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July 23, 2004

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PAGE 8B HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, teen and Jewish ideas behind anti-addiction By Heather Robinson LOS ANGELES (JTA)-- Lindsay, a pretty 19-year-old with striking green eyes, re- members calling her parents during her freshman year in college to tell them she was addicted to cocaine. Things had gotten so bad that she didn't even leave her bedroom during the last few weeks of spring semester. "'I had drugs and alcohol, I had a TV, and anything outside was too much for me to handle," said Lindsay, who asked that her real name not be used."I called my parents, crying, 'I'm going to kill my- self!' My parents sent me a huge bouquet of tulips and said, 'Stop being neurotic. You're going to Hawaii soon with us and you'll have a nice vacation.' They're loving, wonderful people," she said. "'They just didn't get it." Lindsay now is in recovery at Beit T'Shuvah--Hebrew for House of Return--a Los Angeles-based, inpatient re- habilitation center for Jewish addicts. Last February she told her story to teenagers as part of a new curriculum designed to bring the message of ad- diction prevention to Jewish teens. Developed by Belt T'Shuvah and The Change Companies,a publishing company special- izing in educational materials promoting behavioral change, the program uses Jewish principles to encourage introspection and a healthy self-image. It also seeks to counter the "'spiritual bankruptcy" that undergirds addictive be- haviors, according to Rabbi Mark Borovitz, a creator of the new program at Beit T'Shuvah. "'The reason so many kids today go off into craziness is they're hopeless," Borovitz said. "'They need to have a sense of their unique purpose in the world, that no one can fulfill my unique place in the world except for me." Boro- vitz himself is a recovered alcoholic, and he frequently shares his story of redemp- tion through faith with Beit T'Shuvah's 120 residents. Between 1980 and 1988, Borovitz was in and out of prison for crimes including grand theft, insurance fraud and passing bad checks. In 1987, while serving time in a state prisonat Chino, Calif' he began to study Torah with Mel Silverman, the Jewish chap- lain there. Upon Borovitz's release in 1988, Harriet Rossetto, founder and director of Beit T'Shuvah, visited him and invited him to work at the center. His work enhanced a budding relationship with Rossetto, and the couple married in 1990. Borovitz went on to rabbini- cal school, graduating from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Rossetto, Borovitz and Beit T'Shuvah's clinical co- ordinator, Jennifer Ginsberg, developed the prevention program last year, when a disproportionately large number of Jewish teenagers photo by Brian Black Hodes Rabbi MARK BOROVITZ, creator of an anti-addiction program at Beit T'Shuvah. and their families came to them seeking help. "'Our population is getting younger and younger. We're seeing an inordinate number of youngsters who come from top Beverly Hills families, who have gone to expensive private schools, and what they learned was how to use drugs," Rossetto said. "'I think it reflects a crisis of values that's endemic to the Jewish community," she continued. "'There's apathy, and this culture of partying and seeking excess in order to feel." Attention to addiction in the Jewish community, par- ticularly among youth, is long overdue, many educators and experts say. Dr. Abraham Twerski, a rabbi and medical director emeritus of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh and author of "'Addictive Thinking," a primer on addiction, said many Jewish parents simply are unaware. "'Denial is the name of the game, especially in Jew- ish communities," Twerski said. "'You see kids out late at night on the streets in Jewish neighborhoods, and you know some of them are using, but the parents think, 'Not my kid.'" Twerski advises two organizations in the New York area at the forefront of efforts to address and prevent addiction among Jewish ado- lescents: Jewish Alcoholics and Chemically Dependent Others, and the Yatzkan Center. Founded in 2001, Yatzkan is a small kosher inpatient facility that provides housing and addiction counseling for a handful of teenage boys. Currently there are eight in the program. Executive Director Lew Abrams says the facility also has an outreach program fo- cused on prevention that has sent speakers to more than 25 Jewish day schools over the past three years. Yatzkan also enlists counselors to train teachers, rabbis and commu- nity leaders to identify signs of addiction and discourage drug use among adolescents. Jewish Alcoholics and Chemically Dependent Oth- ers is a volunteer-led orga- nization that supports Jews recovering from addiction. It also runs occasional retreats for teenagers with addiction problems and adult retreats in New York and Baltimore. Administrators at both Yatzkan and Jewish Alcohol- ics and Chemically Depen- dent Others stress the value of enlisting young people in recovery to speak to young audiences. "'We talk about signs and symptoms, how someone gets involved in experimentation and how to make decisions to avoid it," Abrams said. "'It's very effective to have kids address other kids." The first school to use Beit T'Shuvah's prevention program was~Los Angeles Hebrew High School, a supplemental religious school for students in grades eight through 12. Principal Bill Cohen said a surge in addiction-related problems--especially eat- ing disorders--among the school's students prompted him to introduce the program to the senior class. Arya Donay, 18, was among the Los Angeles Hebrew High students who participated in the pilot prevention program. The first surprise, he recalled, was its interactive nature. "'The first day I wasn't ready, but some kids were saying things that were really private. I couldn't believe they opened up like that," he said. "'There were definitely people who said things about drugs and alcohol, and people who were changed by the pro- gram." Ultimately, he thinks that the program prompted him and some classmates to think more about their lives. "'People were starting to think about how they were living their lives," he said. "'It made me think aboutmy doing thus the prevention Jewish spirituality their message. offers a cises that employ Torah One jou ercise, for instance the question Pharoah?" students to view dus story as a acquiring the results from and self-esteem. Another exercise, "'BeYourself answer que tation from the Zusha: "'On when the Holy me, 'Why like Moses?' I will be1 If they ask me, you not more like will have no Goodman, 23, a addict who is the Beit T'Shuvah says the program to t princir own lives and find paths. So far, has been ositive. "Several kids thank mansaid. ing me for four He's stressed out his parents put pressure on him school. He's not into alcohol--yet--and him a lot about outlets for his feelings* 'ION OF LIBERAL JUDAISM Building Our Future LI Our belief that Jewish learning is integral to Jewish living is evident in our dynamic and creative educational program. At each grade level, and culminating in seventh grade "Mitzvah Corp" curriculum, students are given opportunity to put their learning into practice. Rabbi Steven W. Engel Cantorial Intern Jacki Rawiszer Julia C. Phillips, RJE Director of Education Sammy Goldstein, FTA Executive Director Students search for their personal relationship with God through classroom study of prayer, complemented by an innovative worship ex Torah study progresses from listening to simple Bible stories to analyzing text for insights to modern dilemmas. 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