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Recently, I read a shocking and saddening report published in the “Jewish Press.” In an article written by Sandy Eller, entitled “67 Deaths in Eight Months,” the New York-based Adumin organization revealed that since Rosh Hashanah, 67 Orthodox young people under the age of 35, in the tri-state area alone, have died because of substance abuse. The figure is astonishing! 67 young lives! In the Orthodox community! Gevalt! 21 suicides, 41 drug overdoses, and 5 alcohol-related deaths! I don’t have statistics available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this figure is higher than in the overall age group in the general tri-state area, which numbers 1000 times more. As Hamlet might say, “Something is rotten in the Orthodox community in New York.”

Eller writes that the Orthodox community has hidden the problem for years. Now Rabbi Zvi Gluck, director of Adumin, has decided it is time to come out of the closet with the issue, in order to save lives.

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Of course, we all empathize with the plight of these young people, and the tragedy of their deaths. Certainly, just like every individual is unique, the causes behind these deaths vary from case to case. But, to tell you the truth, if I were a young Orthodox person living in New York, I too would want to be drunk or stoned most of the time to escape the emptiness, inner horror, and hypocrisy of galut existence. How can you raise an Orthodox child to believe in the Torah while teaching him that Jewish life in the Diaspora, living amongst the gentiles in alien lands, is perfectly OK? Any normal child who reads the Bible understands that G-d wants the Jewish People to live in the Land of Israel, just like it says in the Torah again and again. But if you tell a Jewish child that living in New York is just as good, and even better than living in Israel, you screw up his, or her, brain, and some form of schizophrenia is sure to follow. The Torah was given to be practiced in Eretz Yisrael, not in Egypt, or the wilderness of Sinai, and not in Brooklyn, New York. That’s why Judaism in the galut is hollow and void of real spirit. Like Rashi, and the Ramban, and other great Sages have written, the practice of the commandments in the exile is just to keep us from forgetting them, so that we will know how to do them when we return to Eretz Yisrael. Young Orthodox people sense this charade. They sense the hollowness of Orthodox life in America. This feeling of emptiness leads them to feel alienated from Judaism, and from life in general. Unfortunately, to express their feelings in the Orthodox world around them is strictly taboo, as forbidden as cheeseburgers and pre-marital coupling, so they resort to alcohol and drugs to drown out their inner anxiety and deep unhappiness in living a life that doesn’t feel true. Some anguished souls even commit suicide.

The real problem is that no one tells them the truth. No one tells them that their inner feelings are really healthy feelings – that a Jew is supposed to feel the emptiness of Torah in galut, because the real place of Torah is Israel. Their parents don’t tell them; their teachers and rabbis don’t tell them; the Rosh Yeshiva doesn’t tell them that they are perfectly right to feel the way they do, because, just as the Torah portion, Behukotai, teaches, Jewish life in the exile is a curse, a life filled with anxiety and dread.

If the Orthodox community in New York wants these terrible tragedies to cease, there is only one solution – to teach young people that the joy and spiritual high of Judaism is waiting for them in the Land of Israel. They don’t need shrinks and a half-way centers. They need to hear the truth. No more half-way Judaism. It is time for the full Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Cant say I agree with the author. Seems like, according to him, the remedy to the spiritual void many addicts, and other people in despair, feel is a geographical issue. Needless to say, Israel has a power unlike anywhere else in the world, but trauma, insecurity, and/or mental health cant be cured simply by learning Torah in Israel. We all know way too many ppl who have tried that. The fact that there have been so many deaths this year in NY/NJ (and elsewhere in America) is not an America VS Israel debate. How would he explain the deaths of youth and young adults in Israel that have resulted from overdose and suicide?

  2. The causes for the above are multi-fold. Maybe for some Israel would have made a difference. Each case must be looked at separately. Until the Mashiach comes, there will be despair and suicide even in Israel. One advice to combat despair is to THANK G-D EVERY DAY for all the things we DO have in our lives. Try this and pray for Mashiach.

  3. Actually, I looked it up. The orginal title of Sholom Aleichem's story was, "Tevye the Dairyman." I don't know why Tzvi originally named the book Tuvye but, he did. Apparently, it was re-printed in 2011 with Tuvye changed to Tevye. ???

  4. Nope. He's not talking about addicts, he's talking about young Jewish folks raised in supposedly frum homes being taught contradictory values. And, he's right. The reason you can't see it, if you're Jewish, is, you have successfully disconnected from your soul and your soul from Gd. I pray you will awaken your soul and come home, to join the rest of your People.

  5. Aaahhh, but once Moshiach comes, it will be too late for tshuvah. You must come home first, before he comes. (However, DO thank Gd – for everything, whether you think it's bad or good – everyday. That's great advice.)

  6. David Jacobs The discrepancy between the names is easy to sort out. The original story (which I read in high school) was called "טוביה החולב", or "Tuvia the Dairyman". When translated to Yiddish, it became "Tevye Die Milchiger", with "Tevye" being used because that was the most common nickname among Eastern European Jews, for someone named Tuvia…

  7. Actually, I meant the opposite – the story, written in Yiddish,, used the nickname Tevye, as was common then. However, when translated to modern Hebrew, they exchanged Tuvia, the Hebrew name, for the Yiddish colloquial "Tevye"….

  8. you guys are so out of touch with what's going on in EVERY Jewish community, whether reform, orthodox or conservative. It's all hypocrisy if you don't talk to your kids. Less ritual, more love. less ritual, more understanding. live the meaning behind the ritual. These kids are dying because they're lacking the attention, understanding, kindness and love that every child needs. Kids are being pushed to impossible expectations. Especially in the Jewish household, I for one know this to be true in my own life. I'm a recovering alchoholic and drug addict (in recovery for over 29 years). The shuls are full of people who look down on me when i am so proud of the heights Hashem has brought me after seeing the bottom. How can you look down me? You're not living Torah if you judge me. And we need to stop judging the kids and start loving them. We need to wake up to reality rather than say, "not my kid." We need to relate to each other in human terms rather than impossible tzaddikim terms. Try loving your kids and understanding them for who they are — find out who there really are. If you don't know what your kid is doing, maybe there's a problem THERE. maybe they're just wearing the mask you forced on them. I don't know if i'm explaining myself correctly. We live in a society where the yetzer hara is winning out to everything good. A close connection with kids is important for these kids not to fall through the cracks. My mother always told me growing up, "Jews aren't shickers." And I guess i showed her.

  9. As if there is no addiction or suicide in the orthodox community in Israel. And how about non Orthodox Jews whom are well adapted and thriving regardless of their location? The author is a nareshkeit when it comes to this topic, and would do well to write about what he knows.

  10. David Jacobs: the author suggests that addiction and suicide among Jews would end if only those Jews came to Israel. This of course can't be proven; but addiction rates in Israel are the same as other industrial countries. That is data. And the rate of addiction and suicide among Orthodox Jews, reform Jews, and non Jews is about the same in industrial countries. This also is data.

  11. Albeit the rantings of Shrink, the rate of suicide and drug abuse in the US Orthodox community is much much higher than in the Orthodox community in Israel. Gentile lands are not healthy for Jews. Lovers of the exile will refuse to admit this, but they only need to look at the ever increasing rate of assimilation to face up to the epidemic ravaging our People in foreign lands.

  12. As one with lots of personal skin and blood in the history of our country, I only wish that all Jews would make Aliyah to our country. And as one who has treated many hundreds of addicts and others, I can tell you that the scourge of addiction has no spiritual boundaries. I'm so sorry for my "rantings." But pinning the blame on diaspora as a reason for addiction demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of a complex issue.

  13. I'm going to head on over to that Gay Day rally I heard about the other day. You know, the one in Tel Aviv that had an attendance of over 200,000 people. Then I think I'll hang with any one of the many drug dens all over Jerusalem, head on over to the whores hangin' out in Tel Aviv, & go watch some of the 20,000 abortions a year. I can hang with some of the tens of thousands of poverty stricken Charedis & listen to them complain about having to send their 18-year-olds to do something for the country like everyone else has to. You know, the ones that aren't learning Toirah anyway.
    Maybe I can say the wrong thing & be held in prison for nothing for ten months, like Meir Ettinger, or whatever Meir Kahane's grandson's name is. Or, like those girls who dared stand on a sidewalk in Gaza while Israel's government, elected NOT to illegally and reprehensibly force all of the innocent people from there, did just that.
    Maybe I'll just be walking along a street in Jerusalem and happen to be the 20 thousandth innocent person murdered by one of the millions of overwhelmingly genocidal mythical so-called Palestinians illegally living west of the Jordan River.
    Of course, that's much more a possibility now since Lieberman just decided to let Hamas into Israel from Gaza and the just as deadly & injurious & costly Fatah in from Yehuda & Shomron for the entire unholy month of Ramadan, known for its murder sprees.
    I could go on, but I'm too sick already.

  14. Well, God bless YOU! You certainly hit the nail on the nose. For decades, parents, many of whom were unaware, have sent their kids to schools that lose a high percentage of kids along the way to Judaism altogether. And, they don't give one damn about it. Parents find out too late that their kids have been abused by teachers and principals highly overrated and evil.
    And, the judging in supposedly observant communities has spearheaded a great loss of tens of thousands of kids, now adults, to Judaism.
    And, most of them don't give a damn. If a kid isn't right, they'll just chuck 'em out the house, so the others aren't effected.
    Many supposedly observant parents and schools are criminally insane.

  15. Fishman doesn't have a clue about what God wants with the diaspora, which includes the modern secular state of Israel.
    I don't see, either, consideration given in this opinion piece to how many formerly observant Americans came to Israel only to drop it all. The secular culture of Israel is far more powerful than the observant. Then there's the issue of the ostensibly observant chareidim who like to chuck rocks at people, harass women & girls they don't like walking past them, groping that goes on all over the place by chareidim, & so many other problems going on in the suicidal country of Israel.

  16. Congratulations! You have just joined the Spies who spoke the same evil dribble about the Land of Israel and caused the death of their entire generation in the wilderness and brought about the destruction of the First and Second Temple which transpired on the same day as their evil report. Hashem called them rebels and non-believers and obliterated them all.

  17. Firstly, if you're unaware of chronology and facts, it's best not to write.
    The Jews died out for forty years because a few of them got involved with the Egyptians Moishe Rabbeinu took out of Egypt in building and celebrating a Golden Calf built to replace Moishe Rabbeinu as leader.
    10 of the 12 claimed God was unable to make the Jews victorious. They lied about the inhabitants of the land. They didn't denigrate the land. They didn't want to enter because they wanted to remain in the desert where God was taking care of them and they could learn His Holy Torah without having to work the land.
    They were very holy, but mistaken for not listening to what God wanted rather than trying to get Him to allow them to remain in the desert. You've committed motzi shaim rah, by slandering them.
    Pointing out some of the many problems with the modern secular state of Israel has nothing at all to do with my complete love of the Holyland itself, silly.

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