By Zvi Gluck
Her name was Faygee. She was 20 years old and she had a smile that could light up a room. Faygee was one of my wife Aviva’s students and she was full of life, full of love, and full of hope. She always knew what to say to make everyone around her feel good, how to give them chizuk so that they could carry on even when they faced trials and tribulations.
We lost Faygee Monday night to an accidental heroin overdose. My wife, my children and I are all mourning the loss of this beautiful neshama. Unlike so many other cases you hear about, Faygee had the full support of her family who did all that they could to help her through the difficulties she faced. And yet, we still lost her and we find ourselves in shock, grieving the loss of this promising young woman.
For those of you who are counting, Faygee is the 60th person in the Jewish community to die of a drug overdose since this past Rosh Hashana. I have gotten yelled at many a time for counting these deaths and have been told I am sensationalizing these tragic events, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Keeping track of this terrible, heartbreaking statistic makes it real, forces us to face facts. We are not immune. Every single one of those deaths have happened on our watch and WE are responsible.
I get many phone calls from people who tell me that they want to open up treatment centers or sober houses after hearing about these terrible losses. I always ask if their intention is to do this as a chesed or as a business and the response is always the latter. Have we lost our minds that we are looking to turn a profit from this horrific trend? Have we no compassion? Why are we willing to do everything in our power for those with cancer and couples who struggle with infertility, but when it comes to those who suffer from a drug addiction we see it as a good business opportunity? We are rachmanim bnei rachmanim – so why is it that when it comes to kids on the street or those with addictions, we aren’t opening our hearts and our wallets to help those who are struggling?
I write this as Faygee’s family is preparing for her funeral and I can’t stop thinking about how it wasn’t that long ago that I attended Faigy’s high school graduation. She spoke so sweetly and with such sincerity. The message she delivered was a powerful one and today, I hope to be able to share one more powerful message on behalf of an amazing young woman who left us all too soon.
Let each and every one of us reach out to those who are struggling. Pretend that they are your brother, your sister, your child or your parent and do whatever it takes to get them the help they need. We need to band together as a group to fight this epidemic with every ounce of strength so that no more parents have to plan funerals for their daughters like Faygee’s parents are today. May our renewed efforts to help those in need be a zechus for Faygee’s neshama and for the neshamos of the other 59 we have lost this year and may they be a source of strength for those who are still struggling.
Faygee, I beg you to penetrate the heavens on behalf of those who are suffering. Seek out the others and go together with them to storm the kisei hakavod with tears and with heartfelt tefilos so that we can, once and for all, bring an end to these senseless tragedies.
Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim Community Resources, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 15 years. For more information go to www.amudim.org.