«Torah and the Twelve Steps»

Of course none of us drink vodka or have addiction problems,  but in case you know anyone who does, pass on this information. 

You never know, you may save their life!

Below is an interview with the founder and director of "Torah and the Twelve Steps", Rabbi Israel Burns.  


Please tell us about yourself and why did you choose to help addicts?

I have always been a lover of philosophy and earnestly sought out the meaning behind why we do what we do, whether in matters of religion or behavior. Thus, I have been drawn to Jewish outreach which often deals with these matters. Growing up in suburban Philadelphia around mostly secular Jews has also given me a view of both worlds. I certainly understand the lifestlyle of "partying" and pleasure-seeking. I have witnessed the personal destruction of several aquaintances during my high school years and I heard from others their accounts about their experiences in adolescent rehab and in the Twelve Steps meetings such as Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. I realized many years ago that in order to recover, addicts need to have a complete change of character through embracing spirituality, and that they are aware that this is what is needed to literally save their life. Thus they are prepared to explore the richness of Judaism because their survival is at stake, whereas most other people who don’t see the imminent threat of destruction as a motivating factor are interested in Judaism only on a more philosophical level. 

I pursued a graduate degree in mental health counseling with a specialization in addictions and I saw there was a need for a quality Jewish residential program as so many Jews were assimilating and being influenced by missionary activity around the meetings. I saw that they needed treatment with the appreciation of the value of their heritage in the recovery process.  I was committed to help addicts find a path to growth and was often asked to intervene in many young people’s lives.


Why did you call your program Torah and the Twelve Steps?

We don’t pressure anyone to conform to the observance of Judaism, rather each client explores it according to his/her interest but we called our program Torah and the Twelve Steps primarily because we assert that the Twelve Steps actually come from the Torah. The "Big Book" of AA (the source of all 12-step fellowships) is consistent with Judaism, even though the early AA was affiliated with the Oxford Groups which was a Christian movement. We integrate the Twelve Steps with wisdom from Judaic sources to give a deeper understanding and experience during the recovery process, thus Torah and the Twelve Steps. We emphasize the attendance and involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous/Cocaine Anonymous  or if applicable Overeaters Anonymous groups with optional Torah study


What makes your program unique?

We are one of the very few programs in the country that actually take the clients through the Twelve Steps on an experiential basis, rather than lecturing them in a superficial educational manner.  We spend about twenty hours of individual counseling on assisting each client to understand his/her written moral inventory (Step Five). We are also the only program providing faith based treatment for Jewish women in the country. We actually use Jewish principles in the treatment process not just the provision of Kosher food or other ritual needs. Shabbos meals are available for those who desire.  Although we are an adult program, if an adolescent is highly motivated we may accept them into the residential program, We will always accept them in a nonresidential capacity. Quite important is that our price is one-third or even less than the average cost of other residential programs.


Is this program only for religious people?

About a third of the clients come from Orthodox backgrounds but the majority of our clients are not observant. We utilize Jewish spirituality but do not in any way expect anyone to observe Jewish Law unless they request to do so, whereby we will provide everything needed. It is our goal to help all the clients to feel connected to their heritage and feel that the Torah is unique and that it is the highest form of spiritual teaching that exists.


What is your success rate and how do you measure it?

In order to succeed, our program suggests that the client stay until they complete all Twelve Steps which generally takes from three to four months, assuming that the client is ready to work at it from the time they come in. It may take longer for some who are resistant or have a more severe dual diagnosis. We accept anyone who commits to a minimal thirty days, which can provide a good foundation, but it is inadequate without a very strong follow up in the client’s hometown. We maintain contact with our alumni by phone and often hear reports from alumni concerning each other. Our recovery rates are approximately 50-60% which include those alumni with at least six months clean up to two years abstinent, which is when we opened the residential component. Traditional rehabs have recovery rates less than 20% at best, with 10% or lower being more realistic. 


"Torah and the Twelve Steps" is a unique Jewish program for addicts. 


For further information, contact Torah and the Twelve Steps

by phone: 305.776.3794 

by email: torahtwelvesteps@gmail.com

on their website: www.torahtwelvesteps.org





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