HomeFebruary 2017Coming Together

Coming Together

0217substanceabuseRECENTLY, JFFS held a half-day training for OC clergy and educators from across all denominations, on addiction in the Jewish community. They received educational background on what addiction is, a personal story from a community member, and a presentation from Rabbi Paul Steinberg on his personal story of recovery. He discussed how to blend Judaism with the 12 steps as featured in his book “Addiction cannot be reduced to a medical or biochemical disease or disorder. It is an affliction of body, mind, spirit, family and community. And, because it spans across the spectrum of human experience, not only does Judaism have something to say about it, it must, if it is to be relevant today,” Rabbi Paul Steinberg, author of “Recovery, the 12 Steps, and Jewish Spirituality: Reclaiming Hope, Courage and Wholeness” (Jewish Lights, 2014). Attendees had the opportunity to engage in discussion about their congregations and how to integrate recovery work. They walked away with ideas on how to make their congregations more inclusive and how to be sensitive to those in recovery programs. “We need to come together to bring awareness to this issue. The fact that we had eleven rabbis, five educators and two cantors all in one room discussing this topic shows me that the community cares about people in recovery and are seeking to understand. The feedback from the entire community was very positive and we hope it’s the beginning of a bigger conversation,” says Allison Johnson, Director of Client Services, LMFT.

JFFS established the Orange County Jewish Substance Abuse Task Force in 2016, to decrease stigma and increase awareness about addiction in the Jewish community. Over the past year, they have successfully established 12 step meetings at Temple Beth El and Congregation B’nai Tzedek, as well as quarterly “Serenity Shabbats” held at congregations throughout North and South County which are recovery themed Shabbat services led by congregational Rabbis. “It was heartening to see how engaged our community’s clergy and educators were during the workshop. Not only did they commit several hours to learning about addiction in general as well as specific concerns pertaining to the Jewish community, they also pledged to take action. The overall win-win is that this issue is now firmly on our community’s agenda, and this will result in decreasing stigma and providing support within a Jewish framework for those struggling with addiction and their loved ones,” according to Marla Kaufman, the lay Chair of the Substance Abuse Task Force.

In 2017, the Task Force goals are to increase 12 step meetings in Jewish spaces, increase attendance to “Serenity Shabbats” and ensure that Jewish people in recovery feel supported and a part of this community.

Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services. 



For more information about the Jewish Substance Abuse Task Force, please contact Allison Johnson at JFFS, 949-435-3460, ext. 365.

For Rabbi Paul Steinberg, please visit: www.rabbipaulsteinberg.com 

To learn more about Jewish resources in the country go to:

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