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Drugs, Homelessness, and Hasidim

June 6, 2011 | By

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The Hasidic sect known as Chabad is famous for doing “outreach,” trying to introduce Jewish practice to unaffiliated Jews. But, as the short documentary Aliya shows, the goal of the Aliya House in the Chabad neighborhood of Crown Heights is to do “inreach” to troubled and at-risk youth–within the Hasidic community.

Some of the young men who frequent Aliya are struggling with their faith, or their roles in the Hasidic community. Many are, or have been, drug users. In the film, one Aliya member talks about living on the streets for two years. Aliya offers GED certification and career training, but the movie portrays its weightlifting room and snacks as equally important assets, offering Hasidim a safe, drug-free space to hang out and socialize.

Though many of its members are coming from dark places, Aliya takes a non-judgmental attitude. “All you can do is open them up and make them realize what they already have inside them,” says Rabbi Moish Feiglin, the space’s founder.

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