On Saturday night, August 17, over 50 families gathered in Westhampton Beach to celebrate the chanukat ha’bayit of Helen and Itchy Adelson, longstanding members of the Westhampton Beach Jewish community. Looking to transform their personal celebration into an event that would help those less fortunate, the Adelsons graciously hosted an evening marked by both celebration and inspiration, which would ultimately benefit the youth of Our Place NY. Rabbi Ari Korenblit, assistant rabbi at the Hampton Synagogue, led the initial tefillot on the occasion of the chanukat ha’bayit, followed by introductory remarks from Rabbi Aryeh Young, executive director of Our Place NY. Rabbi Young explained, “No community is immune to the havoc wreaked by substance abuse; the youths in the Jewish community are no exception. We cannot remain ignorant or deny the reality taking place on our streets, even within our most insular and observant communities.”
The program concluded with two moving testimonials from Our Place alumni, Aaron G. and Yitzy C., both natives of Brooklyn. Aaron and Yitzy shared similar stories that highlighted their struggles as young teens, coping with the death of a parent, rejection from family for insufficient religious observance, battling severe drug addictions and overdoses, dropping out of school, trying to find employment, and ultimately, how the team of therapists and mentors at Our Place was instrumental in both saving their lives and facilitating their return to mainstream society as rehabilitated and employed young adults. Yitzy recounted how he was once on the brink of complete overdose when an Our Place counselor called to wish him a “Shabbat shalom”; he miraculously answered the phone call and within minutes, realizing the severity of the situation, the counselor showed up with an ambulance to rush him to the hospital for the necessary lifesaving treatment. Ever since, Yitzy explained, “I pledge an annual gift of $18 for each year of my life, because if it wasn’t for Our Place, I wouldn’t be here anymore.” Following his presentation, Yitzy then went on to provide festive musical accompaniment, using a piano that was donated for the evening from Frank & Camille’s Piano Store in Melville, NY.
Our Place, New York’s premier organization offering Jewish youth a second chance, was established in 1998 in response to an increased incidence of substance abuse and suicide/death among teenagers and young adults in the Jewish community. Our Place was started as a “safe haven” or “hangout” for at-risk young people and now employs a multifaceted approach to counseling, rehabilitating, and guiding troubled youth through their return to healthy, productive lives in mainstream society. Serving almost a thousand at-risk youths and young adults annually, Our Place is a unique program-based service network that prides itself in successful “whole-life therapy.” This is an integrated, far-ranging approach that provides the stable atmosphere that a functioning family normally would.
For more information about Our Place NY, please call Rabbi Young at 516-512-4494. v