TEL AVIV — Young people with substance-abuse dependencies often face a stark challenge when trying to overcome their problem: Any kind of lapse is seen as a failure, and if they backslide even occasionally they start to see themselves as hopeless recidivists.
“This 12-step idea says that once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict — that as soon as you touch drugs, you’re off the wagon,” said psychologist Tamir Rotman. “But it’s very detrimental to teens at such an early stage of their lives and self-exploration. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Rotman is the director of change at Free Spirit Experience, a program in Israel for troubled Jewish teens and young adults struggling with issues such as anxiety, depression, or other social and emotional problems.
Now Free Spirit Experience is launching a new program for Diaspora Jewish teens and young people with drug or alcohol dependencies that interfere with their daily living. This new therapy program, Free Spirit Holina, is organized around the idea that their problems can best be addressed by zeroing in on the core impetus for the substance abuse.
“It’s a different paradigm than the traditional rehab center; we deal much more with the underlying issues of drug usage, rather than the usage itself,” said Rotman, stressing that it is not meant to be a full-blown rehab center or a detox clinic. “We expect these kids to have a better sense of self that will enable them to function on a daily basis. The main point is for them to be productive and positive in life.”
The program, which opens in May, will be run by Israeli therapists but situated in Cyprus, a Mediterranean island about a 45-minute flight from Tel Aviv. Designed to be a three-month course, the program will enroll 15 youths per session, divided into two groups: one for ages 14-17 and the other for ages 18-26.
The site for Free Spirit Holina Cyprus, located about half an hour’s drive northeast of the airport in Larnaca, is a 2.5-acre tract of land with horses, farm animals, a swimming pool and fruit trees. The farm previously was used by Chabad-Lubavitch of Cyprus, which will be involved in some aspects of the new program including kosher food, communal Shabbat dinners and celebration of Jewish holidays for those who choose to participate.
The therapists behind the program are importing many of the practices and principles that undergird their successful Israeli therapy program, Free Spirit Experience, an immersive therapy program located at Kibbutz Hazorea in Israel’s Carmel mountains. While some participants of that program have struggled with drug or alcohol use, the new program in Cyprus is geared toward young Jews from North America for whom substance-abuse is their primary problem.
Free Spirit Holina will be staffed by 12 employees in Cyprus, most of them Israelis with specialized training in addiction issues. Besides taking care of horses and other animals, daily activities will include routine farm labor, building projects, meditation and yoga.
There’s to be more than just farm chores and mindfulness, however. The program will include excursions to the Troodos Mountains, cliff jumping off the Mediterranean coast near Ayia Napa, and eventually sailing to Israel — a trip that takes 24 hours — on a yacht that can accommodate seven participants and two staffers.
“It’s the same Free Spirit program for people with dependencies who need a more isolated environment,” said Rotman, explaining that Kibbutz Hazorea “is not an appropriate environment for people with addictions because it’s a living community and it’s not isolated enough.”
Rotman and Free Spirit’s managing director, Rami Bader, had been looking to expand their program for a while, scouting out potential sites in Israel’s Negev. But then an opportunity appeared from an unexpected source: Thailand.
Holina, an addiction treatment and wellness center on a remote island in the Gulf of Thailand called Koh Pahngan, works exclusively with adults. When Holina began fielding numerous inquiries from parents looking for treatment solutions for their teenage children, Holina’s owner approached Free Spirit. The two eventually entered into a partnership to run the center in Cyprus.
Tuition will cost $20,000 per month for the three-month course. Comparable programs in the United States can cost as much as $30,000 to $40,000 a month, according to Rotman.
Chabad’s Cyprus director, Rabbi Arie Raskin, has lived in Larnaca since 2003. He says the new program will fill a gap because drug use among youths is high — and Orthodox Jews are no exception.
“Cannabis and alcohol use is becoming almost normal, and among haredim as well,” Raskin said. “Recently I was at an Orthodox wedding in B’nai Brak [Israel] and I smelled grass everywhere. In the past, when people smoked marijuana, they were ashamed. Today, they hold a joint in their hand and smile at you. This is very worrying.”
Rotman agreed, though he noted that dependency on marijuana is not necessary the main issue; it’s the underlying anxieties and depression that may have led youths to cannabis use in the first place. While most marijuana users can smoke pot occasionally and be OK with it, about 20% of youths become depressed and anxious.
“We’re seeing a lot of weed issues,” he said. “The idea that weed isn’t addictive or harmful is medically true, but that allows teens to be persistent in their usage.”
This, in turn, leads to a lack of motivation. In some cases, youths reach a point where they aren’t motivated to do much other than smoke weed, Rotman said.
“A lot of these kids don’t have coping skills,” Rotman added. “They learn to deal with their emotions via medications, so they don’t develop sufficient emotion regulation skills. Feeling anxious or depressed are normal parts of life. But for them, it just means they need more medication.”
In order to enroll in Free Spirit Holina Cyprus, Rotman insists on a crucial condition: The kids themselves must agree to the treatment. “We need to hear them say in their own the voice, ‘We want to come.’”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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