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Group to offer support for Jewish addicts
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Group to offer support for Jewish addicts

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Jewish Family & Vocational Service of Middlesex County is launching a new group to provide support for Jewish addicts and their loved ones.

JRecovery, to be launched at JFVS offices Monday, April 28, is designed to complement a traditional 12-step program by offering particular Jewish perspectives on abuse of drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, and sex.

“For many years people said there was not an addiction problem in the Jewish community, but we know that’s not true,” said JFVS executive director Sara Levine. “People who work in the field say 10 percent of the population has addiction problems, and that includes the Jewish community.”

Levine said the new group came about at the request of a local couple with an addiction problem in their own family. They offered to help get it off the ground.

“This will be done from a Jewish perspective,” said Levine. “It will be tied together with Jewish tradition and teachings.”

Rabbi Eric Lankin of Highland Park is one of the volunteers helping to launch the new group. “Every 12-step program has a spiritual component in which the recovering addict recognizes he or she has a problem,” he said. Participants are urged to turn to a “higher power” for support in overcoming their addiction. 

“For us as Jews reaching out to God to give us strength is a critical component,” said Lankin, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Jewish gambling addiction and ran groups for Jewish addicts on Long Island and Miami Beach. 

Because some 12-step programs meet in churches, Lankin said, the Christian orientation of the spirituality in those settings is difficult for some Jews.

“But we Jews have our own profound 12-step program,” he said. “Our group wants to address this effort to reach out to Jews with addictions.”

Although there are no national Jewish programs specifically targeted to addiction, many in the field turn to the New York-based JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others), founded in 1978 and, since 1992, a program of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.

Lankin said he knows of only two other groups for Jewish addicts in the state — in Millburn and in Teaneck. The Middlesex group will disseminate information about its services across the state.

“I know from past experience on Long Island that people sometimes don’t want to be seen in their own community,” explained Lankin, “but maybe somebody from Mercer, Monmouth, or Ocean counties will see it and come.”

The hour-long sessions, which will be held every Monday at 7:30 p.m., are free, secure, and anonymous. For more information, call 732-777-1940 or go to jfvs.org/JRecovery

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