By Lisa Woolfson
Six-and-a-half years ago, when Rabbi Ilan Glazer wanted to find Jewish addiction recovery resources for himself, he found few.
In fact, the Reservoir Hill resident, who was working as a rabbi at a congregation, saw that many recovery groups took place in Christian spaces. “So many recovery meetings happen in churches that many Jews assume that recovery is Christian, and that’s a problem,” Glazer said.
So he decided to start one of his own. He now runs a Facebook group called Our Jewish Recovery, which has hundreds of members from all over the country.
But that didn’t happen right away. First, he wrote, “And God Created Recovery,” a book about Judaism and addiction, and then started doing speaking and teaching engagements. People who attended the engagements told him they had never heard someone speak about recovery in the Jewish world before and asked him to continue his work.
“What occurred to me was that this couldn’t just be a book that sits on a shelf,” Glazer said. “This had to be more than that. And what people who struggle with addiction need most, we need community. We need to not be isolated from each other. We needed a safe space for us to be ourselves and to give each other support to grow, to learn, to connect.”
In April of 2019, he started a Facebook group that would eventually become Our Jewish Recovery. He started inviting people and holding workshops.
“I remember the early days when I would post something, and no one would really say anything,” Glazer said. “It took really until almost the end of 2019 for me to really get the message that this was what I was supposed to do, and when I did that, it started to grow.”
Our Jewish Recovery offers meetings, Torah study from a recovery lens, classes and more.
“My first goal is to help those of us who are impacted by addiction in the Jewish world feel like Jewish wisdom is a part of our healing journey,” Glazer said.
The Facebook group now has more than 650 members, with more joining every week.
“Now there are so many people sharing and posting articles and resources that I have a hard time keeping up, which is a great problem to have,” Glazer said.
Our Jewish Recovery is now a full-fledged organization with people from all over using its services. The group also has a board of advisors.
Chava Gal-Or, who was born and raised in Randallstown, serves on the board.
“Personally, I would love every rabbi and Jewish social service agency to know that it exists to send people [to] because it’s a really beautiful place to be Jewish and navigate recovery,” she said.
Gal-Or was invited to join the group by Glazer, who knew her from other creative programs.
“It’s a safe space for you to show up however you are,” she said.
Our Jewish Recovery does not take a one-size-fits-all approach, Gal-Or said. The 12-step program doesn’t work for everyone, and so people come in with alternative recovery suggestions.
Melinna Gershik, who lives in the San Francisco area, is also on the advisory board. Gershik wants people to know that Our Jewish Recovery is ever-changing.
“It’s new, and it’s growing,” she said. “It’s not a polished final product nor do I think it really ever will be. I think that’s part of the world of recovery is that it’s always a work in progress.”
Addiction is a taboo topic, Glazer said. And that is no less true in the Jewish world.
“I want the Jewish world to say, yes, we have these challenges in our midst too, just like every religion does, and we are willing to help the people who need and celebrate the people who are doing the hard work to change their lives,” he said.
Lisa Woolfson is a freelance writer.