By Julie Sondhelm


How can I speak with enough passion and conviction to convey the need for awareness and support for addiction recovery in our Jewish community and in the larger community? We read the news reports, we see advertisements for treatment centers on TV, we know of those around us who are wrestling with addictions, but how are we addressing this in our community?

On a regular basis, we at Jewish Family Services (JFS) work with individuals who are agonizing with the choices before them.

They tell us

- I’m afraid to seek treatment, I might lose my children.

- I have insurance, but it won’t cover treatment and I can’t afford it.

- What can I do to help my spouse? What can I do to help my child?

- How can I keep my job and deal with my addiction?

- I don’t want anybody to know. My family will be judged.

- I don’t know what to do or where to turn.

At JFS, we have social workers who will meet privately with individuals to help establish a plan for recovery in confidentiality. We can provide information on critical resources and provide support as an adjunct to treatment. We host a monthly support group (JACS) for Jewish individuals struggling with addiction and their families. Facilitated by Rabbi Aaron Spiegel, JACS – which exists nationally – is a place where Jews participating in any of the 12-step programs can explore recovery with other Jewish people in recovery. 

I recently interviewed Rabbi Spiegel about the JACS group and recovery in general. Here are some of his thoughts:  

How does JACS help in conjunction with 12-step programs like AA/NA? JACS is a place where Jews in recovery can talk about things unique to Judaism that affect their recovery life. For instance, Passover (or other holidays) can be difficult for Jews in recovery because of the use of wine as an important symbolic food and because of the gathering of family. While it is certainly okay to bring this up in a AA or NA meeting, many in that setting may not understand the dynamics involved.

What can you tell us about those struggling with addictions who have yet to seek help or are reticent to seek help again? Unfortunately, Jews often don’t seek help because there is an historical communal bias against Jewish addicts and alcoholics. The statistical number of Jewish addicts reflects the general population, which is 1 in 10 Americans. When we consider that addiction is a family disease, the numbers (of those affected) are staggering.

What more can our community do? Alcohol and chemical addiction are diseases. If a friend or relative suffered from untreated diabetes, cancer or heart disease, we wouldn’t’ hesitate to encourage (dare I say demand) that our friend or relative get help. We need to be that understanding and proactive with addiction. It is not a failure of will, strength or moral character to have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Rather, it is a failing, Hillul Hashem (contrary to Jewish principles), to remain silent and watch someone suffer. Help is available – one need only ask.

I could not say it better myself.

For more information, resources or support, please contact JFS social worker, Julie Sondhelm, at 317.536.1476.




Add Comment