Monday, August 3, 2009

My first JACS meeting

I went to my first JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others) meeting Sunday evening. I’ve counseled addicts before, I’ve read up on addiction, but I’d never been to a JACS meeting.

I won't discuss the meeting, of course; anonymity is a core principle. But I do want to say one thing about JACS, rabbinic participation and my own participation.

Our shul has been hosting these meetings on a weekly basis for several months, and this is the first time I answered their persistent invitation to join in. I’m glad I did. I’m sorry it took me so long.

I do know why it took me so long: Fear.

It’s not odd or unusual that I was afraid; any rabbi would be afraid:
• Here is a group of people who have their own rituals and language, and who are reputed to be highly sensitive to inappropriate behavior and language.
• Those who don’t know you may not like you. Those who do know you may not be happy you are there.
• You are afraid of being judged for your clothing, your profession, your life. You worry: Will I be rejected?

(Hmmm… sounds a lot like the reasons people are afraid to come into shul, actually.)

• And, of course, I had all sorts of other commitments for the meeting times. We started hosting JACS at the time I started getting involved in launching the Toronto beit midrash, so I’ve been busy with the shul and community here as well as the new venture there… lots of things competing for my time…

(Yes, sounds a lot like the reasons people give for not coming to shul, come to think of it.)

But I went, finally, on what was likely my last Sunday night in Allentown, and I’m glad I did.

I wouldn’t say it was an earth-shattering experience; I wouldn’t say I was blown away by the experience. I wasn’t. It was moving, yes, and in many ways, but the main thing is that it broke a barrier for me, letting me see that I could participate and not be rejected and survive.

I was stunned afterward to learn that other communities, much larger than ours, don’t have regular JACS meetings. I don’t understand why. But I know that I’ve found another way to serve (one of the first things I did when I got home was to look up the JACS Toronto website), and I hope that other rabbis will soon find it, and broaden their comfort zones, too.

[This week’s Haveil Havalim is here!]


  1. My Father, Rabbi Hirsh Chinn, is heavily involved with JACS as a rabbinic advisor so you may have run into him. I have never actually been to JACS but in strange sense I feel so much a part of it because the culture of it was a part of our home.

  2. Izgad-
    I haven't run into him yet, but I haven't done much with JACS yet. I'll keep him in mind, though. It's a wonderful, and much-needed, organization.

  3. Rabbi, so glad you found time for this group, and the people who go to it.

  4. Dear Rebbetzin's Husband,

    I am an addict in recovery, and my name is Yaacov.

    To learn more about addiction, treatment of addiction, and what many JACS members are involved with to help them recover, you may want to consider attending an "Open" meeting of Narcotics Anonymous, if you haven't already done so.

    You can find a meeting close to you by using NA's online meeting finder at

    Open meetings are for addicts, people who think they have a problem with drugs, and all those interested in NA. At most open meetings, if you are not an addict nor think you may have a problem with drugs, you are asked NOT to share, and listen only. You are also asked not to contribute when the hat is passed.

    NA's 11th Tradition: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films."

    I am writing to simply provide you and you readers with information.

  5. ...and not to promote a particular program of recovery.