As part of the National Problem Gambling Awareness Month this March, Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) faculty and students participated in Gambling Awareness Day, bringing this rarely talked about but very important topic to life. On Tuesday, March 15, regular shiurim and classes were set aside to make time to discuss the dangers of problem-gambling. Using halachic sources about gambling and addictions, rebbeim opened up the day’s topic in their shiurim to spirited lessons and conversations that included March Madness, Fantasy Football, lotteries, casinos and card games.
Later, the entire school gathered in Lamport Auditorium to hear Mr. Ike Dweck, founder and executive director of The SAFE Foundation, an outpatient addictions clinic for the Jewish community, located in Brooklyn. After a brief introduction by Director of Guidance Mrs. Tamar Sheffey, who coordinated the day’s events, Mr. Dweck shared his personal story of addiction and recovery and the lessons that he has learned from his experiences. Students listened attentively and asked many very poignant questions during the question and answer period which followed. Rabbi Taubes ended the program by echoing some of Mr. Dweck’s words and bringing some halachic and cultural aspects of gambling. One student commented after the talk, “Mr. Dweck was forced to give up a lot of really great opportunities because of his gambling problem … his talk was eye-opening and taught me a lot.”
Following the assembly, the general studies faculty brought the subject to life in their own disciplines. They discussed scientific articles on the brain function of addiction as well as probability and game theory, and participated in the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” as it applied to splitting money, a form of betting. They also watched videos on how to make healthy choices with regard to gambling, analyzed New York Times articles on fantasy gaming and gambling and held other classroom-based activities.
The Hebrew language department incorporated the day’s topic as well. Some faculty defined “gambling” in Hebrew and used a Hebrew language story on the topic for students to read and discuss. Others read the Hebrew news article about possibly opening a casino in Eilat and showed a powerful PowerPoint created by Morah Haibi. A teacher from the P’tach program shared a personal family story about how gambling played a very big role in his family’s life. The account had students and faculty members hanging on every word. Pins, bracelets and pens from the National Council of Problem Gambling were made available by Mrs. Sheffey in her office for anyone who stopped by. It was a powerful and informative day of learning.