providing ITC aid to victims of natural emergencies or terror attacks. Among the places where ITC has contributed to relief efforts are Haiti, New Orleans, and Boston. She has also worked with community leaders, first responders, and social workers to treat cases of trauma following Hurricane Sandy.
Born in Switzerland and raised in Nigeria, Levanon said she has been working in the field since she was a teenager, helping wounded soldiers and their families. The awareness of the effects of disasters on people’s psychological state has led ITC to put in place in all of Israel’s cities massive plans for a national emergency of any kind.
Levanon said ITC helps Israelis and Palestinians and has lent its expertise in Arab countries, helping heal, train, and educate.
Following her talk, Levanon showed a clip from an ITC film that is being used to publicize and educate people all over the world about the devastating psychological and emotional trauma associated with terrorism, violence, war, and natural disasters. She said that for Israelis living in Sderot and other towns near Gaza, where sirens signaling impending rocket attacks and the resultant rush to shelters have become part of daily life, first responders and caregivers themselves not only need help learning how to assist people in a time of crisis but also require assistance in handling the trauma themselves.
The areas close to Gaza have become “an incubator for developing ways to train first responders such as ambulance drivers, teachers, physicians, nurses, and social workers on how to help people heal,” Levanon said.
Levanon was accompanied by Omer Egozi, ITC resources development director.
Dr. Karen Lang, a psychiatrist and Maimonides Society member who lives in Ocean Township, said she was inspired by Levanon’s story. “To have been thrown into the role of trauma counselor with no training at the age of 20, and to emerge as a worldwide leader and innovator is remarkable.
“It is particularly important that the ITC’s work includes not only the effects of the trauma on the victim himself, but also on the witnesses, family, and even on caregivers,” Lang added. “As an American medical professional, I think we can learn a lot about the far-reaching impact of trauma, and I would love to see us do a better job of providing resources and care to all those who are affected by trauma.”
Federation board chair Joe Hollander said, “It was great to see so many health-care practitioners show up to network and focus on aspects of the Jewish community as it relates to health care and the delivery of health care both here and globally.”