Cleveland Jewish Community Talks Opioid Addiction

Aaron Marks and Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk [Courtesy Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple]
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People often don’t want to talk about uncomfortable topics, and the opioid epidemic isn’t an easy one. But the greater Cleveland Jewish community recently united to do just that.

At least 10 area synagogues across denominations scheduled time to talk about it, many during Shabbat worship services last month before Passover.

Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple said the idea behind the group effort was to signal from the pulpit that nobody is immune to the opioid crisis.

“To sideline it, to make it an optional experience that you are choosing to go to might suggest that addiction, and particularly the opioid addiction crisis, is something happening to someone somewhere, but not you,” he said.

It also is a sign of support from synagogues. In the future, Fairmount Temple may even stock naloxone, an emergency drug that reverses the effects of opioids, in the event an overdose were to occur on site.

“It seems to me that with the kind of [crisis] that this is, that houses of worship… educational institutions, shopping districts and the like need training and tools to respond to crises on the mark,” Nosanchuk said.

Beachwood native Aaron Marks recently spoke at Fairmount Temple about his personal struggles with opioids. He became addicted to painkillers prescribed to him following the removal of his wisdom teeth.

“For me it became an obsession immediately,” he said. “Imagine, you know the worst flu you could possibly feel all day every day, and the only way to get it to go away was to take these pills.”

Marks regularly shares his experiences and advocates for others dealing with opioid addiction through serving on task forces and the board of directors of Stella Maris, a rehab center, and Recovery Resources, a behavioral health agency.

“I’m so grateful to have found a way to live in recovery,” he said. “I hope that with my actions, with my time, with my experience I can help.”

While he identifies himself as on the “secular side of the spectrum” regarding his faith, he finds value in religious communities.

“I find faith in the humanity of… a collective group trying to help each other,” he said. “For me, it’s been extremely important to know that this is something the community can get behind.”

Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple offers another opioid-related event on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. The Men of Fairmount Temple host guest speaker, Greg McNeil, who lost his son to heroin in 2015 and started a non-profit, Cover2 Resources, which provides opioid addiction resources.

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