R abbi Eckstein called me to his office. “I have a new student for you,” he said. I thought he wanted me to give some extra horseback riding sessions to one of the resident teenagers. Instead, he told me about Leora.

According to her parents, Leora was friendly, clever, a good student, and fairly impulsive. She was also addicted to nosh.

I said, “When you say addicted, you mean—”

“Yes, addicted. Her parents found a drawer stuffed with candy wrappers, and her schoolbag looked like a Purim party. Her jacket pockets are a Paskesz warehouse.”

“But that doesn’t mean—”

“The parents confronted her. She got very emotional, told them she couldn’t help herself. Said she hated herself, she’s a terrible person, a total failure. Every time she tries to stop, she can’t.”

“How old is she?”

“Twelve.”

He certainly had my attention.

“Leora says she collects nosh at every opportunity — from their pantry, or by sneaking away the extras at a party. She uses her allowance for nosh as well.”

“How did the parents take to her confession?” I asked.

“They praised her for being honest, reassured her they’d help her, that she could always talk to them.”

“That’s impressive,” I said, “not all parents would say that. At least not before feeling some shock, showing some disappointment.”

“I’ve known this family personally for many years. Solid, regular frum family, good parents, good neighborhood. The father’s American.”

“Does Leora speak English?” I asked.

“That’s where you come in.”

Ah.

“You see,” he continued, “Leora was very honest with them about her problem. If you think about it, she wanted them to find out. Why else save hundreds of empty wrappers?”

“Good point.”

“But what she didn’t tell them was that she’s also stealing money to buy nosh.”

Phase two, I thought. “From who?”

“Her parents, mostly. Siblings, grandparents. Last week, Leora’s uncle visited from America, and when he left he was several hundred dollars poorer.”

“Gutsy,” I said.

“A repeat offender, obviously. She’d become quite adept at pilfering, and a wallet full of dollar bills was too tempting to pass up.”

“So she was caught.”

“Exactly. They consulted with me on the best kind of treatment for her. And I gave them your number.”

A thousand disclaimers came to mind. But so did the rabbi’s trust in me. He wouldn’t ask me to do this if he didn’t feel I was right for the job.

Still…

“I’ll supervise you,” he said. “We’ll talk about every session, before and after.”

I gulped.

“I specifically want her to do this in English,” he said.

“What if there’s prior trauma?”

“I don’t think there is, but if anything comes up, we’ll bring in a social worker as well.”

He seemed to have covered all the bases.

Was I ready for this? Could I combine what I’d learned at the ranch with everything I’d learned about addiction and recovery?

I was willing to try. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 552)