Rabbi Jacob Schram (Ben Stiller in Keeping the Faith) called Yom Kippur the Super Bowl of the Jewish calendar. It’s probably the most coveted ticket of the year for temple-goers, so it makes sense to say that. To me, Yom Kippur is more like a combination of Lent and New Year’s. If you don’t know, Yom Kippur, which occurred just over a week agond, is the Jewish Day of Atonement, the last chance to make yourself right with God before the books are closed for the year. Yom Kippur also falls eight days after Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s Day on the Hebrew calendar. In addition to repenting for what we’ve done wrong in the past year, Jewish people use Yom Kippur as a time to recommit ourselves to do good deeds in the coming year. Essentially, we’re atoning and making resolutions all at the same time. In thinking about this High Holiday, I realized some of the ways that it’s linked to my thoughts on drugs and drug policy.
I’m an American Jew. I’m descended from Jews who immigrated to the United States from Europe in the early 1900s. Growing up, I attended a Hebrew day school, became a bar mitzvah, celebrated the High Holy Days and Hanukkah, went to a Jewish summer camp, traveled to Israel, kept kosher (at times) and ate a fair share of kugel, gefilte fish, and bagels with lox and shmear. But my Jewish experience has been about more than traditions, holidays, and matzo ball soup. Judaism instilled in me a passionate commitment to social justice which manifested in my role as an advocate for harm reduction.
Catholic social teaching is built upon the conviction that every human person bears the image of God. This conviction has social, cultural, economic, and political implications; it demands that we treat all members of our society as fully human persons. Every human person has the right to be provided with the necessary resources to live with dignity, in unity and equality with all people. Responding then to addictions with treatment enables a person to live fully as a member of God’s family. Incarceration not only inhibits rehabilitation but further damages the individuals and their families.