Min Hameitzar Karati Yah
In distress I called onto God. (Psalm 118)

I remember the day when I was first confronted with a congregant who was sharing about a spouse’s addiction. I had no idea. Now, that seems to be a silly statement. To say, “I had no idea” almost implies like I should have been able to tell because I was a rabbi. My conversation with the spouse related to a request for support.

At the time…I didn’t have much to offer. I had no books. I was unable to think of any sources for inspiration. I was a recently ordained rabbi and while I surely knew that there were people with addictions in the Jewish community…I never met any. Or, to be more precise, I didn’t know who might have been.

That has all changed. As I settled into my rabbinate over the past ten years, I have shifted a lot of my energy from programming and organizing to advancing healing and wholeness. In faith communities, there are plenty of things that folks just don’t want to talk about. Addiction is one of them. As a result, folks often feel like they cannot go to or depend on their clergy to support them in what seems to be an issue out of their realm.

I would like to say that I am proud of our synagogue’s leadership for acknowledging the need in the Jewish community to have a safe place to go to talk about addictions. We are one of the few synagogues in the country to host a 12-step meeting. We are host to a local Families Anonymous group, supporting families who love someone with an addiction. Not everyone who comes is Jewish, but many are – from within our synagogue community and from other congregations.

But now I would like to ask you to help me break the taboo of silence and shame about confronting addiction in the Jewish community. Jewish Family & Career Services is beginning to look at its own clinical offerings for individuals in recovery. Our own congregant, Jeff Fain, is working to develop a new non-profit organization called Nachshon to support Jewish families and individuals confronting addiction.

Along with Nachshon, TBT will be hosting Rabbi Mark Borovitz as a Guest Scholar. Rabbi Borovitz has been in the trenches, not just as a community rabbi who serves as the spiritual leader of the Beit T’Shuvah recovery program in L.A., or even as the rabbi of their congregation, but as someone who turned to a life of crime at a young age, who served his time in prison, only to emerge as a transformed human being who became a rabbi. He is going to be our teacher and I invite everyone to join us – whether you or someone you love faces an addiction or not.

Look at the schedule of events to see where you can join me to learn from Rabbi Borovitz, hear his story, and be inspired to help transform the lives of all who are in the darkness of addiction.

In Pslams, it says Min Hameitzar Karati Yah – “In distress I called onto God.” The term hameitzar has the same Hebrew root as Mitzrayim – Egypt. When we are in distress, when we are in an Egypt (sometimes an Egypt of our own making), we can find hope if we can call out to God for help. When our neighbors, friends and family members call out from hameitzar, we can serve as God’s agents and lend a hand. Join me in doing so…

Rabbi Mark Borovitz, senior Rabbi and spiritual leader of the Beit T’Shuvah recovery program and synagogue in Los Angeles, is the author of “The Holy Thief: A Con man’s Journey from Darkness to Light,” which chronicles his journey from drinker and con man to Rabbi and community leader.  He will discuss the issues of addiction, co-dependency and related harmful behaviors in the Jewish community.  Rabbi Mark draws attention to the problem of addiction and to the powerful ammunition against it, both in counteraction and prevention.

Rabbi Borovitz will speak to the metro Atlanta community on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 7 PM at Temple Beth Tikvah.  RSVP is required: rsvp@bethtikvah.com.

Additional opportunities:

Parents and students in grades 8-12: Monday night, February 13 at 7-8:30 PM
Location: Temple Beth Tikvah
RSVP: bethtikvahrs@gmail.com
Other religious schools will be invited

Rabbis and Jewish Educators, contact rabbigreene@bethtikvah.com for more information.

Jewish Mental Health Professionals & Addiction Counselors: Tuesday, February 14 at 10-11:30 AM
Location: Jewish Family & Career Services, 4549 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Atlanta 30338
RSVP: outreach@jfcs-atlanta.org
A closed program for Jewish professionals who are licensed social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, addictionologists, addiction counselors and psychiatrists