When she was in the throes of anorexia, Temimah Zucker, 23, had no way of knowing that one day in the near future, not only would she be fully recovered but she’d create Tikvah V’Chizuk, Hebrew for hope and strength, a support group Jews struggling with eating disorders and their loved ones.
“Religious people with eating disorders might feel isolated from the more general population of those with eating disorders because there are so many nuances that pertain to our culture and community,” said Zucker.
It’s difficult to address eating disorders in the Jewish community because of a lack of awareness of the problem, and some degree of denial. “When I mention my work to people in my community, they generally respond with, ‘Oh, I have an eating disorder, I eat too much!’ or ‘Is this an actual issue here?’ These kinds of things can prevent people from feeling comfortable to talk about their struggles, and from seeking out help.”
But Zucker is working to change that. She is a brand new graduate of Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work and she plans to focus her career on helping the eating disorders population. In addition to running the support group, which she hopes to expand into an online platform with information and support to those in recovery, she also serves as a counselor and mentor at a local treatment center and speaks to schools and other groups about eating disorders and body image. She even appeared in Glamour last year, along with a group of other women, to share her story of recovery, which she attributes to the help of her family, boyfriend, therapist — and her faith.
“A great source of strength is my religious beliefs and connection to Judaism,” said Zucker, who is Orthodox. “Believing in a higher power is a big part of that, and knowing that I’m part of a community and that my beliefs and practices reinforce my desire to live a full and fulfilling life.”
Dueling duo: Temimah is an amateur fencer and often duels with her father.