JACS: Connecting Jews to Judaism

Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others (“JACS”) bridges the gap between recovery programs and the Jewish community. Founded in the late 1970s by Jewish alcoholics and family members under the auspices of the UJA-Federation, JACS is now a program of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) in New York. Similarly, Boston JACS receives support from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. More than a dozen smaller JACS groups meet across the U.S. and in Canada.

JACS is not a treatment program. It is not “Jewish AA.” JACS has three purposes: to sponsor events that connect Jews in recover to each other and to Jewish tradition; to educate the larger Jewish community about alcoholism and addiction; and to act as a resource center and information clearinghouse on the effects of alcoholism and chemical dependency on Jewish life. The New York office, staffed by Executive Director Tami Crystal, fielded 3,500 calls last year, and with active participation of JACS members, coordinates weekend retreats, “Spiritual Days,” holiday celebration, and educational programs ranging from a drug education curriculum for children to a three-day conference at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

JACS members also go on “commitments,” telling their stories to congregation, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and youth groups. Afterwards, no one doubts the reality of alcoholism and addiction among Jews. Sometimes, a commitment provides the first words of hope to someone suffering in silence. As one JACS member describes it, “I found out that there are a lot of people like me out there. All they have to hear is [for me]to say, ‘I’m Jewish, I’m an alcoholic, I’m a drug addict, and I’m sober.’ Those few words can mean a whole new life to somebody.”