Letters to the Editor; Sept. 5, 2018

Letters to the editor

Commentary on opioid epidemic ‘reflects an outdated narrative’

Someone in our Thursday night Shalvah support group for people living with drug and alcohol abuse (Shalvah means serenity in Hebrew) brought me the Aug. 1 commentary in the Jewish Light, “The Opioid Epidemic: A Jewish call for healing,” by Michael Faccini of Jewish Family & Children’s Service.  

Let me respond to one inaccuracy that might most impede a person getting help: Jews in recovery face unique challenges. The perception that existing services are Christian-focused is one of the biggest. 

Truly, it is one of the smallest. There are many obstacles to recovery, the one mentioned in the commentary is way down on the list. This reflects an outdated narrative. 

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Rose Mass, of blessed memory, and I started working this beat in 1981. This may have been true then; there were no meetings in synagogues, there was a popular video used in all treatment programs (Father Martin’s “Chalk Talk”) that cited Jews as immune to alcoholism. Thus under the guidance of Mass, a pioneer in this area, and Dr. Rolf Krojanker, of blessed memory, another pioneer, we began to carry the recovery message to the Jewish community and others. Our Shalvah meetings today are about two-thirds to three-quarters Jewish, I estimate.

“Chalk Talk” was corrected to include Jews living with the challenges associated with addiction. This was in the 1980s. I was working at the Edgewood Treatment Center at the time on the campus of then St. John’s Hospital.

I would say that today a large percentage of participants in our area who attend Twelve Step Programs, the Anonymous programs, whether they are in churches or communal spaces, are Jewish. It is misleading to suggest that these programs are Christian-based and do not make a place for people who are not comfortable with spiritual language. These programs have evolved. Pushing that former narrative these days closes the door to many people who would be welcome into recovery meetings.

So I would urge everyone in the Jewish community to get into working towards solutions, use all the resources available in addition to creating new ones, and not get stuck in obstacles. We are beyond this already but still laboring under wrong ideas and lazy strategies.

We are moving ahead. Join us in working towards solutions, good strategies for promoting mental health; our next community forum is called “No Shanda No Shame.” We will meet on Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, Staenberg Family Complex. 

For more information, contact me, Rabbi Goodman at Central Reform Congregation. My wife, Rabbi Susan Talve, myself, and members of the Jewish community living with a variety of mental health challenges will convene a community forum on mental health. We will include mental illness, addiction, and building our network to grow a community strategy. We can do better.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman

For Shalvah, outreach on addiction 

And No Shanda, mental health strategies for living

Central Reform Congregation

Prejudice plus power

The Aug. 15 front page article “Prejudice plus power: Some progressives have a new definition of racism. What does that mean for Jews?” was very interesting to read and very timely. Based on the progressive definition of anti-Semitism, those without wealth and power cannot be labeled anti-Semitic even though they hate Jews and act verbally and physically against Jews because they are Jews. 

Based on that excuse for racism, could Adolf Hitler not have been labeled a racist or an anti-Semite since a lot of German Jews had wealth? 

It does, however, make blameless anti-Semites who are progressives, BDS supporters, the alt-right, as well as any other Jew-hater who is lacking in power (at least for now) or thinks they are. What happens when they gain power? Look at the rise of Hitler in Germany.

Not all Jews are white or wealthy yet they are subject to the same prejudice.

Thus the only real distinction between the alt-right and the left-wing progressives are the clothes and level of education.

Gerry Moskowitz, Ballwin