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 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 disease that is progressive and, if left untreated, it is often fatal.
Addiction is blind to gender, skin color, race, or religion and the Jewish people are no exception in the list of those who fall prey to its power. Substance abuse, specifically in the form of alcohol and drug addiction, have long existed in the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. However, in today’s world, the new challenge of a widespread and truly rampant opiate and heroin epidemic has in many ways surprised Orthodox communities. Over the last 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 another Jewish person found overdosed, no pulse, dead. 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. Their clinical program is the only one of its kind in the local area 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 an Orthodox Jewish track within their substance abuse program called Shalvah. Shalvah is the Hebrew word for serenity and tranquility, the ultimate goal of recovery.
Shalvah focuses on the needs of Orthodox clients which are specifically addressed and integrated into the treatment program with countless therapists, social workers, and support staff who work round the clock to care for clients during this critical stage. This innovative Orthodox Jewish drug rehab is directed by Shmuel Bieler RN, a member of the Jewish community of Teaneck, New Jersey. Shmuel is a registered psychiatric nurse who, for the last 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 was rewarded by him receiving Gracie Square Hospital’s first and only DAISY award, a nationally recognized award for the nurse who “goes above and beyond” regarding patient care. 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 in order that they receive their certification. Shmuel is also certified in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). Shmuel is the creator as well as the director of the program.
While utilizing all of the established College Recovery treatment options, clients are treated by Jeffrey A. Berman, M.D., an Orthodox Jewish psychiatrist, with over 25 years’ experience treating addictions 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, NJ, 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 at JCC on the Palisades. 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. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, including Shabbat and Chagim are provided by Rabbi Goodman. The Chabad kitchen meets all levels of kashrut, including Chassidishe Shechita, Cholov Yisroel, and Pas Yisroel. Rabbi Goodman has made certain that each client’s residence is equipped to handle all needs of Orthodox Jewish living, including a kosher kitchen, mezuzahs, 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 Succah 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 ShmuelB@SobaNewJersey.com.