MEDIA CONTACT: Debbie Shemony, BBYO 202.857.6691 | [email protected]


First-of-its-kind initiative between the Center and a University Hillel will address growing need for student mental health services

Philadelphia, PA—The BBYO Center for Adolescent Wellness and Penn Hillel announced an exciting new partnership poised to train students at the University of Pennsylvania to be prepared to support the mental health needs of their peers. Specifically, students will learn how to recognize and respond to mental health red flags in peers, and how and when to get help. They will practice these skills through real-life scenarios and responses. This training will be provided to the Penn Hillel student Executive Board over the 2022 – 2023 academic year, and to members of the First Year Leadership Board of Penn Hillel. The goal is to train 40 students this year with the hope of expanding the partnership next year.

The partnership is the first of its kind between the BBYO Center for Adolescent Wellness and a Hillel and is intended to serve as a model for others throughout the country.

The Center is thrilled to be helping students obtain the vital skills they need to support their peers and themselves. This work is central to ensuring that the next generation of Jewish leaders is mentally, emotionally, and socially healthy and resilient,” said Drew Fidler, LCSW-C Director, BBYO Center for Adolescent Wellness.

The mental health of university students is increasingly a major issue facing Hillels as well as administrators across the country. Over the last decade, rates of anxiety and depression have risen steadily amongst young adults. 60% of college students are living with a mental health disorder. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst young adults. Since the pandemic began, 56% of young adults say they have experienced worsening stress, 53% report heightened anxiety, and 45% report increased symptoms of depression. According to a BBYO study and national research, 79% of youth are most likely to turn to their peers first when experiencing a mental, emotional, or social health crisis. That is why it is vital to train students to recognize red flags and connect their peers to support.

“Hillel is a home away from home for thousands of Jewish students at Penn,” said Rabbi Gabe Greenberg, Executive Director of Penn Hillel. “Especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic, we are seeing more and more students who are in crisis and need help. This partnership will enable us to put into our belief that everyone in the community must be there for each other.”

For more than a century, Penn Hillel has been the center of Jewish life at the University of Pennsylvania, and an award-winning Hillel. The BBYO Center for Adolescent Wellness (BBYO-CAW) seeks to identify and provide best practices in adolescent health and wellness so that youth-serving organizations can be places where adolescents thrive. With a network of hundreds of chapters across North America and in 60 countries around the world, BBYO reaches nearly 70,000 teens annually and serves as the Jewish community’s largest and most valuable platform for delivering fun, meaningful, and affordable experiences that inspire a lasting connection to the Jewish people.


Youth-serving organizations (YSOs) impact the lives of young people in a profound way. These organizations seek to shape who youth are and the people they will become and offer welcoming and inclusive environments where young people feel safe to share their emotions and feelings. To accomplish these goals, these organizations need to be mentally, emotionally, and physically safe spaces for youth. The BBYO Center for Adolescent Wellness (BBYO-CAW) seeks to identify and provide best practices in adolescent health and wellness so that YSOs can be places where adolescents thrive.

About Penn Hillel
Penn Hillel is proud to be an “umbrella” organization, home to over 40 student communities and groups at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It hosts events, initiatives, speakers, and classes that engage a wide spectrum of students of all backgrounds and beliefs. A small sampling or offerings include a weekly soup kitchen, a wide variety of opportunities to engage with and learn about Israel, world famous speakers and public intellectuals, alternative break trips to UAE, Germany, Israel and beyond. All of this is in addition to the nearly 300 students who experience Shabbat each week, when we offer up to six different services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.