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JCFS Establishes New Addiction Services Program

June 25, 2012

In its 60 year history Jewish Child and Family Service has continuously expanded its programs and outreach in order to better meet the social service needs of the Winnipeg Jewish community. Most recently, JCFS hired Ivy Kopstein, BSW, MSW, RSW as its first ever Addiction Service Coordinator. 

Kopstein’s social work history combines significant administrative experience with extensive clinical experience in the areas of corrections and services to people with disabilities. In her new role at JCFS Kopstein is tasked with establishing a formal program of support for individuals struggling with and /or recovering from drug, alcohol and other addictions. 

“While there are addiction and recovery programs in the general community, our agency believes that for Jews who struggle with addictions, Jewish values and spirituality are important to the recovery process.” Kopstein explains. 

Until now, JCFS’s addiction services primarily revolved around the JACS program, a 12-step, self-help recovery group that meets weekly at the Asper Campus (

“At this stage,” Kopstein adds, “my focus will be to further explore the service needs and gaps within the Winnipeg Jewish community and assess how JCFS can best respond to individuals who struggle with addictions, those who are in recovery, and their families.”

“Building on this,” she says, “our vision is to expand the therapeutic options available to Jewish individuals and families facing a variety of addictions issues.”

This new JCFS initiative was given a considerable boost when Rabbi Mark Borovitz arrived in Winnipeg earlier this month to speak at the agency’s Annual General Meeting on June 6. 

Borovitz is the executive director and spiritual leader of Beit T'Shuvah, a residential treatment centre and a full service congregation in Los Angeles.  Borovitz himself is a former alcoholic and con man who spent years in and out of jail until his rediscovery of Judaism led him to a spiritual transformation and helped him recover from his addictions and damaging behaviours.

Borovitz’s personal transformative journey began when he was serving time at the California State Prison in Chino and was assigned to work as the prison rabbi’s clerk. Following his release from prison, Borovitz received a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science and a Masters in Rabbinic Literature, and was ordained as a Rabbi from the University of Judaism at the age of 50. His unique program of spiritual recovery that merges Jewish teachings with the principles of the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous has helped countless residents at Beit T'Shuvah and across North America.

In addition to speaking at the AGM on the topic of ‘T’shuvah – Judaism’s Answer to the Myth of Perfection,’ Borovitz met with local synagogue leaders and students at the Gray Academy and also addressed a community-wide forum. In so doing, he helped to draw the community into a long overdue conversation about the issue of additions among Jewish community members and the role that relevant Judaism can play in overcoming those addictions.

“Addiction is the Egypt of our time,” Borovitz emphatically told his Winnipeg audiences. “Addictions are about needing to escape because you think you are imperfect.”

This desire to escape, he emphasized, is widespread and affects Jewish community members of all ages and from all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, he added, Jewish teachings, spirituality and lifestyle can help repair these fractured souls  and help restore them to healthier ways of living.

This idea of restoring Jewish community members to healthier ways of living is at the centre of JCFS’s new addiction services program.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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