During these very difficult days, when the Orthodox community is suffering the losses of so many of our Torah luminaries, the Orthodox Union joins Klal Yisrael in mourning the passing of Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski.
The scion of multiple Chassidic dynasties, Rabbi Twerski was a psychiatrist and leading expert on drug addiction, in addition to being a renowned scholar, lecturer and author of more than 60 books on Judaism and self-help topics. In much of his writing, he combines the teachings of Chassidut and musar with concepts from clinical psychology.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rabbi Twerski attended the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago (now located in Skokie, Illinois) and received semichah in 1951. In 1953 he enrolled at Milwaukee’s Marquette University, and subsequently graduated from its medical school in 1960. He completed his psychiatric residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Western Psychiatric Institute, where he developed an interest in treating alcoholism. Rabbi Twerski spent two decades as the clinical director of the Department of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh. In 1972, he founded the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, one of the country’s leading alcohol and drug treatment centers, where he served as medical director emeritus.
A fearless trailblazer, Rabbi Twerski raised awareness about mental health issues in the Orthodox community, shining a light on some deeply troubling problems present in the community, such as alcohol and drug addiction and domestic abuse. In 1996, he authored The Shame Borne in Silence, a book about domestic abuse in the Orthodox community, one of the first books to address the controversial topic. Claiming he’s destined to be a “champion of unpopular causes,” Rabbi Twerski courageously battled ignorance and denial. “Abuse,” he wrote in the pages of Jewish Action, the magazine of the Orthodox Union, “occurs in a community that tolerates it. While the aggressor is the immediate perpetrator, the community cannot shirk its culpability if it allows abuse to occur and continue.”
Over the years, Rabbi Twerski, a riveting speaker, spoke at numerous NCSY regional conventions as well as at OU national conventions. Beginning in 1989, Rabbi Twerski wrote the “Jewish Living” column for Jewish Action, where, for more than two decades, he addressed a range of social issues affecting the Orthodox world including abuse, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, as well as Internet and other addictions. His dozens of articles, written in a down-to-earth, engaging style, drew upon his penetrating psychological insight and wealth of Torah knowledge, appealing to thousands of Jewish Action readers.
Rabbi Twerski helped thousands of people take charge of their lives and recover, guiding them on the path of healing. His passing will be felt deeply by so many.
May the family be comforted with the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim