Orthodox Jews Get Special Rehab Care for Addiction

May 25, 2009

Author: Lisa J. Huriash

Source: Syracuse.com

Wire Service: AP


The demons that plague these addicts are common-abusive backgrounds, constant cravings, profound desperation. But the way they deal with the demons is a South Florida first: Orthodox Jewish rehab.

Torah and the Twelve Steps is only the second orthodox rehab center in the country, following one in Los Angeles. It is the first to serve women as well as men. Other rehab centers define themselves as Jewish, but not Orthodox, including the Techiya program at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, which has two facilities in Palm Beach County.

Most of the North Miami Beach clients are struggling with addiction to heroin or crack cocaine. There's been one gambler and one woman with an eating disorder. About nine people have graduated from the three-month program since it began in November. It started in two single-family houses in Hollywood and moved to an apartment complex in North Miami Beach three months ago.

The director of the program, Rabbi Israel Burns, said it attracts secular Jews who want to learn more about their religion, and the observant who feel most comfortable in a faith-based group. Burns charges $4,800 a month for the program, including room and board, most meals and therapy six days a week-never on Sabbath.

"They can see in their recovery how Judaism applies in their lives. That is the source of getting better," Burns said. "Behavior modification is like a Band-Aid for cancer, it's too superficial. There are core personality issues to change."