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Op-Ed: Once Again, a Final Goodbye

by Zvi Gluck

Her name was Faygee.  She was 20 years old and she had a smile that could light up a room.   Faygee was one of my wife Aviva’s students and she was full of life, full of love, and full of hope.  She always knew what to say to make everyone around her feel good, how to give them chizuk so that they could carry on even when they faced trials and tribulations.

We lost Faygee Monday night to an accidental heroin overdose.

My wife, my children and I are all mourning the loss of this beautiful neshama.  Unlike so many other cases you hear about, Faygee had the full support of her family who did all that they could to help her through the difficulties she faced.  And yet, we still lost her and we find ourselves in shock, grieving the loss of this promising young woman.

For those of you who are counting, Faygee is the 60th person in the Jewish community to die of a drug overdose since this past Rosh Hashana.  I have gotten yelled at many a time for counting these deaths and have been told I am sensationalizing these tragic events, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Keeping track of this terrible, heartbreaking statistic makes it real, forces us to face facts.  We are not immune.  Every single one of those deaths have happened on our watch and WE are responsible.

I get many phone calls from people who tell me that they want to open up treatment centers or sober houses after hearing about these terrible losses.  I always ask if their intention is to do this as a chesed or as a business and the response is always the latter.  Have we lost our minds that we are looking to turn a profit from this horrific trend?  Have we no compassion?  Why are we willing to do everything in our power for those with cancer and couples who struggle with infertility, but when it comes to those who suffer from a drug addiction we see it as a good business opportunity?  We are rachmanim bnei rachmanim – so why is it that when it comes to kids on the street or those with addictions, we aren’t opening our hearts and our wallets to help those who are struggling?

I write this as Faygee’s family is preparing for her funeral and I can’t stop thinking about how it wasn’t that long ago that I attended Faigy’s high school graduation.    She spoke so sweetly and with such sincerity.  The message she delivered was a powerful one and today, I hope to be able to share one more powerful message on behalf of an amazing young woman who left us all too soon.

Let each and every one of us reach out to those who are struggling.  Pretend that they are your brother, your sister, your child or your parent and do whatever it takes to get them the help they need.  We need to band together as a group to fight this epidemic with every ounce of strength so that no more parents have to plan funerals for their daughters like Faygee’s parents are today.  May our renewed efforts to help those in need be a zechus for Faygee’s neshama and for the neshamos of the other 59 we have lost this year and may they be a source of strength for those who are still struggling.

Faygee, I beg you to penetrate the heavens on behalf of those who are suffering.  Seek out the others and go together with them to storm the kisei hakavod with tears and with heartfelt tefilos so that we can, once and for all, bring an end to these senseless tragedies.

Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim Community Resources, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 15 years.  For more information go to www.amudim.org.

20 Comments

  • 3. Dont stop loving Dont stop helping. wrote:

    People please believe this can happen to anyone at any age from any family. Never stop loving and supporting someone who is struggling with a addiction. I hope to be blessed in the near future with the ability to fund or help start a addiction help center for the boys and girls men and woman of Crown Heights who desperately need our love and help.

    Reply
  • 4. Chaim wrote:

    This is a very important issue that must be addressed. However a good solution would be to open up a center as a business just like every doctors practice and hospital that is a for profit business that does allot of good with compassion.

    Reply
  • 5. Picaboo Shimon wrote:

    shocking and very sad. I wouldnt even know what to do if my kids used drugs. There MUST be someone in every community who is professionally trained to deal with drug abuse that can take calls and give guidance to families going through these kind of situations.

    Reply
    • 7. Pedant wrote:

      That’s very clever, Yehuda, cause everyone knows that it all goes according to plan and if you say the right things and do the right things everything just goes smoothly, it isn’t like unforeseen things ever happen, like, I don’t know, a 47 year father passing away, because we. are. in. control.

      And we also know that all parents are perfect, and if we just do our duty no kids will ever stray because only imperfect parent’s kids have that evil inclination thing going on or live in environments where there are influences competing with the air prevailing in the home.

      So yeah no need for robust institutions to deal with difficult situations, we’ll just all discuss education with our kids.

      You need to lose the smug.

  • 8. anonymous wrote:

    “why don’t we treat it same as cancer and infertility”

    There’s a big difference between the two.

    Taking drugs is (at least at the start) a persons choice. One could have chosen not to take drugs.

    Cancer and Infertility isn’t a persons choice. There is no known effort one can make to avoid these conditions.

    Reply
    • 9. One that knows... wrote:

      Addiction is a disease, just as diabetes or cancer. When you are educated in substance abuse and harmful behaviours, one learns this right away.
      Abusing drugs or whatever substance is the symptom only, there is the root of it which one must go to. A trauma either a blunt trauma or constant one that leads to self destructive behaviour. GD bless her soul and GD bless her family. May they somehow get comfort.

    • 10. SeriousGuy wrote:

      I’m sorry but you have no idea what your talking about. Ex-addict here almost 5 years clean. I did not choose to do drugs (even the first time) the one that chose to use my body as means for his pleasure while I was a child made the decision for me to start using. All the people who shit me out instead of try and keep me close made that choice. Before try and give advise to our community try doing a little research.

  • 11. Yitzchok wrote:

    Accidental heroine overdose isn’t suicide. Suicide is intentional. Unless you want to argue that it’s תחלתו בפשיעה וסופו באונס
    The author writes that it was accidental. How many of the 60 tragedies were accidental? Is the problem the drugs or the problem is that unfortunately too many commit suicide?

    Reply
  • 12. Leah wrote:

    baruch Dayan ha-emes. i feel for the parents, what a terrible pain!
    I think by making it a business it makes it possible for someone to fully invest their time and energy professionally, yet with their heart.

    We don’t live in Crown Heights, but to share- we welcome to our home at risk teens and they make drinking parties here Friday nights (a.k.a. farbrengens) and it’s helped them BH. The main thing that helps them grow is not words of Torah, rather Acceptance. Loving them as they are, who they are inside, without trying to change them or judge them. Every neshama has a different Tikkun, not always is it to be cookie cutter.

    This is something that many of us are able to do to help our challenged youth- be a positive support system.
    Heroin is famously extremely difficult to get off of- they need us!

    Reply
    • 14. Wow! Engage brain b4 typing wrote:

      And the purpose of saying a name is to accomplish what? Is it anyone’s buisness to bare another family’s soul to the world?! Unless you are the author who says you are correct… Maybe think before you type

  • 16. BDE wrote:

    Can tell that this was primarily written from the heart.

    Frustating and upsetting on all accounts…

    Hashem help.

    Reply
  • 17. CH Family wrote:

    Lets start by banning all alcohol at Yeshiva’s and Yeshiva sponsored events. My son became a drug addict in his early teens and his problems started with alcohol abuse at the age of 12. He was introduced to l’chaims at his Yeshiva and his propensity for addiction was awakened with this imbibing of alcohol at too early of an age.

    WIth H-shem’s help,many tears and many prayers, and treatment, he has finally overcome after almost 10 years of this problem.

    STOP ALCOHOL AT YESHIVAS AND AT YESHIVA SPONSORED EVENTS where children will participate. This is wreckless and not appropriate.

    Reply
    • 18. SeriousGuy wrote:

      I agree with you about banning alcohol at events attended by minors. But, if you anything about alcoholism it most probably started before his ‘yeshiva l’chaims’ at 12.

      Such a sad thing to hear about. Terrible to see how our community knows nothing of treating this ailment.

    • 19. Member wrote:

      Alcohol in out yeshivas AVOID the plague of drugs in Litvish yeshivas. These days bochurim WILL get “high”. If it is going to happen, better a legal and controlled outlet of mashke than the shady use of weed and chemical drugs.

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