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Posts Tagged ‘Assembly District’

Alcohol And Drugs In The Jewish Community: The Problems Few Can See

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Disbelief and denial are two words that can describe the alcohol and drug problem in the Jewish community, and that is a problem in itself.

Have you given much thought to this issue? Most of us haven’t. It’s not until we are personally affected that we become concerned. We must not let it to get to that point.

As chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I have been afforded a view of drug and alcohol problems on both a statewide and a local level. In most communities the evidence of drug abuse and overindulgence in alcohol is obvious in criminal activity, emergency room visits, employment statistics and dysfunctional families. To look at those communities is to know that drugs and/or alcohol are an issue. Our community is different; many of those abusing alcohol or drugs are not only functioning well but maintaining either high grades or business success.

Last December, in conjunction with the Orthodox Union, I brought together thirty local rabbanim, social workers, doctors, psychologists, counselors, program directors and attorneys who work with community members experiencing alcohol and drug problems. The roundtable discussion provided the experts with a forum to share information. Such problems as shul-hopping for simchas serving alcohol, excessive drinking at Kiddush Clubs and helping oneself to another family member’s prescription painkillers found in a medicine cabinet were highlighted.

The experts all agreed that there is a growing problem of drug and alcohol abuse in the Jewish community and expressed a collective frustration that there were too few resources to respond. The perception of our community being alcohol- and drug problem-free extends all the way to the halls of the legislature. When I talk to my colleagues, they have trouble believing there is a need for funding prevention and treatment programs in the Jewish community.

Another obstacle to dealing with the alcohol and drug problems head-on is the shame these problems cause in the Jewish community. Whether it’s just embarrassment or the fear of difficulty with a shidduch in the future, drug and alcohol problems are often kept behind closed doors by families, shuls and organizations.

This only serves to exacerbate the problem. There should be no shame in dealing with either an alcohol or drug problem. We must all understand this and come together as a community to provide support for our neighbors dealing with alcohol and drug issues. They need our help. This is important for the individual as well as for the community.

It was because of the unique circumstances surrounding the alcohol and drug problem in the Jewish community that I recently invited Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, who heads the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, to participate in a roundtable discussion, cosponsored by the Orthodox Union. I thought that it was important for our state’s top alcohol and drug official to see and hear firsthand our concerns and needs.

On May 3 the commissioner joined more than twenty practitioners and rabbis from our community at the Young Israel of Midwood. The roundtable participants told the commissioner that the false notion that no alcohol or drug problem exists in the Jewish community often results in individuals with problems not receiving the treatment they need and the community as a whole not getting its fair and needed share of resources for prevention and treatment programs.

“The level of denial still needs to be addressed…it’s tripping us up,” one social worker said, while a program director added that she can “walk down any block in Flatbush and point out houses on each block with a kid or two at risk.”

Commissioner Gonzalez-Sanchez was told about the need for culturally sensitive treatment and prevention programs: “Being an orthodox Jew in recovery is much more than having kosher food.” A drug counselor shared a story of an Orthodox client doing well in an out of town secular drug treatment program who called in distress because she suddenly felt a rekindling of spiritual feelings.

Commissioner Gonzalez-Sanchez understood. “The Office of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Services,” she said, “remains committed to providing quality health care that is comprehensive and sensitive to the specific needs of the individuals we serve. I look forward to continue working closely with Assemblyman Cymbrowitz to address the issues facing the people of this community.”

Why I Am The Right Choice For Congress

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Living in New York is getting tougher and tougher. No matter how carefully some of us planned, much of our retirement savings and investments have been dwindling away. Additionally, many of my neighbors are scared that the benefits they have paid into for years – Social Security and Medicare – may be taken away.

They are right to be nervous. These concerns cannot go unaddressed.

My name is David Weprin and I am running for United States Congress to represent the people of the Ninth Congressional District in New York.

I was born and raised in Queens. I attended local yeshivas for elementary and high school, as did all my children. I am a member of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates and the Young Israel of Holliswood. My wife Ronni and I have five children and one grandchild.

I was a member of the New York City Council for eight years and served as chair of the Finance Committee the entire length of my service. Currently, I serve in the New York State Assembly.

Growing up in Queens as a religious teenager and raising a frum family prepared me to uniquely understand the needs many of my constituents and of the broader Jewish community. I am also able to advise my colleagues in government on how to best serve the Jewish community.

There were several periods when Mayor Bloomberg was intent on cutting Priority 7 vouchers. These vouchers subsidize after-school care that is vital for many families in our community. I was front and center in the battle to combat this cut that would have hurt so many of my neighbors.

Part of what makes our Jewish community so special is the sense of responsibility we feel toward each other. Hatzolah is an organization that exemplifies this feeling. I am very proud that I have been able to secure two capital grants to assist Hatzolah in its vital work.

A few years ago I received a frantic phone call from a group of concerned rabbis. They had been notified that the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health was going to ban metzitzah b’peh, an important part of the bris milah ritual for many religious Jews. I immediately contacted the commissioner and, in conjunction with other leaders in the community, got the city to back off.

I mentioned above that times are tough for all of us. As somebody who sent his children to yeshivas, I understand what the added cost of yeshiva tuition can do to a family budget.

In fact, I had the opportunity this year in Albany to help pass TAP, or Tuition Assistance Program, legislation. This historic bill will provide up to $5,000 in tuition assistance for yeshiva students learning in post-high school yeshivas.

I have constantly fought for all members of our community. I have been a strong supporter of various organizations – Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Ohel, Chai Lifeline, Coalition of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, among many others.

In dealing with social service agencies for over a decade, I understand their importance to many in our communities. My opponent wants to cut 35 percent of all federal agencies. He wants to abolish the Department of Education that helps educate our special-needs children. He wants to end the Department of Agriculture that provides food stamps for the neediest among us and provides funding for the enforcement of kashrus laws.

Yes, there is fat in the federal government that needs to be cut. There are tax loopholes for giant corporations that pay a lower tax rate than teachers and small business owners. But there are ways to lower our unsustainable deficit that don’t involve turning our backs on our seniors and the neediest among us. Our social safety nets, like Medicare and Social Security, need to be preserved.

An issue especially close to my heart is Israel. I have led a number of missions there and also traveled as part of a delegation during the Lebanon War in 2006 to help raise soldiers’ morale and transfer food and clothes to shelters. We actually came under rocket attack ourselves while helping out.

As a Democrat, I was very outspoken against President Obama’s suggestion that Israel use pre-1967 borders to come to an agreement with Palestinian negotiators. One of the missions I’ve led to Israel was to Beitar Illit, a city of over 40,000 people. I have seen first hand the communities that would be displaced if Israel would return to pre-Six-Day War borders.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, when he endorsed my candidacy for Congress a few weeks ago, stated clearly and unequivocally that the best way to send a message to President Obama in disagreement with his Mideast policies is through me, not a new member of the Republican majority whose criticism would be dismissed as partisan politics.

I believe Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Israel. I believe Israelis want peace and are ready now, as they have been for years, to negotiate with a willing partner – but I am unsure that such a partner exists.

It is in America’s interest to have Israel as a secure ally in the region, and I will be passionate about explaining that to those in Washington who are uninformed or have been fed lies by Israel’s enemies.

I will be a hard working and strong representative for my community in Congress.

Mr. Weprin represents the 24th Assembly District in Queens.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-i-am-the-right-choice-for-congress/2011/09/07/

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