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Woodford Forest memorial talk

    Communities in east and north west London have featured mental health support charity Jami at the heart of separate events.

    Woodford Forest United Synagoge hosted mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn who spoke to 150 people at the shul’s Harold Weinberg memorial lecture. The men met when Mr Benjamin was about to jump off Waterloo Bridge. Mr Laybourn, a stranger, stopped to help.

    Their meeting featured in the documentary film The Stranger on the Bridge, a story of human kindness. Mr Benjamin has become a champion for mental health causes, helping people to talk about and destigmatise mental health. He only met Mr Laybourn again six years after the initial event when they were reunited and they now campaign together.

    The synagogue has partnered with Jami as its Kol Nidrei charity and is running a number of events throughout the year including mental health awareness training for staff and congregants.

    Woodford Forest’s Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg introduced the talk saying that saving one life was like saving a whole world “due to the ripple effect seen very much in this case with Mr Benjamin going on to help many more people and save lives”.

    He said: “We are humbled by the number of people who came to this presentation. If just one person feels able to speak out, and not suffer in silence, we will have achieved something. With suicide as the main cause of death in men under 45, this is literally life-saving work. We are grateful to Jonny and Neil for their moving presentation of this very human story and we look forward to building a strong partnership with Jami to help their vital work.”

    The second awareness initiative saw two JCoSS sixth formers holding a charity event raising money for Jami.

    Emily Newman and Ella Garai-Ebner, both aged 17, organised the event which took place on Sunday at North Western Reform Synagogue in Golders Green.

    Ms Newman said: “Mental illness can’t be seen, so it is even more vital that it is talked about.”

    The event, to help raise awareness of mental health issues, was attended by over 70 people, and raised £1,500 for the charity. The audience heard personal accounts of those who have experienced a mental illness.

    Ms Garai-Ebner added: “Our aim was to increase understanding of mental health conditions.”

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