Drug Addiction and Overdose or Suicide – It Matters Not when the Community Refuses to Accept Responsibility for Either.
Lost Messiah, September 8, 2016
As the Hassidic community mourns the loss of Faygee (a/k/a Faige) Greenwald (z”l), and as the Yeshiva World News publishes an op-ed by Zvi Gluck intended to personalize the loss of this poor child and diminish the numbers reported regarding drug overdoses, no one is willing to dig deep into this community to demand answers to the following questions:
How can a woman within an insular community get her hands on heroin?
How much drug abuse is there really (not reported, but actual numbers) within the ultra-Orthodox community?
Why is no one screaming from rooftops about the need for OUTREACH and prevention?
“Have [you] no compassion”?
“Why are [you] willing to do everything in [your] power for those with cancer and couples who struggle with infertility, but when it comes to those who suffer from drug addiction [you] see it as a good business opportunity”?
Would drug abuse even be addressed at all within the ultra-Orthodox community were in not for the opportunities it presents?
Drug abuse is not something that can be overcome without community support (it takes a village). The same forces that cause the addiction or precipitate it are the same forces that must be removed from the life of someone in recovery.
It seems to be so important to our critics that we edit our post and refer to this as an accidental overdose rather than a suicide. Accidental overdose implies a passive circumstance; there is no blame to be had. Suicide is in contrast an intentional action. We have posted, for that very reason, Zvi Gluck’s op-ed which may very well refute us and other articles claiming her death a suicide.
We think, however, that making this distinction is a foolish endeavor. Heroin addiction like all addiction is a disease. But the disease begins with a choice. The initial choice to use was ultimately the result of Faygee Greenwald’s tragic decision. The disease, the contagion, in our view can be found within the very tenets of the Hassidic community from which she tried to escape.Whether her escape was death or a heroin induced high gone wrong is largely irrelevant.
May this poor girl have found peace. May the Hassidic community find the courage to confront its ills. Faygee Greenwald’s death should not be without meaning.
Op-Ed By Zvi Gluck: Once Again, A Final Goodbye
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.