Local Jews battling alcohol addiction or chemical dependency or who are related to someone who is will now have a support group that incorporates Judaism into a 1′-step recovery process. JACS, a New York-based nationwide volunteer-run organization whose acronym stands for Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically dependent persons, Significant others and their families will meet in The Living Room, a center for health, wellness, and healing at Jewish Family Service of Bergen County in Teaneck, at 7:30 pm every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, beginning on Feb. ‘8.
"The idea of JACS is that it is used as part of a total healing process that provides an opportunity for Jews to get together and deal with Jewish topics," said Rabbi Amy Bolton, director of The Living Room, who is facilitating the formation of the group.
With chapters run by group members rather than by professionals, she explained, program content varies. "Some groups do some Torah study, others discuss issues of getting together around holidays."
Bolton continued, "JFS can provide a safe, confidential, neutral environment . The shame, guilt, and other feelings of recovering addicts and their families are amplified by the closeness of the Jewish community and pressure [here] to succeed. So, the problem has [traditionally] been denied or ignored."
While numbers of people affected in North Jersey are not available, nationwide studies on addiction have confirmed that Jews may be only slightly less represented than the general population in treatment programs, according to Yaakov Ort, JACS president. Cocaine addiction, by contrast, appears to be significantly higher among middle and upper middle class Jews than among those of other socio-economic and religious backgrounds, he noted.
To Bolton, numbers are unimportant as long as there are any Jews suffering.
Opening meetings with a reading from Rabbi Kerry Olitzky’s book "One Hundred Blessings Each Day" and ending them with the recitation of the Sh’ma will create a Jewish framework. She’s exploring potential programming options through the JACS central office, which maintains a speakers’ bureau and makes available other chapter leaders who can facilitate discussions. Bolton will teach on occasion, if the group is interested, she said.
Being part of the JACS network also means that the chapter can take advantage of twice-yearly retreats and leadership training for rabbis and other Jewish professionals. Since joining JFS in September, Bolton has reached out to area rabbis to assess needs within their congregations and collaborate on developing appropriate programming through JACS and other avenues. Rabbis have already begun referring clients, she said.
JACS is just one part of a multi-pronged approach to alcohol and chemical dependency Bolton is spearheading, bringing to bear her years working in adult education, chaplaincy, and with recovering addicts and developmentally challenged adults in Los Angeles and Detroit. The Living Room recently added a confidential RAPLine for people to call in for advice and referrals, and Bolton is putting together new educational programs for young people and their parents, working with synagogue leaders.
For further information about JACS and a schedule of other programs and services through The Living Room, call JFS at (’01 837-9090.