Consciousness of the Rabbi

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Robin 2 years ago.

  • Author
  • #9331

    Laurie Schwartz

    I would like to know why the rabbis in almost every synagogue are not really helping the congregation learn how to be present, aware, educated and understanding of the suffering and needs of families with addiction, alcoholism and mental illness.
    I have lived with these challenges since I was just 8 years old and now that my brother is DEAD I feel compelled to speak about this injustice.

  • #9475

    Hi Laurie,

    Thank you for raising the issue. I know your work and how much remarkable light you shine for others dealing with mental health issues and addiction.

    I can’t answer for others and am not aware of what’s happening in shuls other than the two I attend. I do sense that there is much more awareness around these issues than previously. That said, here are some thoughts:

    • We tend to focus on those issues that are close to home. For leaders in any position by they parents, teachers, clergy or employers, until they have had to deal with something in their inner world or circle, they tend not to grasp the import of that topic. This applies to challenges with money; health and relationships. It covers the spectrum from physical to emotional, intellectual and spiritual health opportunities.
    • Some people are more comfortable dealing with challenges in a private forum. The fact that I don’t witness something doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Of course, clergy and spiritual leaders and teachers need to let their respective communities know they are aware of issues; are available for counsel and guide them to resources that can help.
    • Here though is the biggest issue as far as I’m concerned: Shame. We have compassion for illness that manifests on our outsides – but not for those of the soul. I for example offer a support group for individuals whose relatives or loved ones struggle with addiction, mental illness and/or incarceration. (You can check it out here: The group is available completely anonymously. I don’t even know who the participants are unless they choose to show their faces via webcam on the calls. However numerous people have told me or emailed to say they are concerned about privacy. That in and of itself is a problem. We don’t honor privacy enough. Facebook and the internet in general do little to make us feel safe sharing the messy parts of our life. But the bigger problem as I see it is our sense of shame. We don’t give ourselves permission to fail and fail deeply. The saying “We’re as sick as our secrets” rings loud and clear here. In my program The Method, one of our Isms is, “You’re big enough to fail.” Another is “You have to die in order to live.” We have to allow the false self, the masks, to disintegrate if we are to heal.

    This is a shorthand answer for now. I invite others to join the discussion. I will also be preparing a blog post on addiction and steps I understand are vital for effective treatment.

    Thank you again for opening this vital topic for discussion.


  • #9488


    Laurie, I am so sorry for your loss. Bringing these topics out into the open will be a light.

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