Turning to Opioids in the Russian Jewish Community

(Photo by frankieleon, Creative Commons license)

In a story for The Forward, Avi Scher takes a look at how the children of Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants have turned to opioids as they struggle to find an identity in a land vastly different from that of their parents.

“The parents and grandparents of these kids, you need to understand that they were the victims of cultural genocide in the USSR,” said Rabbi Aryeh Katzin, executive director of Russian American Jewish Experience, an organization in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach working to strengthen the Jewish identities of Russian youth.

“Their Jewish identities were wiped out. These kids aren’t Russian, American or Jewish. They have no strong identity, which makes them vulnerable to drug use. We try to provide them with guidance,” Katzin said.

However, reaching victims in the Russian-speaking community has proven difficult.

“Every community has some stigma about drugs, but I would definitely say it’s worse in the Russian community,” said Isaac Hernandez of Harlem United, the not-for-profit organization running the only syringe exchange in Brighton Beach. “They’re afraid to come for treatment, because they don’t want to be recognized.”

For more on the stigma and to read about the experiences of three community members who fell victim to drugs, go to The Forward.

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