Changing the Way Israelis View Addiction
November 22, 2013
Jewish Times — Nearly 20 years ago, the Mowers — Toby and her husband Morton — got involved with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The couple had a longstanding philanthropic relationship with several Israeli projects and this was simply another.
Then, about 10 years ago, a BGU student who was spending the summer participating in a program at Johns Hopkins University, stayed at the Mowers’ home. She intrigued Toby Mower, who in turn decided to learn more about BGU. On the couple’s next visit to Israel, they did just that.
And that was the beginning of the close relationship that led to the establishment of the Toby Mower Curriculum for the Prevention and Treatment of Addiction, including endowing two presidential development chairs at Ben-Gurion University in 2012.
“We worked with Toby to find something that would be of interest to her and of value to us as well,” says BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi. “She came up with the idea of a course on addiction, which we embraced. We didn’t have anything of that kind.”
And it seems, neither does anywhere else in Israel. The new program is the first-ever Israeli program housed in a nursing school and combining intellectual study with hands-on learning and treatment experience. The interdisciplinary program brings students together from not only the nursing school, but also the schools of social work, psychology and pharmacology.
“It is so comprehensive and multidisciplinary. It is very unique,” says Prof. Carmi.
Toby played a role in putting together the program curriculum and had the opportunity to give the first lecture of the program. She also was the founder of the Jewish Recovery Houses, Baltimore’s response to addiction. In 2010, she received an honorary doctorate degree from BGU in recognition of her lifelong service to promoting treatment for and education about addiction.
Toby remembers when she and Prof. Carmi began discussing the new curriculum. She said to Prof. Carmi, “You were the first female to head a medical school in Israel. You are the first female to be president of a university. How would you like another first?”
After preliminary discussions, plans for the program moved forward. It took nearly four years to develop.
Toby said one important message for people in Israel is that there are addicts all over the world. Israel, like America, has many people who suffer from addiction.
There is a great deal of education needed in the Jewish state, according to Toby Mower. For example, a team of educators at BGU is helping students understand that addiction is a disease and not “a problem,” as they commonly termed it.
Additionally, she hopes the students will understand that one is never “rehabilitated” but is constantly “rehabilitating.”