Launch of Counseling Center at HUC-JIR/New York

Rabbi Rex Perlmeter and Rabbi Rachel Hertzman

Rabbi Rex Perlmeter and Rabbi Rachel Hertzman

The newly created HUC-JIR/NY Counseling Center, generously funded by Rabbi Rex Perlmeter and Rabbi Rachel Hertzman, ensures that all students on the New York campus have access to short-term counseling. Launched on October 4, 2021, this initiative provides valuable and meaningful support to strengthen the student experience at HUC-JIR.

Staffed by Avital Woods, LCSW and Leon Setton, LCSW, the Counseling Center offers each student up to six sessions with a therapist over the course of the year, with referrals by the therapists as needed for longer term counseling.

“As we focus on the strategic goal of strengthening the student experience at HUC, the HUC-JIR/NY Counseling Center will provide immediate therapeutic support for our New York students, says Rabbi Andrew Goodman, Director of Student Support. “By creating a campus community that appropriately supports students, we continue our work on ensuring the conditions for robust learning, spiritual growth, and professional development for our students during their education at HUC-JIR.”

Sessions are conducted remotely and scheduled by Rabbi Emily Aronson, Dean of Students. The content of sessions with the therapist is confidential, except regarding concerns of students’ and others’ safety. The therapist will report only the number of sessions completed to help keep track of how the Counseling Center is being used.

Avital Woods, LCSW, studied social work at New York University. She completed a 4-year postgraduate training in Psychoanalysis at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, where she now supervises students and co-directs the one-year program in psychodynamic approaches to clinical practice. She has been practicing as a therapist for over 10 years and thinks of herself as an eclectic therapist with training in couples therapy, breath work, restorative yoga, and behavioral therapy in addition to her psychoanalytic training. She has worked with a diverse population and a range of ages. Her work is collaborative, hoping to create a safe place in which to explore one’s patterns with curiosity, warmth, humor, and compassion.

Leon Setton, LCSW, has been practicing as a psychotherapist in New York City since earning a Master’s Degree from Hunter College School of Social Work in 2011. While working as a therapist full-time, he pursued a certification in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy from the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center (PPSC) in New York City, a rigorous program that broadened his training and allowed him to work with a wider range of individuals. In conjunction with his private practice, he is the Director of Clinical Services at Footsteps, an organization that provides support for people transitioning out of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. Prior to this, his experience has encompassed working with individuals dealing with substance misuse, trauma, issues of sexual and gender identity, depression, anxiety, and HIV/AIDS. Other professional experience includes serving as an expert panelist and presenter at events and conferences focused on work within the LGBTQ community and use of crystal meth as well as impacts of intergenerational trauma in the Orthodox Jewish community. Additionally, he provides clinical supervision to a variety of counseling staff, interns, and students.

Rabbi Rex Perlmeter was ordained at HUC-JIR in 1985, and went on to serve as spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Greater Miami and the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. After serving on staff at the Union for Reform Judaism for five years, he has gone on to found the Jewish Wellness Center of North Jersey, a practice dedicated to supporting all engaged in “seeking Oneness in body, heart, mind and soul.” In addition to having trained as a Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and a Spiritual Director, he received his Masters of Social Work from New York University in May 2016. Rex also serves as an adjunct faculty member at HUC-JIR and at the Central Conference of American Rabbis as Special Advisor for Member Support and Counseling. He received the Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, from HUC-JIR in 2010.

Rabbi Rachel Hertzman was ordained at HUC-JIR in 1985. She worked with the URJ serving Jews by Choice and intermarried families in the southeast region and later in New Jersey and New York. She also served as a youth programmer and pulpit rabbi for congregations in south Florida. In Baltimore, Rachel served as a campus rabbi for Hillel of Greater Baltimore and coordinated domestic violence prevention education for the Jewish community. She received the Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, from HUC-JIR in 2010.