Young leaders seek FIX to combat addiction

Left to right, Alexandre Abitan, Karen Aflalo, Steve Sebag, Ygal Benabou Co-chairs of FIX

Left to right, Alexandre Abitan, Karen Aflalo, Steve Sebag, Ygal Benabou Co-chairs of FIX

Too many people avert their eyes or cross the street when they see young addicts on the street. They are too quick to see menace in their shabbiness and be intimidated by their manner.

Ometz identified a need to address the growing problem of addiction in the Jewish community. In response, a group of young Jewish leaders – Alexandre Abitan, Karen Aflalo, Ygal Benabou, and Steve Sebag – teamed up with the Young Leadership Campaign (YLC) and the Communauté sépharade unifiée du Quebec (CSUQ) to create FIX to raise funds that will be used by Ometz to assist members of the Jewish community coping with addiction. Once implemented, FIX will reach out to street kids in an effort to heal them; to extend a hand and support them in overcoming addiction and exclusion.

“This is a difficult problem that people have trouble addressing,” said Sebag. “But we all know that it exists in our community. We know that kids are exposed to drugs at an earlier age even than when I was growing up. Our committee recognized that this was a great opportunity for us to make a real difference.”

Photo : Jonathan Levine (JFNA)

Photo : Jonathan Levine (JFNA)

Sadly, there is a disturbing level of substance abuse in Montreal’s Jewish community. In response, a group of young adults has created FIX, which refers to:

  • FIGHTING addiction,
  • instilling strong IDENTITY to bring individuals back to Jewish life and community,
  • an EXISTENCE free of dependencies.

The initiative aims to bring help to those in need, to educate the community about all forms of addiction, and to demystify the issue. FIX is going to ensure that people who need help to overcome addiction have a place to turn within our Jewish community.

“Addiction exists in our community, as it does in all communities,” said Abitan. “It may be taboo, but it is reality, and we are really determined to answer an unmet need.”

Fundraising efforts have had the parallel effect of raising awareness about addiction. The committee working on FIX has twenty members, all of whom are between the ages of 23 and 37, come from Sephardic and Ashkenazi backgrounds, and share a desire to seek novel solutions to a vexing problem.

“We can really relate to this issue because it is our age group that is most affected by drug addiction,” suggests Aflalo. “This cause touches us because we can help people who are just like us, except for the misfortune they are experiencing.”

“As word has spread that we’re launching this initiative, I’ve been called by people I know who have a friend or a relative who didn’t know where to go for help and they were so appreciative that we were doing this,” Sebag said.

More than $100,000 has already been raised and a strategic plan is currently being prepared for its implementation. The program will involve community workers who will reach out to, and engage with, addicts and their families.

The Young Leadership Campaign has made FIX their special project for the 2010 Combined Jewish Appeal. Federation CJA is coordinating in association with the Communauté sépharade unifiée du Quebec, and Ometz, with its expertise in social services, will implement the program.

“The community has a great deal of trust in Ometz’s professionalism, which gives us instant credibility as fundraisers,” said Benabou. “Donors are excited about participating in something new that is going to impact people who have previously been marginalized. The people that I have approached are enthusiastic about participating in a project that will change people’s lives.”