The disease of addiction is often misunderstood. Addicts and alcoholics are frequently viewed as people with defective characters or flawed personalities whose morality or values are skewed. It would be considered inappropriate to judge and disparage someone because he or she is afflicted with a potentially deadly disease such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. Yet there are many who label and stigmatize addicts, blaming them for their affliction. In truth, addiction is an illness; it is a progressive disease that—if left untreated—is often fatal.
Addiction is blind to gender, skin color, race and religion, and the Jewish population is no exception in the list of those who fall prey to its power. Substance abuse, specifically in the form of alcohol and drug addiction, has long existed in the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities. However, in today’s world, the new challenge of a widespread and truly rampant
opiate and heroin epidemic has in many ways surprised these communities. Over the past decade, deaths resulting from drug and alcohol abuse in Jewish communities across the United States have been increasing at a terrifying rate. It has become almost commonplace to open a newspaper and see that another Jewish person has died of an overdose. It is, therefore, more critical than ever that proper treatment centers exist in order to provide the best path for a Jewish addict’s recovery.
Since 2014, SOBA College Recovery, a drug rehab and long-term aftercare program located in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has been the bridge back to life for many people suffering with addiction and other mental disorders commonly associated with substance abuse. SOBA’s clinical program is the only locally based program of its kind that offers the length and breadth of programming recommended by most clinicians. To fill the need that has evolved in the community, SOBA is proud to announce the opening of Shalvah, an Orthodox Jewish track within their substance abuse program. Shalvah, which is the Hebrew word for serenity and tranquility, is the ultimate goal of recovery.
Shalvah caters to Orthodox clients, focusing on the specific needs of those clients. Such needs are addressed and integrated into the treatment program with countless therapists, social workers and support staff who work around the clock to care for clients during this critical stage. This innovative Orthodox Jewish drug rehab is directed by Shmuel Bieler, RN, affiliated with the Jewish community in Teaneck. Shmuel is a registered psychiatric nurse who, for the past three years has headed an addiction and crisis stabilization unit at Gracie Square Hospital, the New York Presbyterian psychiatric facility in Manhattan. Shmuel’s high level of competent and compassionate care earned him Gracie Square Hospital’s first and only DAISY award, a nationally recognized award for the nurse who “goes above and beyond” their patient care responsibilities. Shmuel is also a certified PMSC instructor (Preventing and Managing Crisis Situations), and for the past two years has trained all staff working in the hospital to achieve certification as well. Shmuel is also certified in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). He is both the creator and director of the program.
While utilizing all of the established College Recovery treatment options, clients are treated by Jeffrey A. Berman, MD, an Orthodox Jewish psychiatrist with over 25 years of experience treating addiction and mental health disorders. Dr. Berman is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). He also serves as Executive Medical Director of Discovery Institute for Addictive Disorders in Marlboro, New Jersey, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Berman is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) in Adult, Addiction and Consultation Psychiatry. He founded and co-facilitates “Strength to Strength”—a professionally facilitated support group for parents of young adults with substance use and mental health disorders, which is located at the JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, New Jersey. Dr. Berman is an integral part of the Shalvah treatment team.
Thanks to Shalvah, Jewish addicts are receiving treatment without compromising Jewish values and halachot. Rabbi Goodman was sent to New Brunswick by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1988 as the campus Rabbi for Rutgers University, and plays a pivotal role in the Shalvah program. He is passionate and relentless in helping Jewish souls in the pursuit of spiritual healing. The Chabad House of Rutgers University, the largest of any university in the United States, is located one block from the Shalvah residence. Rabbi Goodman provides breakfast, lunch and dinner, including on Shabbat and chagim. The Chabad kitchen meets all levels of kashrut, including chasidishe shechita, chalav Yisrael, and pas Yisrael. Rabbi Goodman has made certain that each client’s residence is equipped to handle all needs of Orthodox Jewish living, including a kosher kitchen, mezuzot, and Shabbat timers for any electronic devices. Clients join Chabad for weekday and Shabbat minyanim. Each individual’s spiritual path is his own, and clients only partake in what they feel comfortable with; however, Rabbi Goodman assures that every mitzvah, from eating in a sukkah to having two Seders on Pesach, will be made possible to fulfill if desired. In addition, Rabbi Goodman will give regular classes on topics such as spiritual healing and how to be a Jew in recovery, as well as standard shiurim on parsha and faith. He is always available for individual sessions as well.
Addiction is an unfortunate truth that we must contend with and treat. The Orthodox Jewish track will facilitate recovery in an environment that is familiar, relevant and meaningful to its observant patients and their families. We provide not only a system of recovery, but a system of support that extends to family and community and aims to heal each individual person, each individual soul and each individual Jew.
For further information, please contact Shmuel Bieler at 201-330-4030 or [email protected].