Jews & Alcoholics Anonymous

Dispelling the myths that Jews aren't alcoholics and that Alcoholics Anonymous is only for Christians

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Addressing the Problem

What can be done about the problem? The first step is awareness. As long as we believe the problem is not ours we will do nothing. Recognition of the realities of life is of paramount importance, and must be faced squarely by the clerical and lay leadership, as well as the Jewish community at large.  

Yeshivas and seminaries must begin to introduce courses dealing with chemical dependency. Jewish communal professionals must become knowledgeable in the field. Community education programs must begin to feature programs of substance abuse. All individuals involved in Jewish communal life must learn to recognize the problem of chemical dependency, and become familiar with the resources so essential to treatment recovery be they detoxification, rehabilitation, counseling or self-help programs.

However great the stigma attached to alcoholism or chemical addiction, it can no longer be allowed to interfere with getting help. Jews have a tendency to be most secretive about emotional disturbances within their families, and often avoid seeking help, for fear of exposure and shame. Furthermore, since family participation is crucial in the recovery process, parents may have concerns that they will meet other members of their community at a treatment facility, and that their private nightmare will be "known to others." 

It must be understood that chemical dependency, whether it involves alcohol, narcotics, cocaine, or other addictive substances, is a malignant condition. Unless arrested, it is like a cancer: progressive, destructive, and lethal. It may claim as its victims not only the user, but the family members as well. Its consequences are far-reaching and devastating. With a problem of this severity, we can no longer afford to deny or hide our need for help. 

Whatever the initial approach to treatment, long-term recovery invariably requires participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Pills Anonymous. Psychological therapy can be adjunctive to involvement in these programs, but cannot be relied upon to be the sole treatment modality. 

Some people mistakenly believe that programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have a Christian orientation and are "off limits" to Jews. But anyone familiar with AA, NA, or PA knows that this is simply not true. The Twelve Steps of the "anonymous" fellowships are very compatible with Judaism, and those Jews familiar with the concepts of musar (Jewish ethics) will recognize the similarities. 

AA Steps & Jewish Sources

Consider the following AA steps in light of the Jewish sources quoted: 

AA Step(s)


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Rabbi Abraham Twerski

Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D. is a nationally acknowledged expert in the field of alcoholism and chemical dependency, and is currently the Medical Director of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, as well as an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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