How many of us remember that when we were younger and people were uncomfortable talking about something they needed to say, they would whisper the difficult word. The best example for many of us is when people whispered the word "cancer" because they felt if they did not say it out loud it was as if it did not exist - or it would not be so horrible for the person they had in mind. Unfortunately, previous generations lived with stigmas - topics that were difficult to talk about - so we too often refused to discuss them. This was certainly true about certain medical conditions as well as mental health challenges. In previous messages, I shared my thoughts with you about mental illness, and I appreciate all of you who have reached out to me to share stories and support as we try our best to be more comfortable discussing the challenges and the realities of mental illness.
Today, I want to share another topic that has been shunned for too long in our Jewish community and that is the topic of addiction. For so long, people felt that no one in the Jewish community was addicted to alcohol or drugs or other challenging behaviors, and again we felt that there was no need to discuss them. Unfortunately, this was false, and by people refraining from discussing these difficult topics, it made those who faced the challenges of drug or alcohol addiction even more outcast and ostracized from our Jewish community. I am grateful that we are learning the mistakes of our past and that many of us are more comfortable talking about addiction today, so that those who need help and support can find them among their family and friends.
As a Rabbi, I often speak to people who face these personal challenges and need to be comfortable as they seek support and resources to help them in our community. I also spend a good deal of time talking with family members of addicts so that they can also find the support they need and answers to their challenging personal questions. I am grateful that our local Jewish community has a resource like Jewish Family and Children's Services to not only provide the support and social services people need but also to help us understand why it is so important to be able to discuss these issues in public and in our community setting.
This Sunday afternoon, JFCS is conducting a program that all of us should consider attending. It is called "Freedom Song" and it will take place on Sunday afternoon at 2 PM at the NJHA Conference & Event Center (760 Alexander Road, Princeton). This program, co-sponsored by the synagogues and Jewish agencies of Princeton Mercer Bucks, is open to everyone in our community including teenagers. To learn more, please go to https://www.jfcsonline.org/2019/09/11949/.
After the program, there will be a lot for us to talk about - as a community, as families, as friends. I am always available for people who need to talk and are in search of confidential support. As a greater community, we need to support each other and be more comfortable talking about challenging topics. I hope that future generations do not make the mistakes of previous generations. This is too important to get wrong.
Rabbi Adam Feldman