Shanda* is an Obstacle

Shanda* means shame. Sometimes it serves as a kind of social protection in a community. It did that for a time, around alcoholism and chemical dependency. There comes a time when what I call the shanda* barrier gets in the way, it becomes secrecy and secrecy becomes part of the problem. That happened with drug and alcohol abuse within our community, so over thirty years ago, we took on the charge of breaking the shanda* barrier, which means talk, talk, and more talk. Take the problem above ground, so to speak.

We started SLICHA, St. Louis Information Committee and Hotline on Addiction, in 1981 to break the shanda* barrier around addiction. Rose Mass, a social worker in private practice and myself, started meeting in open forums in 1981. We broke the shanda* barrier. SLICHA became Shalvah. Shalvah now meets twice a week, Thursday evenings at Neve Shalom @ 7 PM, and Monday evenings at Central Reform Congregation @ 6:30. Sllcha means forgiveness. Shalvah means serenity. All true.

JAMI-StL is Jewish Attention to Mental Illness-Mental Health, something I have been involved with for a long time. My sense is that our community response, Jewish community here in St. Louis, has been inadequate. We are laboring still  under what I call the Shanda* barrier. We broke the shanda* barrier around drug and alcohol abuse beginning in 1981. Now there are two meetings a week here in St. Louis  under the rubric Shalvah, life saving efforts, beautiful and difficult and the real deal, helping individuals enter and sustain recovery. We started by talking about it.

Rose Mass and I began in 1981. We rented a room* from the Jewish Community Center that in those days served as an adult day care center. Rose and I met there once a month in an open forum dedicated to spreading the message of the problems around alcohol and drug abuse in our community. For a year, Rose and I gave our talk to each other. Nobody came. We’re doing the right thing Rose, I said, if a few people trickled in, I might think not but NO ONE is coming. I knew this was right. The shanda* barrier was so high in those days. We stuck with it. It took a year. After about a year, people started to come in droves. They haven’t stopped coming since. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard: this meeting is saving my life, well — I’d have more.

Now we’re trying to do the same thing about mental illness. It feels to me that it’s the right time for talk, talk, more talk. So I started to do open programs about it, giving over teachings.

The next is SUNDAY, JUNE 7, FROM 1 TO 3 PM, AT THE JEWISH FEDERATION KOPOLOW BUILDING. I have prepared some teachings, some talk, and I have invited a panel of individuals to respond who have been there, in one way or another. It’s free and open to anyone. Sometimes people just need to come and listen. Confidentiality, as always, will be carefully respected.

Last year I wrote the following pledge, and I took it:

The Pledge

1) I pledge to bring someone in. If I light a candle, I will share the light.

2) I will be a reminder in every way I can to my family, friends, and community: we have these problems, they are difficult, but there is no shame attached to them and we live in a Big Tent.

3) We can live with our problems.

4) I pledge to break the **shanda** barrier, which means:

5) Talk, talk, and more talk.

6) I pledge to remind my community that we are working our problems, that being secret may be part of the problem, therefore:

7) I will not practice aloneness. I will talk with somebody. I will pick up the phone.

What to do, that’s always the question. Start with talk and more talk, real talk about real problems. We did that with drug addiction starting over thirty years ago, we need to do that with depression and suicide and the other challenges to life that dwell within, the inner world when it goes dark. Take up a candle, light it, give that light to someone else.

Don’t let nobody go dark on our watch.


**shanda means shame. There is none.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Evan,Wonderful homeschooling temnosity! I’ve followed the route of online college, so I don’t seem to stick out in a class the same way that other homeschoolers do, but I can definitely relate to your experience of having people react funny when you tell them 1) that you’re living at home throughout school, and 2) you enjoy spending time with your family and even prefer it to hanging out with other friends.Incidentally, I was initially a bit surprised to read that you were a word person, knowing that you were getting a Computer Science degree I’m somewhat familiar with the realm because my mother has a (20 year old) degree in Math and Computer Science, my brother is working toward a Electrical Engineering degree, and I have a couple friends with Computer Engineering or related degrees, so I know enough to know that word people aren’t usually found in that arena. But then, isn’t that one of the beauties of homeschooling? We are allowed to develop a new liking for a subject we weren’t originally good at! I’ve written about how I did not like math until I hit Algebra in 8th grade, and I also didn’t care too much for writing during elementary, but I eventually took Calculus, and writing is one of my favorite parts of online classes and also one of my hobbies outside school! In school, those initial dislikes would probably have been hardened into prejudices that would have been hard to overcome, but with homeschooling, Mom was able to make each subject interesting, or she at least made sure not to sour me on it completely. It sounds like your experience was similar, and it has put you in the position where you’re a much better rounded person than a lot of people who stick to the one or two things they know they’re good at from the start.I think homeschoolers need to hear more stories like this one. If I had read this as someone who wasn’t sure about homeschooling, whether it was what I wanted to do for my own children, I would have been inspired and encouraged. As it is, I don’t think there are very many reasons compelling enough for me NOT to homeschool when I someday have children, but your story was still a great encouragement to me.Blessings from a sister in Christ,~Homeschoolgraduate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *