JMCBI Text Study on “Addiction, Dependency, and Autonomy”

By Jillian Katz
Or Tzedek Participant

Jillian Katz

On July 17 I attended a Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) text study on “Addiction, Dependency, and Autonomy.” The event was led by Abdul-Malik Ryan from the DePaul University Muslim Life Center and Rabbi Ruven Barkan from Chicagoland Jewish High School who presented, respectively, Muslim and Jewish texts focused primarily on alcohol consumption and gambling.

We began with Rabbi Barkan presenting a section of Talmud on who is not permitted to be a witness. According to the text, one who “plays the dice” (later explained to be one who has no career besides gambling) cannot be a witness. Next, Mr. Ryan read from the Qur’an about the Muslim prohibition from alcohol. Both leaders also told stories from their faiths and presented other texts and materials, including the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step plan to overcoming addiction.

Afterward we held a discussion based off of the religious texts, explanations, stories and other areas. We considered, among other topics, the effect addictive behaviors have on families and communities, Illinois’ controversial casino expansion bill, and one’s ability to prevent themselves from engaging in or cease participating in addictive behaviors.

JMCBI text studies, tied to current social or political issues, are always informative and engaging. The study environment is welcoming and respectful to people of all backgrounds. Perhaps most importantly, the sessions provide a unique opportunity to examine how two seemingly diverse religions actually have similar and complementary principles.

To learn more about JMCBI and to find out about upcoming events, visit

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