The dual messages of awareness and education about abuse and addiction in the Jewish community continues to spread, with hundreds doing their part to empower themselves and others at two separate events held on Thursday in Brooklyn. 

 

Amudim director Rabbi Zvi Gluck was joined by three caseworkers at the 12th annual AJCO camp fair, with more than 500 visitors stopping by the Amudim booth to avail themselves of educational information and to learn about the programs available to keep children safe during the summer months.  The Amudim team was joined by Rabbi Zev Dunner of Torah U’Mesorah’s Project Lishmor, which is dedicated to ensuring that abuse prevention programs are in place in every Jewish school.

 

“It was a great opportunity to be able to reach out to camps to help them ensure the safety of the kids,” said Rabbi Dunner.  “It was extremely important to get our materials out and it is crucial to remember that these messages apply equally to day camps and sleepaway camps.  So long as there are vulnerabilities, we have to do whatever we can to decrease them and limit them in order to protect our children.”

 

More than 30 camps that had not previously implemented safety training of this nature signed up to put proper programs in place for the summer, with dozens more saying that they looked forward to doing so within the coming days.  Several camps that cater to the heimish and chasidishe communities that are not able to have their staffers take part in online training asked Amudim to do in-person sessions with their staff in order to ensure a higher degree of safety this summer.

 

Multiple participants approached the Amudim team, thanking caseworkers for their efforts that had helped friends or family members.  One individual reported that reading Amudim’s weekly emails over the past two years had prompted them to reach out to someone who was struggling and get them into therapy. Another man publicly expressed his gratitude for the services he had received from Amudim saying, “Before I met you I was a victim but now I am a survivor.”

 

Gluck said that he looked forward to continue spreading Amudim’s message at mainstream events.

 

“This was an invaluable opportunity for our staff to continue breaking barriers about sexual abuse,” said Gluck.  “Not only did this allow us to reach out to those who need our help but it also lets us tell the community at large that sexual abuse will no longer be swept under the rug and that help is available for those who need it. The time has come for all of us to address these issues as one.”

 

A second event, held Thursday night at the Flatbush Park Jewish Center, was co-sponsored by Amudim and Hatzolah of Mill Basin. Despite being held Erev Shabbos, a particularly busy time especially close to Pesach, there was a healthy turnout as local resident came to learn more about substance abuse and awareness, which included free Narcan training and distribution.

 

Rabbi Yisroel Perelson, principal and rabbi of the Flatbush Park Jewish Center, opened the night with a candid discussion about being able to speak freely and the importance of joining together as a community to fight the epidemic of abuse that has taken far too many lives. Stressing the fact that addiction is an illness not a lifestyle choice, Dr. Akiva Perlman, clinical supervisor at Amudim, addressed the importance of reaching out for help and the need for support, both for those who are struggling and their family members.

 

In a deeply emotional moment, a father whose children suffered from addiction shared his personal story with the audience, urging parents to shower their children with love, noting that the only way to help kids who are battling addiction is by providing them with unconditional support.  Another speech that went straight to the heart was an unplanned one, with a young woman who lived in the area asking for permission to address the gathering.  She spoke bravely about her own struggles and, echoing the words heard previously, said that her own journey back to good health was accomplished only through her own support system as well as Amudim’s caseworkers.

 

Bringing home the need to break the stigma of abuse, Zvi Gluck encouraged participants to push their children’s yeshivos for educational programming that address substance and alcohol abuse, noting that schools are the best and safest place to provide children with this potentially live saving information.  Gluck acknowledged that some schools have warmed the idea and said that it is vital for others to come on board, noting that the time for denial or embarrassment on these crucial issues has long passed.

 

To schedule an awareness event in your area email events@amudim.org.  For more information on summer camp safety visit Amudim online at www.amudim.org/camp or email camp@amudim.org.