Moishe Goldstein came to South Florida seeking recovery from addiction some five years ago. That’s when he met Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Meir Kessler, who runs the Jewish Recovery Center in Boca Raton, and got involved in Kessler’s Shabbat dinner program. It draws people from the area who are struggling with addictions to alcohol, drugs, prescription medicine, food and beyond. “He visits all the local rehabs, and everybody knows him,” said Goldstein. “He’s a great resource to my family–to my wife, to my parents. He’s out there, he’s helping people.”

Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Meir Kessler founded the Jewish Recovery Center with his wife Frumi when they saw a growing spiritual need among recovering addicts in South Florida.
Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Meir Kessler founded the Jewish Recovery Center with his wife Frumi when they saw a growing spiritual need among recovering addicts in South Florida.

Meeting Kessler, and through him, other Jewish people on the road to recovery, made a difference for Goldstein, who now helps out with Kessler’s programming. This weekend he’ll be addressing Jewish people in recovery and their family members at the Jewish Recovery Center Retreat and Shabbaton at the Boca Raton Marriott at Boca Center. He will be joining keynote speakers Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson and Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski in the hopes of letting others know that their lives can change for the better. Goldstein will be speaking Saturday afternoon, he said, about what his life was like before and what it’s like now.

“My intention is to share my experience, and hopefully, people will get some strength and hope out of my message that recovery is possible, and second chances are available if you’re serious about your recovery,” said Goldstein. “If you’re ready for a new life, the Jewish Recovery Center and 12-step fellowship programs offer that to you.”

John Baudhuin, director of spiritual services for Caron Renaissance, a treatment center in Boca Raton where Kessler serves as chaplain, said he hopes that attendees soak up the messages the speakers have to share, and that the weekend experience will provide a shift that encourages spiritual growth and leads them to want to learn more.

“The man’s very deep–his message is very universal,” he said of Jacobson, adding that Twerski is “a living legend” in the field of recovery.

Retreats allow time to build connections and relationships; they have a stronger effect than shorter meetings, said Baudhuin, who will also be attending and running a group Saturday night on how to learn and grow from coping with grief. It’s a natural extension of the work they do at the rehab center, he said, adding that he's sure participants will also get the chance to have some real fun over the weekend.

For Kessler, the weekend represents an opportunity for recovering addicts, alcoholics and their families to come back and celebrate the joy of recovery. Last year’s event saw 150 participants and a flood of follow-up messages from people talking about the spiritual recharge the weekend provided. “We left an indelible mark on families,” he said. “The response has been very big, and families are very excited about coming back.”

Attendance is capped at 200 this year for the event, which will welcome people in recovery from around the country, as well as returnees from last year. “The camaraderie and fellowship of Jewish people involved in recovery lends itself to tremendous energy,” said Kessler. “Where people get deep and discuss their problems openly, and discuss recovery in a Jewish context. It’s an amazing thing.”

Yosef Chaim Brook, who works in a program capacity with the organization, said he believes in the special impact of a Sabbath weekend, packed with good food, great speakers, moving sessions and real spirituality.

“It’s not a meeting; it’s an inspirational Shabbos,” he said.

Goldstein hopes to be part of that inspiration. This will be his first time formally sharing his story at the Jewish Recovery Center’s retreat. “I’m going to let people know what it’s like, how bad it got, what happened and what it’s like now,” he said, talking about how it affects families, but how there is, in fact, hope for a better life. “And it’s day and night.”

Now working in the recovery field with the goal of helping others, Goldstein runs a 24/7 recovery helpline that helps addicts find treatment. “Addiction is a very lonely disease. You feel like when you’re going through it, you’re alone–you’re the only one who’s had this type of problem,” he said.

Going to the retreat gives people a sense that there are others like them, he said, adding that he came away last year encouraged by the program and the others he met there. “You get to meet a lot of people who are like you, Jewish people who are like you, and have found recovery from addiction.”