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Jewish Women Coming Clean

Emmy award-winning journalist Connie Collins shared some advice her mother gave her with an audience of mostly Jewish women at a book launch party last month: “When you grow up, marry a Jewish man,” she said, “because they don’t drink.”

The book being launched was “Jewish Sisters in Sobriety,” and Collins, who has a family history of alcoholism (and is not Jewish), served as panel moderator at the launch party on Nov. 27th.

(For the record, I was unable to attend the event. The above was related to me by the book’s PR person, Wendy Hirschhorn.)

“Jewish Sisters in Sobriety” is a project of Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others [JACS] and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York [JWFNY]. A compilation of confessionals by recovering alcoholics and substance abusers of all ages and denominational affiliations — from completely secular to ultra-Orthodox — who are female and Jewish, the book is designed to combat the shikur-is-a-goy [a-drunk’s-not-Jewish] stereotype Collins’ mother was counting on. But, more particularly, “Jewish Sisters in Sobriety” reminds us that shikur isn’t just a shiksa.

Anyone who’s ever attended an AEPi frat party, or an after-shul kiddush, knows that Jews do drink, but we tend to think those kiddush-whiskey guzzlers are predominantly male, and those college-boozers, male and female, will grow up and sober up. The book reminds us that neither are necessarily the case, and encourages Jewish women battling addiction, and their loved ones, to seek help. Just knowing that others are going through similar struggles, and that, yes, Jewish women can be addicts, can be a great push to get treatment.

Raising awareness about these issues has been the work of JACS for years, but it’s interesting that the JWFNY is a partner in the endeavor. The ten-year-old organization is “committed to addressing the unmet [my italics – RHF] needs of Jewish women and girls in the New York area and beyond.” That’s a fairly provocative mission statement. It means JWFNY focuses on the kind of issues that have traditionally been swept under the rug by the Jewish community. That includes sexuality, body issues, domestic violence and substance abuse, to name a few of the areas on which JWFNY’s programming focuses.

According to their website, they look for grantees who come up with “provocative solutions” to these problems and “that experiment with new ways of looking at the landscape of the lives and concerns of Jewish women and girls.”

If you would like to get involved with JWFNY, click here, and if you need funding for a provocative solution to a pressing social issue affecting Jewish women or girls, here’s how to apply for a grant.

–Rebecca Honig Friedman