Teaching & Learning
Peer Program Supports Addiction Recovery
The new program gives individuals a one-on-one connection, support, and encouragement, as well as a new network, to foster healing.
By FRAN PUTNEYJune 28, 2023, 10:43 am
Attendees at a Quieting the Silence event at Jeff’s Place Café hear personal stories of individuals affected by addiction.
Chabad Intown is expanding its offerings and reach in support of those – Jewish and non-Jewish – who struggle with substance use, abuse, and addiction.
A physical gathering space at Chabad Intown’s center, now situated near the Eastside BeltLine trail, called Jeff’s Place, was created in 2018 to honor the memory of Jeff Kraus, a young man who had found a spiritual home at the Chabad, and tragically died of a drug overdose. In creating Jeff’s Place with the backing of Kraus’s family, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman said that the goal was to set aside an inviting space to reduce the stigma around addiction, and particularly within the Jewish community.
With addiction, Schusterman explained, there’s a persistent stigma that a person should simply be able to get control of themselves. “Just stop drinking, just stop using, just get yourself together. It’s not how it works. It’s not the nature of the disease.”
Jeff’s Place has served as a popular location for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every Sunday evening, often filling the room with as many as 50 to 60 participants in attendance. Chabad hosts but doesn’t facilitate the gatherings. Although the majority of the A.A. participants aren’t Jewish, it doesn’t mean that addiction problems don’t exist in the Jewish community, explained Schusterman, who adds that he regularly fields calls asking for help and advice. But he believes the fact that the programs are held in a Jewish space helps reduce stigma, especially for so many Jews who may not realize that there is support for them within the Jewish community.
The new program gives individuals a one-on-one connection, support, encouragement, as well as a new network, to foster healing.
The peer program is about hope. “That’s what people need,” says Schusterman. “It’s not treatment. It’s not therapy. It’s a friend. You sign up, and we’ll connect you with someone that’s already been there and that can say to you, ‘hey, I’ve been there, done that. Let me be your friend.’ Not even necessarily be their sponsor. Let me help you through this.’ That’s what it’s about. It’s about letting people know they’re not alone.”
It’s not treatment. It’s not therapy. It’s a friend. You sign up, and we’ll connect you with someone that’s already been there and that can say to you, ‘hey, I’ve been there, done that. Let me be your friend.’ Not even necessarily be their sponsor. Let me help you through this.’ That’s what it’s about. It’s about letting people know they’re not alone.
Duffield has also been overseeing Jeff’s Place events, such as holiday parties and a program called Quieting the Silence, described as a recovery awareness event aimed at people and their loved ones affected by addiction. The next Quieting the Silence program is scheduled for 7 p.m., July 20, at Jeff’s Place. Three speakers from the community will share their personal stories of wisdom and hope. Quieting the Silence is a concept created by the Blue Dove Foundation, a Jewish mental health and addiction initiative.
For her part, Duffield says, “Healing naturally happens when one addresses the root of addiction, which A.A. believes is a ‘spiritual malady’ – your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. But spirituality aside, at Jeff’s Place we celebrate life and bring people together in a safe and welcoming space, while honoring Jewish principles throughout. Jeff’s Place serves as a novel concept for the Southeast and for Chabads.”
Chabad Intown’s Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman says it’s important to reduce the stigma associated with substance use abuse.
The need for addiction recovery support in communities, including Jewish communities, is great, according to Schusterman. His wish list includes the funding to one day hire a rabbi dedicated to support addiction issues and develop what he calls a “proper curriculum” for rabbis and Jewish leaders to be educated about the A.A. Twelve Steps, which is often thought of as Christian based, and learn that its principles can be understood through Jewish spirituality.
In the meantime, Rabbi Chanan Rose, the new director of Chabad’s Intown Jewish Academy, will teach a spiritual recovery course later in the summer at Jeff’s Place. The course will cover A.A.’s Twelve Step program through a Jewish lens. Rabbi Rose previously counseled at the T’Shuvah Center, New York City’s Jewish recovery organization.
For more information about the Jeff’s Place Peer Program,