A Tax Break For Rabbis Might Be Unconstitutional

What does Rabbi Aviad Bodner, leader of Manhattan’s historic Stanton Street Shul, which seats 400, have in common with televangelist mega-preachers whose sermons reach millions of people around the world?

All get a tax break on their housing costs — despite the fact that Bodner rents a two-bedroom in Manhattan’s East Village with his wife and children, and some televangelists enjoy multiple homes worth millions of dollars.

That’s because they, like other faith leaders, can take advantage of Section 107 of the United States tax code: the parsonage exemption. It’s helped ease the budgeting woes of rabbis around the country for over six decades.

“Many synagogue rabbis in Manhattan work several jobs just to make it happen. Every dollar counts,” said Bodner.

But the parsonage exemption is in jeopardy. Last year, a court ruled that it’s unconstitutional, and breaches the separation of church and state. Now a federal appeals court is set to decide in early 2019 whether that’s the case. Rabbis and synagogues say the exemption is how they make ends meet, and that getting rid of it could mean lower salaries for clergy in Jewish communities of every denomination.

Read more: https://forward.com/news/national/415004/a-tax-break-for-rabbis-might-be-unconstitutional-can-they-make-ends-meet/

Addiction Affects Jews, Too – Breaking The Taboo

If only we all lived in a world in which denying a problem exists would make it go away. Sadly, that is not reality. Ignoring problems only make them harder to face in the end. Yet, that doesn’t stop us from trying to live in denial. We have a habit of sweeping problems under the rug and leaving them there. While some of those problems aren’t a major deal, others are severely embarrassing. Addiction is one of those embarrassing problems that we must eventually face.

We all know that drug abuse has gone through the roof in the United States in recent years. The famous opioid crisis has swept through every community. And, that includes the Jewish community.

The problem is that the Jewish community, as a whole, seems reluctant to acknowledge the problem exists. This is one of the reasons why so many Jewish parents are unaware of the signs to look out for. They also don’t know where to get help in the event of a problem.

The Frightening Statistics

More than 155 Americans lose their lives to drug overdoses each day. Many of these are because of opioids. Yes, these include heroin, but they also include prescription meds. When it comes to alcohol, the figures are equally worrying. Around 88,000 people every year drink themselves to death. The statistics are horrifying. So, it’s no wonder people in the Jewish community would rather bury their heads in the sand. However, this is not the right course of action.

It’s important to recognize that addiction isn’t a moral failing. Rather, it’s a physical condition. Some people’s genetics and body chemistries make them more at risk of developing addictions than others.

The Addiction Taboo

Addiction is an unpleasant and messy subject. It is usually simpler to stigmatize those with addictions as being moral delinquents. This means you don’t need to acknowledge that they are suffering from an illness. Yet, it is only by doing so that the individual can begin to recover. There isn’t an easy remedy and treatment is hard and arduous. This only adds to the stigma.

There is a general stigma in the world at large surrounding alcohol and drug use. While this is rife nationwide, nowhere is it more so than in the tight-knit Jewish community. There is a persistent myth that Jewish people never develop addictions. This leads to even more difficulty for families who have to admit to having a problem. The good news, however, is that once families have taken that step, it’s easier for other families to come forward. Isolation only worsens the problems of addiction. Therefore, the more families admit to having a problem, the easier it gets to deal with the situation.

A Lack Of Support In The Orthodox Community

One of the biggest problems for Jewish families facing addiction is the lack of support. While there is a lot of help out there, Orthodox Jews are struggling to find treatment suited to their needs. The Orthodox community tends to avoid discussing drug and alcohol addiction because of stigmas and stereotypes. There is a pervasive myth that addicts must be lowlifes. This is doubly so for anyone with a dual diagnosis of addiction plus a mental health disorder. This leads to Jewish addicts feeling alone and isolated.

Keeping Up Appearances

While most Jewish people don’t readily admit to being addicts, that doesn’t mean addiction doesn’t affect the community. What it does mean is that Jewish people struggling with addiction feel they need to keep quiet about their problems. They end up keeping up a façade for appearance’s sake. They are afraid that if they come clean, the community will ostracize and shun them as bad influences. For parents whose children are struggling with addiction, the pressure is on to keep them quiet about their problems. Parents want to do what’s best for their children. In the Jewish community, that often means going with the norm and not giving bad impressions. In such a close community, it would be a disaster to admit to something like an addiction. It would mean the end of their good family name.

Help Is Out There

Although many Jewish addicts and their families may feel alone, they should have some reassurance that there is help. There are many addiction treatment programs that produce excellent results. There are some programs tailored specifically to the needs of Jewish addicts. Above all, it’s important for addicts in the Jewish community to realize there are people they can talk to.

Luckily, there is a growing movement to raise awareness of addiction within the Jewish community. There has been a drive to help the community to recognize the symptoms and signs of addiction. There has also been a move toward supporting those who are struggling. They are planting the seeds that addiction is a community issue, not just a private one.

The important thing to break down is the classic stereotype of the addict that persists among the Jewish community. People need to acknowledge that addicts can be successful. They can hold down a good job, attend college, achieve high grades, and excel in music or sports. The more families share their experiences, the less stigma can take hold.

Specific Jewish Support

Although traditional addiction treatment programs are accessible to everyone, they don’t always address the needs of Orthodox Jews. That is why there have been some new programs opening up recently to cater to this special group of people.

Jewish treatment centers are aware of the cultural issues that many other centers wouldn’t understand or even be aware of. For example, the center will address the requirement for four cups of wine at a Seder during Pesach. This is a major issue for Jews struggling with alcoholism and, yet, may go unnoticed by a regular treatment center.

There are also several Jewish groups that allow parents of addicts to meet each other and discuss matters without stigma. Set up to help isolated families who had no idea where to turn, these groups offer support and advice. The overall idea is to break down taboos by getting Jewish families communicating and sharing their stories. They are a lifeline for parents with no idea where to find others going through the same thing.

More information here