In 1957, Yeshiva University in Manhattan founded the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. In the 64 years since, they have become one of the premier programs in America, earning accolades from the US News & World Report and Forbes.
This year, Chabad Lifeline began a new partnership with YU, bringing in Shua Naparstek to conduct his internship under our Clinical Director and Family Counsellor, Karen Bresinger.
One of eight siblings from a Jewish family in Marina del Rey, California, Shua was raised in a religious environment, attending school in the Los Angeles area.
"In LA, there was a subculture of drug use in my school," Shua recalls. "I saw kids who were intelligent emotionally and otherwise very refined and sensitive using drugs and alcohol to deal with their issues. The system had no context or way of helping them and it bothered me."
At the age of 19, Shua began his graduate studies at the Yeshiva Centre of Melbourne. There, pornography and drug use were both prevalent. An alcohol poisoning incident led to a colleague's hospitalization. "Part of my work involved mentoring younger students and I wasn't provided tools to council or help students affected by addiction," he adds. After receiving a Bachelor's in Talmudic Law and a Rabbinic Degree, Shua met his wife. Together they moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to establish a branch of the Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization that helps youth with special needs and provides support to their families.
As the organization grew, several parents confided their issues with hard drugs. Shua developed a relationship with a local addiction crisis centre and began referring clients to them. For the first time, he witnessed addicts go through the recovery process, and as a Rabbi, he held their hand along the way.
After five years of tremendous organizational and personal growth, Shua moved to Montreal to be closer to his wife's family. He returned to school to develop a career in accounting and accounts receivable. Then COVID arrived.
"Accounting wasn't fulfilling my passion," admits Shua. "I lost my job due to COVID and it's one of the greatest things to happen to me. It gave me the opportunity to go back to school and pursue a Master's in Social Work. I finally decided to study a subject that had always bothered me."
Shua joined the Wurzweiler School of Social Work in Manhattan, studying remotely. Once a collaboration with Chabad Lifeline was set up, Shua was brought in to complete his internship.
"Chabad Lifeline has a reputation in the Montreal community as first responders for mental health, addiction, outreach, and education," Shua says. "Lifeline is passionate about helping people regardless of their financial status, age, or race and without any hesitation. It is inspiring to me to see lives that are being changed every day, and to witness the dedication and commitment of the staff and the reciprocal love and appreciation from the clients."
After training interns for McGill University over the last 10 years, we are proud to have grown internationally, meeting the standards of excellence and professionalism for a Master's Program demanded by the Wurzweiler School of Social Work.