“I developed an understanding early on of the strong imperative for social justice in Judaism because my parents run a shul. So I started HugTrain around Christmas 2009, a year after the big financial crash. I knew people were really feeling the crash at that time because it is an expensive time of year, so I said: “let’s add hugs and see what happens!”
The program initially started around the issue of mental health, but has widened to focus on social isolation in general. More and more we’re seeing that social isolation has become an epidemic. We’ve stopped connecting with each other, and we’ve seen through studies that social isolation, whether real or perceived, is a mortality risk: it leads to higher blood pressure, lower immune function, depression, anxiety.
When I’m on the train, I try to walk through the aisles three times a day offering hugs – that starts conversations. We’ve seen that hugs are perfect antidotes, and I know that the hugs we provide really change people. You never know who you’re going to meet and how you’re going to help people. The hope with HugTrain is that people understand how easy it is to make a difference in the world.”