New York Federation Calls Conference on Problem of Narcotics Use Among Jews

The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York announced plans today for an all-day conference here next month on the growing problem of narcotics use and addiction among Jews.

Howard I. Rhine, a New York attorney who is chairman of the federation’s committee on narcotics, said that the May 5 conference was called to dramatize for the Jewish community the fact that narcotics use and abuse was becoming a specifically Jewish problem and to consider creation, under federation auspices, of a Jewish-sponsored facility to make available to the Jewish user treatment facilities which combine Jewish social work and religious resources. The committee was set up under auspices of the federation’s commission on synagogue relations of which Rabbi Isaac Trainin is director. Mr. Rhine said that more than 100 experts would attend the conference, including doctors, officials of government treatment programs, psychiatrists, rabbis and representatives of various federation agencies.

He quoted Father W.L. Damiam Pitcaithly, director of the Samaritan Halfway House, a private treatment facility in New York, as declaring that some 20 percent of persons receiving treatment there were Jews. Mr. Rhine also said that statistics on narcotics use by Jews were hard to get. partly because Jews are able to afford private treatment and hence are often not in a situation requiring referral to public institutions.

Indicating that as little as ten years ago, narcotics abuse was rare among Jews, Mr. Rhine added that there was little doubt that narcotics use is high among Jewish college students, as it is among college students generally. He said that the conference was expected to produce some specific information on the distribution of narcotic users among Jews and on the degree to which specifically Jewish problems had a role in the pressures to which narcotics use is a response.

He said there was now no treatment facility under Jewish auspices and that the Jewish community had done nothing to grapple with the problem. He pointed out that Catholic and Protestant groups have long sponsored such facilities and that officials of such treatment centers often call Jewish institutions when a Jewish person comes to them for help. He said that when a rabbi encounters this problem among his congregations, he should have a Jewish facility for referral, rather than to have to go to a Government agency or to another religious group. Another objective of the conference, he said, will be to formulate plans for an education program on the problem for synagogues, Jewish centers and similar federation institutions.

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