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Recognizing that addiction is an issue that affects every family, rich or poor, young and old, Shehebar Sephardic Center (SSC) held a five-day rabbinical conference at Retorno (the world’s largest Jewish rehab center for drug addiction, located in Israel) to help rabbis around the world address the topic. Use of Illegal drugs, abuse of prescription drugs, and alcohol abuse all lead to addiction.
The conference was sponsored by SAFE, an organization in Brooklyn that successfully works to address and manage addiction, provides support to families and educates young people about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. The event was organized by Rabbi Ezra Kassin, in honor of Cookie and Stanley Chera and was attended by 38 Sephardic rabbis from around the globe including Macedonia, Croatia, Brussels, Cancun, and Montreal. The rabbis heard lectures from university professors, social workers, doctors, drug treatment specialists and recovering addicts.
The rabbis also visited a jail and heard horrific stories of how addiction can affect families. They were taught how to recognize the signs of addiction and where to turn for assistance when they see families in distress.
They were also taught strategies to reach alienated youth, how to identify the signs of trouble and learn practical tools for reaching out and building a connection with the addict. In addition, the participants now have an understanding of how to work with people in emotional pain, as well as psychological through Torah and how to help people develop relationships.
The rabbis who attended the conference received a Certificate of Course Completion from Retorno. They now have an understanding of how critical it is to treat addiction and that it can save lives and families.
Rabbi Yair Oze, who attended, is a new rabbi in Hollywood, Florida. He was so impressed by the conference, he asked Ike Dweck, Executive Director of SAFE, to help him set up a similar program in South Florida. “If successful, it will be a blessing to the Jewish communities in South Florida,” said Rabbi Sam Kassin, Dean of the SSC.
“Today, No one is immune to drug abuse and addiction,” said Rabbi Kassin, who gave special thanks to Stanley and Cookie Chera and their sons for their foresight in this great endeavor and their understanding of the importance of rabbis having a deeper understanding of substance abuse.
The conference was so successful, that the SAFE will be co-sponsoring a similar conference for rabbis in the United States in the coming year.