The Orthodox Union’s Impact Accelerator, founded in 2018, is a mentorship program designed to promote the growth and early-stage funding for Jewish non-profit entrepreneurs. As one of the recipients of its second cohort of four initiatives, it selected Communities Confronting Substance Abuse (CCSA), a grassroots organization begun in Teaneck in 2018. Founded by Lianne and Etiel Forman, both attorneys who have resided in Teaneck with their five children for over 25 years, CCSA was created to bring awareness, education, prevention and programming regarding substance abuse and addiction to local Jewish communities.
The impetus for starting the organization came from the Formans’ daughter, Elana, now 23, who has suffered from drug and alcohol addiction for the past 10 years. She is in recovery and urged her parents to tell her story for the benefit of others.
The Formans convened an evening in April of 2018, which close to 700 people attended. At that point, they did not know if there were others in the community who shared the same struggles, but their doubts were quickly allayed by the outpouring of calls, interest, requests for resources and words of personal support.
Realizing the overwhelming need for understanding and direction, the Formans founded CCSA. To date, CCSA has launched a bimonthly professionally facilitated support group for family members and loved ones of substance abuse sufferers, hosted community education and awareness events and worked with yeshiva day schools and high schools to provide faculty training and parent and student programming.
The OU Impact Accelerator Grant, administered by Jenna Beltser and chaired by Ezra Friedberg, is a highly competitive award. Chosen from a pool of over 80 applicants, the process involves a rigorous online form, followed by interviews by the OU team and finally a formal pitch night. The Formans were selected along with three other projects to receive the $25,000 monetary award that is given at the end of a year during which they will meet periodically with professional mentors who will provide them with OU resources and network infrastructure. The awardees will take part in a customized curriculum in business skills, coaching, fundraising and implementation strategies over the next 10 months.
The grant will help the Formans implement more of their programs for wider audiences. In Bergen County, CCSA has presented programming at local junior and senior high schools along with representatives from the Bergen County prosecutor’s office, The Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources and Amudim Community Resources. The programs entitled “Help Our Children Make Good Choices” are specifically geared to eighth graders in advance of their entry into high school and 10th graders, who are confronted with difficult decisions as they become more independent, and especially as they begin to drive. The sessions deal with how to make good choices and the consequences of bad choices. The Formans have found the student audiences to be open and inquisitive. With the help of the grant, the Formans hope to take their presentations outside of Bergen County and to create an audio-visual presentation to accompany these programs.
In the planning stages for May 10 is their Second Annual Mental Health and Addiction Symposium. Featured in the program will be Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founding dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, who will speak about “Talking to Your Loved One So They Will Talk to You.” Rabbi Horowitz is also the founder and director of Project Y.E.S.—Youth Enrichment Service, which provides at-risk teens with a “big brother/sister” teen mentoring program, school and job counseling and placement, a parent mentoring program and the Kosher School Program designed to train educators in clinically proven methods of reaching out to children at risk. Lew Abrams, ACSW, LCSW, CASAC, will speak on the topic, “The Truth About Addiction: Myths, Misconceptions and How to Help.” Abrams has worked in addiction within the Orthodox Jewish community for over 35 years and served as the executive director of the Yadzkahn Center, an inpatient treatment center that addresses the needs of the Orthodox community. The program will be held at Ben Porat Yosef in Paramus.
For further information about the upcoming symposium as well as the bimonthly meetings and other programs available through CCSA, visit www.time2talkaddiction.org.
By Pearl Markovitz