Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, 90, Senior Substance Abuse Authority – creator of greater than 60 widespread books and founding father of the Gateway Rehabilitation Heart
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, a Hasidic rabbi, psychiatrist, prolific author of more than 60 popular books on Jewish spirituality and drug abuse recovery, and founder and longtime director of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of America’s premier addiction treatment facilities, has died on January 31 in Jerusalem of complications from coronavirus. He was 90 years old.
Twerski was born in Milwaukee in 1930, the son of Rabbi Yaakov Israel and Devorah Twerski. His father was a descendant of the Chernobler Hasidic dynasty. In his autobiographical work Generation after Generation, Twerski wrote of how his father moved to Wisconsin in 1927 and started with a core of Ukrainian-Jewish compatriots, but gradually gained a following among all parts of the community and served countless as advisors to individuals and families.
“When I was a child,” wrote Twerski, “I would not help but overhear many of the goings on in his study. In addition, is ours Shabbos The table was always decorated by many guests, some of whom were traveling rabbis, and I heard father in his Torah Discussions with them or maybe a parable or a Hasidic story. “
“My dad had a big library and I read everything I could get my hands on,” Twerski recalled in an interview with the Pittsburgh Quarterly. “I went to high school in Milwaukee but got two special promotions, graduated at 16, and then went to Yeshiva and trained to be a rabbi like my father. He was a natural therapist and people flocked to him, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
In 1951, Twerski married his first wife, Golda, who died before his death. He was ordained a priest at age 21 and joined his father as an assistant rabbi in his community. In the years after World War II, psychiatry and psychology experienced a meteoric rise. “After being a rabbi for a few years, I noticed that people didn’t flock to me to counsel me like they did to my father. For this they did not go to rabbis; They saw professionals. I decided that if I wanted to be the kind of rabbi my father was, I had to become a professional. So I went broke and went to medical school to become a psychiatrist. “
In 1953 Twerski enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee and graduated from medical school in 1960. He then moved with his family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he founded the Gateway Rehabilitation Center and served as medical director emeritus until his death. He was clinical director of the Department of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh, Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, and founder of the Shaar Hatikvah (“Gateway to Hope”) rehabilitation center for prisoners in Pittsburgh Israel.
After moving to Pittsburgh, the Twerski family settled in the Chabad-Lubavitch Community, with Rabbi Twerski, lessons for beginners and advanced learners. He served as the president of the for decades Chabad Fellowship, and traveled frequently to New York to seek the blessings and counsel of the Rebberabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the righteous reminder of his many professional and community tasks.
Rabbi Twerski, top right, listens as Rabbi Sholom Posner, founder of Yeshiva Schools and Synagogue in Pittsburgh, speaks at a family celebration.
“I remember once passed before the Rebbe and paid a dollar for Dr. Twerski, ”recalls Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, who, together with his wife Blumi Chabad from western Pennsylvania, leads and as rabbi of the Lubavitch Center from Pittsburgh and is a longtime friend of the Twerski family. “The Rebbe looked at me and corrected me, ‘Rabbi Dr. Twerski’, and gave me another dollar – apparently one for the ‘Rabbi’ and another for the ‘Dr.'”
Rosenfeld remembers how Twerski looked at this Lubavitch Center as “his” synagogue and would do everything in its power to support it. In addition to his tenure as president, he referred the many different people he had dealt with in support of the center financially and spread his name far and wide to include the many places he would travel.
“Whenever Rabbi Dr. Twerski went anywhere to give a speech, he let me know so I could contact the local Chabad representative there to see if he could be of any help,” said Rosenfeld. “He was happy to speak everywhere and there are countless beautiful stories of his interactions with so many people he met and helped in Chabad Houses around the world.”
Most of all, he was an advisor and friend to the thousands of alcoholics and addicts with whom he had worked and been friends professionally and personally throughout his life, and called him “Abe” at his own request. No rabbi, no doctor – “Just call me Abe,” he would say.
Yudy Weiner, a psychologist and counselor from Long Island and now Jerusalem, knew Rabbi Twerski for almost 35 years. “He was so instrumental in bringing back thousands of Neshamas (‘souls’) from despair and despair that I was fortunate enough to be ‘one of his many diamonds’. May we all be worthy to continue our most precious work to save a life, one day at a time. “
“I get questions from everywhere and try to answer.”
After many years of working with alcoholics and addicts, Rabbi Twerski decided to adopt some of the principles he had learned from working with them and convey these findings to the public.
His first title was about self-esteem, like yourself and others. “The idea of writing appealed to me, so I wrote another book called Caution: Kindness Can Be Dangerous for Alcoholics. After that I started writing on Jewish subjects. Then something wonderful happened. I’ve always been impressed with the insights of Charles Schulz, the man who created the comic strip “Peanuts”. I used to cut out meaningful strips and put them on the pin board so our residents can see them. Then I stumbled upon a good book idea. I called Mr. Schulz’s publishers and told them about it. Schulz thought it was a good idea, so I wrote the first book with his findings on “peanuts” entitled “When do the good things begin? It was followed by waking up just in time. Next came It’s not a bug, it’s a trait, followed by I Didn’t Ask To Be In This Family. These books were popular in the US, but they sold like wildfire in Japan, where they’re crazy about Charlie Brown and Snoopy. “
“I kept writing. You could call it an addiction. I have an advice column in one of the Jewish newspapers that led to two books entitled Dear Rabbi and Dear Doctor. I’m now working on three other books that will be published one day –numbers 56, 57 and 58, ”he said a few years ago. “And because my email address is pretty well known, I get questions from everywhere and try to answer. I get three or four email messages and three or four phone calls every day about all kinds of problems. I am a freelance consultant. And my days are still pretty long. But I really only do what my father did. “
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski is survived by his wife Gail Bessler-Twerski; as well as children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brothers Rabbi Michel Twerski of Milwaukee and Rabbi Aaron Twerski from Brooklyn, NY
He was buried in Jerusalem a few hours after his death.
As is customary among many, Rabbi Twerski asked not to give eulogies at his funeral, but rather that those gathered sing a now famous melody that he had composed sixty years ago in honor of his brother’s wedding.
“Hoshia et amecha, uvarech et nachalatecha, urem venasem ad haolam.”
“Free your people and bless your inheritance. nurture them and elevate them forever. “(Psalms 28: 9)”