Rabbi Prefers Rehab, Over Shul
Running a rehab is harder than a synagogue, yet Rabbi Meir Kessler realized that most of the people he knew were in recovery.
By James D. Davis, Sun Sentinel
Meet another member of South Florida's many-sided faith community. This week we're talking with Rabbi Meir Kessler, co-director with wife Fruma of the Jewish Recovery Center, Boca Raton.
Title: Director of Jewish Recovery Center, Boca Raton.
Other job experience: Former rabbinical scholar in Dharamsala, India.
Other community posts: Chaplain at Palm Beach County Jail; chaplain at Caron Renaissance rehabilitation center, Boca Raton.
Education: Rabbinate, Lubavitch Yeshiva organization, Kfar Chabad, Israel.
Personal: Age: 34. Born in Brooklyn.
Family: Married to Fruma, director of Women's Sober Home Delray Beach. Four children.
Q: Did you want to run a recovery center, rather than head a synagogue?
A: I didn't know I was going to do this. I was a shliach [emissary for Chabad Lubavitch] in east Delray Beach and tried to develop a Chabad House. As I was working, I realized that most of the people I worked with were people in recovery. There's a big recovery community in the Boca Raton-Delray Beach area.
Q: Is it harder than synagogue work?
A: Yes. I have to say "No" a lot. I have to do things that are counter-intuitive. Like telling a boy he has to sleep on the street for a night, so he can hit bottom and take responsibility for his actions. Like telling his parents not to enable him. It's easier to do a wedding or a bar mitzvah than to tell someone their loved one is out of control.
Q: How do you cope?
A: The Talmud says that whoever preserves a single soul, scripture ascribes merit to them as though they saved a complete world.
Q: Did you ever want a synagogue?
A: I've tried a pulpit. It's not for me, not for now. I love what I'm doing. I see change, I see growth. It's very real.
Q: Do you have a motto or a favorite scripture verse?
A: There's a Hebrew saying: "What happened, happened. What's going to happen, hasn't happened yet. And what's happening is going by in the blink of an eye. So why worry?"