The month of Elul precedes the High Holidays and is therefore customarily a time for introspection, for taking stock of the year that has passed (accounting of the soul/cheshbon hanefesh) and considering the year ahead.  It is a time for seeking forgiveness by making amends (doing tshuvah).

Accounting of the soul/cheshbon hanefesh and making amends/doing tshuvah are also core practices of the 12 Steps of addiction recovery.  Therefore, a natural affinity exists between the traditional practices of the High Holiday period beginning with the month of Elul and the 12 Step process of recovery.  For example, Step 4 reads “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” and Step 5 states that “{we} admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Additionally, Step 10 states that “{we} continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”  Addiction recovery can therefore be easily and seamlessly included in the Jewish community’s observances beginning in Elul.

Recovery Speaker

Stories of addiction recovery are inspiring stories of tshuvah.  Congregations might consider inviting a speaker to share their story of addiction recovery in order to promote greater awareness, to reduce stigma, and to support individuals and families in recovery or struggling with addiction.  The personal stories of people in recovery focus on how recovery has helped change life for the better.  Jewish stories of addiction recovery typically also include journeys of spiritual awakening, spiritual reconnection, and spiritual growth that apply to all who have suffered…to all of us.  JCFS Chicago is gratified to have a passionate group of volunteers from a variety of recovery backgrounds, ages, and experiences, and including parents and spouses of those who have struggled with addiction.  Please contact JCFS Chicago addiction services for assistance in identifying an individual in addiction recovery to share their story.

12 Step Torah

12 Step Torah sessions combine the guidance of the spiritual program for living found in 12 Steps fellowships with the insight and Yiddishe neshama (Jewish soul) found in the Torah. 12 Step Torah lives in connections between the 12 Steps and Jewish holidays, the character development and spiritual growth practices of Mussar (Twerski, 2010), and specific insights into the weekly parsha. During Elul, 12 Step Torah may be based on Elul parshiot or on general High Holiday themesJCFS Chicago addiction services can assist congregations in identifying a leader for 12 Step Torah, and communities interested in offering their own 12 Step Torah might consider using one of the 12-Step Torah study sheets in the Resources section of this guide.\

Open 12-Step meeting

12 Step addiction recovery meetings, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon and many others, are characterized as either “closed” or “open.”  A “closed” meeting is for people who are active in that program or have interest in becoming so.  “Open” meetings are for anyone who would like to learn about recovery.  For synagogues that have 12 Step meetings in the building, consider talking with the meeting coordinator (a designated member of the 12 Step meeting) about involving the congregants in an open meeting during Elul to show your community’s support for and interest in recovery.  This is an opportunity for the congregation as a whole to better understand what happens at a meeting and can reduce stigma associated with addiction recovery.  If your congregation does not currently have recovery meetings on location, please contact addiction services at JCFS Chicago for more information on becoming a place for this essential service.

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