“To Life, the Journey of Addiction and Recovery in our Jewish Community.”
“Seeing that keeping the body healthy and whole is the way of God… therefore a person must distance himself from things that destroy the body, and accustom himself to things which heal the body.”
How many times have you heard these statements: “There aren’t any Jewish alcoholics;” or “My children won’t have a problem with alcohol because we model responsible drinking on Shabbat and at Passover?” For too long, we have heard the myth that alcoholism is not a problem in the Jewish community and that children from good families don’t turn to substance abuse. This denial has increased the stigma of alcoholism and substance abuse in our community, contributing to the sense of isolation felt by those struggling with these challenges and creating a barrier to seeking help.
Aware of the need for education in our Jewish community and in response to a resolution on drug policy endorsed at the 46th Women of Reform Judaism Assembly, the Sisterhood of Temple B’nai Torah resolved to sponsor a conference on addiction in our Jewish community at our Temple. We approached Jewish Family Service of Seattle, which was embarking on a new outreach program, “Alternatives to Addiction,” and they enthusiastically agreed to partner with us.
Our symposium was the first on addiction in our Jewish community held in the Pacific Northwest. We focused on the biochemical aspects of addiction, the impact of addiction on families, and on recovery. In addition to providing a day of professionally led talks, several treatment programs sponsored booths at the symposium. Our Rabbi gave an inspiring talk at the luncheon on inclusion of people who have felt left out of our Jewish community, and our Cantor led the assembly in the Misheberach at the conclusion of the symposium.
About 175 people attended, including addiction professionals (many of whom were Jewish), clergy and interested members of our community. The response was enthusiastic. While we received positive comments on the evaluation forms, the expressions of relief, gratitude, and hope on the faces of so many reflected the heartfelt appreciation for our program.
Our Sisterhood is truly honored to have been selected for an Or Ami, “Light of My People” Award for this symposium and hope the publicity will increase awareness of the problem of addiction and encourage other Sisterhoods and organizations to develop programs to address it.
Shana Aucsmith, firstname.lastname@example.org Sisterhood of Temple B'nai Torah,
Bellevue, WA and Eve Ruff, Jewish Family Services