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Boca Raton, FL - Support And Inspiration For Jewish Substance Abuse Users At 7th JRC Shabbaton

Published on: March 19, 2018 11:42 AM
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Boca Raton, FL - It was a record turnout for Florida’s Jewish Recovery Center at its annual shabbaton this past weekend, with 270 adults who are recovering from, or struggling with, substance abuse joining together for three days of inspiration and support.

Held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Deerfield Beach – Boca Raton, Florida from March 16th through 18th, the weekend was the seventh annual JRC retreat, an event which has grown every year due to the growing opioid crisis within the Jewish community. 

This year marked the first time that JRC has opened the event to those who are still struggling with substance abuse issues in an effort to encourage them along the path to recovery and Rabbi Meir Kessler, founder and director of the JRC, noted that participants have found that sharing their common experiences has been extremely beneficial to their progress.

While South Florida is known as the recovery capital of the United States due to its large number of treatment centers, the JRC weekend drew participants looking to draw support from fellow members of the Jewish community from all across the world, including Germany, Israel, Canada, a contingent of 20 people from Los Angeles, New York and several other locations.


“We had one woman from Brooklyn who told me that she goes to the furthest Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the city from her house so that no one will recognize her,” Rabbi Kessler told VIN News.  “She told me how much she enjoyed being able to come here and not feel like she was being judged by anyone.”
Creating a climate of acceptance for those who struggle with substance abuse has been an uphill battle in the Jewish community.

“One of the things that we try to do is to normalize recovery,” said Rabbi Kessler.  “For years and years and years, substance abuse has been a taboo, with recovery meetings held in the basements of churches. We have taken recovery out of the basement and brought it to the Chabad house where we do AA meetings.  For our shabbaton, we go out of our way to make it a high class event so people can feel proud to be in recovery and they are excited to come.”

Acknowledging that fighting addiction is a lifelong commitment, the theme of this year’s retreat was “Don’t Quit Before the Miracle Happens” and featured well known author and lecturer Rabbi Shais Taub, addiction expert Lewis Abrams, The Living Room clinical director Menachem Poznanski, Fort Lauderdale’s Downtown Jewish Chabad Center directors Rabbi Schneur and Mrs. Devorah Kaplan, gambling consultant Arnie Wexler, addiction therapist Moshe Yachnes, alcohol and addiction counselor Sharon Carter and Bright Beginnings director Rabbi Yakov Horowitz.

The event was co-sponsored by Amudim, the Boca Raton Synagogue, Caron Treatment Centers, Chabad of Boca Raton, Next Chapter Addiction Treatment and the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County and featured younger participants than in previous years, as well as approximately 60 children who joined their parents for the weekend.

This time of year is particularly difficult for those in recovery, with both Purim and Pesach having alcohol playing a central role in the holiday observance, noted Rabbi Kessler.  Shifting away from the more clinical model of previous years, the JRC weekend focused more on experiential inspiration and even the featured speakers were asked to share their own stories of vulnerability with participants.

“Instead of feeling like they were being told what to do, those who came to the weekend felt like our speakers could really relate to them,” said Rabbi Kessler.  “To see that a rabbi can share his own struggles normalizes recovery which is very empowering and what this event is designed to do.”

Those thoughts were echoed by Rabbi Kaplan who said that having everyone sharing their own struggles created an precedented level of intimacy.

“That is really the magic and the energy of the retreat,” noted Rabbi Kaplan.  “To be in a community where you can draw strength from each other, where bonds are formed and inspiration is everywhere, you get a sense that there are miracles happening in every corner.”

Having people from all segments of the Jewish community, from Chasidim to those who are not religiously observant, at the JRC shabbaton has demonstrated the need for broad support for those who are dealing with or are recovering from substance abuse issues, observed Rabbi Kaplan.

“There was a large representation from the Orthodox observant community who, for the first time, are being open about the struggles that they and their families are facing and that is exceptional,” said Rabbi Kaplan.

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