(Courtesy of Amudim and Riverdale Jewish Center) It will be an evening of awareness and education on February 2 as the Riverdale Jewish Center and Amudim, in conjunction with a number of communal organizations and institutions, tackle the subjects of substance abuse and addiction head on, speaking openly and frankly about these sensitive topics in an effort to break the associated stigmas and provide a lifeline to those in crisis.
The event is the brainchild of Rabbi Dr. Moshe Drelich, a Jewish studies educator at SAR High School. Having seen a family member hit rock bottom as they struggled with addiction a year and a half ago, Rabbi Dr. Drelich and his wife found themselves at a complete loss, with no idea where to turn to for help. Speaking publicly for the first time about his family’s journey to recovery last Pesach, Rabbi Dr. Drelich was approached by several community members about their own struggles with substance disorders. After attending an Amudim awareness event in Teaneck one month later, he decided that the time had come to create a similar program for Riverdale’s Jewish community.
“I want to share my story so we can educate and support people and inform them about available resources for help,” Rabbi Dr. Drelich told The Jewish Link. “We are not talking about a few isolated cases of individuals. It has been my experience that there are many families who are suffering needlessly in silence.”
Hoping to address the problems on a broad scale throughout Riverdale’s Jewish community, Rabbi Dr. Drelich reached out to numerous community institutions, and local event partners include Chabad Lubavitch of Riverdale, the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, Hatzalah of Riverdale, Kinneret Day School, Yeshivat Maharat, the Riverdale Temple, SAR Academy, SAR High School, The Bayit, The Kehilah, The Riverdale Mesivta, The Riverdale Minyan, The Riverdale Y, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Young Israel Ohab Zedek of North Riverdale and Yonkers.
Rabbi Dr. Drelich will be one of four speakers in the program, which will start at 8 p.m. Also addressing the gathering will be Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, who will discuss the community’s role in the war on addiction; mental health therapist and addiction specialist Dr. Lewis Abrams, who will talk about speaking with loved ones about addiction; and Rabbi Zvi Gluck, director of Amudim, who will offer guidance on taking the next steps in the battle against substance abuse and addiction.
More than 10,000 people have attended Amudim’s 120 awareness events all across North America and in Israel over the past five years, with videos of its education and awareness programs exceeding 500,000 social media views. Each event has prompted numerous calls to Amudim’s offices, as those who are struggling realize that they are not alone and that help is, literally, just a phone call away.
“Time and time again, in every community we have visited, we have seen that there are people out there who are suffering in silence because they are afraid to speak up, and these awareness events have inspired them to reach out for help,” said Rabbi Gluck. “By speaking publicly and openly about these problems we are spreading the message that abuse and addiction are real, and that the time has come to break the stigma and face these issues instead of trying to sweep them under the rug and pretending that they don’t exist.”
For Rabbi Dr. Drelich, the event is an opportunity to prevent others from finding themselves in the situation that he and his wife faced nearly two years ago, as well as a chance to give back to the community.
“There are so many people who supported us along the way and I want to do everything I can to help others,” said Rabbi Dr. Drelich. “People need to know that when they suffer in silence, they deny themselves the love and support of their friends and community that is so empowering.”