By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer
CINCINNATI — Six years into his work as founder and executive director of Jewish Education for Every Person, Rabbi Yaakov Karp began providing addiction recovery programs and services to Jews in southwest Ohio.
On June 8, four years after launching the recovery initiative, Karp and JEEP’s board, clients and supporters dedicated the Arthur Schreiber Jewish Education Center at 1995 Section Road in Golf Manor.
“We are trying to bring a little bit of light to a dark place,” Karp, a Chabad-Lubavitch ordained rabbi and Jewish educator, said during the ceremony. “Many people have lives which have certain elements of darkness in them. And our mission is to bring light into those lives.”
The Schreiber Center is home to the only Jewish recovery facility in the region.
“This is for Jewish people who are alcoholics, addicts, people with related problems,” Karp said before the dedication. “It’s a place to come to build a community, have mutual support for each other, and learn Jewish spiritual tools with which they can better strengthen their recovery.”
Before the center’s opening, Karp said he ran JEEP from an office in a warehouse. “Most of our work is in the field,” he said. “We visit hospitals and nursing homes. We visit people who are unable to come out of their homes.”
JEEP serves more than 1,000 clients each year. “We work with children and youth who have special challenges, as well as adults with disabilities, and with all of them, they’re people who have a difficult time accessing Jewish education because of their special challenges. We help them do that so they can succeed better and be happier.”
As part of the dedication, Karp invited an adult client, Margi, to talk about JEEP’s impact on her life.
“A friend of mine kept saying, ‘come to the Karp’s house,’” she said. “And for numerous reasons I had been out of the Jewish community for decades, sadly and longingly, and I didn’t realize it.”
A year ago, Margi began attending a JEEP recovery group each Thursday.
“It’s based on the AA principles, but what we have here is it’s rooted in Judaism throughout,” she said. “We study parshah (the Torah portion) each week, we have discussions.
“What is so beautiful is that everyone is welcome. We all come with an array of disabilities, and it’s not just alcohol and drugs. Anything that interferes with your life, you are welcome to recover from, although most of us do suffer from addiction. This recovery of mine has been amazing.”
Margi now serves on JEEP’s board.
“I’ve also experienced some very special friends,” she said. “You can never have enough friends in life, as I realize as I get older.”
Among the speakers at the dedication was Dr. David Novick of Dayton, a gastroenterologist who has specialized in substance abuse.
“We’ve known Rabbi Karp for many years and we realized he was doing something that no one else was doing, and is very important,” Novick said.
“Also, it hits two areas for us personally,” added Novick’s wife, Jane, a lawyer who specializes in the rights of those with disabilities. “Substance abuse, which is David’s field, and then disabilities. We have a daughter with a disability. And of course with my legal work, this exactly ties in with what is so near and dear to us.”
In his remarks, Novick said that relatively few organizations provide services to people with addiction or disabilities despite the overwhelming need.
“For this reason, the value of the Schreiber Center and its dedicated staff is beyond calculation,” he said.
Novick stressed the importance of counseling as part of addiction treatment.
“Thinking of addiction as a disease can be therapeutic for patients who have this problem,” he said. “One can say to an individual something like this: ‘You have a disease, you did not ask for it, but you do have a responsibility to treat it. It is a disease, not a moral failure or a lack of willpower.’ This approach reduces the stigma that many patients perceive and that impedes their willingness to accept treatment.”
For more information about JEEP, go to jewisheducate.org.