Read an Excerpt
is the golden chain by which society is bound together.
I gave up my rabbinic pulpit in 1959 to practice psychiatry, the lore, wisdom
and ethical beliefs that imbue my family mythology and formed my growing years
have never left me.
a psychiatrist, I specialize in treating addiction. Twenty-five years ago I
founded The Gateway Rehabilitation System in Pittsburgh. I am often asked
whether any particular treatment modality is employed at Gateway. I always
answer that our strength lies in our belief in the inherent goodness of every
client. This quality is not always easy to recognize in a person who has led a
destructive lifestyle for decades, someone whose use of alcohol or drugs has
caused great suffering for others. But in all my years of treating illnesses of
the heart and soul, this belief has never failed me; each individual's
integrity is always there, lurking right beneath the surface, eager to emerge.
story occurs to me of a man named Avi. I first met him while I was in Tel Aviv
speaking before a group of ex-convicts in recovery who were coming into our
Israeli rehabilitation program, a sister home to Gateway. When I began to speak
of self-esteem, this man interrupted me. "How can you talk to us of this? I've
been a thief since I was eight. When I'm out of prison I can't find work and
my family doesn't want to see me."
stopped him and asked if he'd passed by a jewelry store lately. "Consider the
diamonds in the window," I said. "Try and think what they look like when they
come out of the mine as lumps of dirty stone. It takes a person who understands
the diamond to take the shapeless mound and bring out its intrinsic beauty. That's
what we do here: We look for the diamond in everyone; we help the soul's beauty
come to the surface; we polish it until it gleams." I looked at Avi, all
disheveled and hunched over, nearly hiding in his seat, and said, "You're like
that dirt-covered stone. Our business is to find the diamond within and polish
it until it glows."
years passed. Avi had graduated from the treatment center, and when the
following event took place he had already completed his stay in the halfway
house and was integrated into the community, working in construction. One day
Annette, who manages the halfway house, received a call from a family whose
elderly matriarch had died. They wanted to donate her furniture to the halfway
house. Annette called Avi and asked him to pick up the furniture, which he
willingly agreed to do. When he went to pick it up, he saw that it wasn't worth
saving, but not wanting to insult the family, he hauled it anyway.
Avi was laboring to carry the shabby sofa up the stairs to the halfway house, an
envelope fell from the cushions. After getting the couch inside, Avi retrieved
the envelope, in which he found five thousand shekels (about $1,700). Now Avi,
remember, had served time in prison for burglary. When he was doing drugs he
would have broken into a home for twenty dollars. But now Avi called Annette and
told her about the envelope. Annette said it must be reported to the family.
family was so gratified by Annette's and Avi's honesty that they told her to
keep the money for the halfway house. As a result, the halfway house was able to
buy one more bed and provide room for one more guest, creating another
opportunity for recovery. And Avi wasn't a crook anymore.
relayed this story to me in a letter. He wrote, "When I used drugs, I would get
a high for a very short time. When the high wore off I felt terrible, worse than
before. It's been three months since I found that money and every time I think
of what I did, I feel good all over again. How different a feeling than a
year went by and I returned to the halfway house where Avi's good deed had set
off a chain of events which led to, among other things, an extra bed. There was
a sign hanging above the entry. It read: DIAMONDS POLISHED HERE.
Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
Are All Jews Now
highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, bravery, to which the
wings of human nature have spread themselves have been flown for religious
from high on the rimrock cliffs that run along the northern edge of Billings,
Montana, the city presents an attractive sight, a thriving metropolis nestled
within the great open spaces of the American West. Citizens of Billings say it's
a good, civilized place to live. They pride themselves on the quality of their
schools and their strong family values.
it came as a shock to many when, in November 1995, a series of hate crimes took
place against minority groups in the city.
was responsible for these acts must have thought that their victims would be
easy targets. Billings is predominantly white; Native Americans,
African-Americans and Jews make up only a small percentage of the population.
But there are just enough of them to frighten and harassùor so the haters must
mounted a series of nasty attacks. Graves were overturned in a Jewish cemetery.
Offensive words and a swastika were scrawled on the house of a Native-American
woman. People worshipping at a black church were intimidated. A brick was heaved
through the window of a Jewish child who was displaying a menorah in her window.
the white supremacists, or whoever they were, had reckoned without the
citizens The A When So The Not ùBryan
of Billings, who had an answer for themùand it wasn't what the hate-
were expecting. An alliance quickly emerged, spearheaded by churches, labor
unions, the media and hundreds of local citizens.
results were dramatic. Attendance at the black church rose steadily. People of
many different ethnic backgrounds and faiths began to attend services there.
Their message was clear: "We may all be different, but we are also one.
Threaten any one of us and you threaten us all."
similar spirit propelled volunteers to come together and repaint the house of
Dawn Fast Horse, the Native-American woman. This happened at amazing speed. Dawn
had awoken one morning to see that her house had been defaced. By the evening,
after two hundred people showed up to help, the house had been repainted.
it came to the incident of the brick being thrown through the window of the
Jewish child, an interfaith group quickly had a creative idea. They recalled the
example of the Danes during World War II. When the occupying Nazis proclaimed
that all Jews must wear the yellow Star of David, the King of Denmark appeared
in public wearing one, too. And so did many other Danes.
the people of Billings got organized, and a campaign began. Everyone pitched in,
including the local newspaper, which printed a Hanukkah page, including a
full-color representation of a menorah. Thousands of Billings residents cut out
the paper menorah and displayed it in their windows. By late December, driving
around Billings was a remarkable experience. Nearly ten thousand people were
displaying those paper menorahs in their windows, and the menorahs remained in
place throughout the eight days of Hanukkah. It was a brilliant answer to the
hate-mongers. A town that had few Jews was saying with one collective voice, "We
are all Jews now."
story of what happened in Billings quickly spread, inspiring a national movement
called "Not in Our Town." That Jewish child who had so innocently displayed
her menorah in the window helped set in motion a chain of events that affirmed
all over America the liberating principle of unity in diversity.
for nothing does a menorah have many candles flickering on a single stand.
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski.
Are All Jews Now.
¬1999 Bryan Aubrey.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul
by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Rabbi DovPeretz Elkins. No part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in
any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher.
Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL