Op-Ed: The Alcohol Keeps On Flowing

By: Zvi Gluck. Baruch Hashem, I had the zechus of spending a wonderful Succos with my family in the most beautiful place in the world: Yerushalayim. While it was a truly remarkable and uplifting experience in so many ways, it was sadly tarnished by certain behaviors that I witnessed over yom tov.

As I walked with my wife and children to and from meals over Succos, I could not believe the amount of drinking that was going on by the many students, both boys and girls, who are spending a year (or two or three) in Eretz Yisroel. They were being liberally supplied with drinks at meals and kiddeishim, and I cannot even begin to tell you how many of them I heard speaking openly about the amount of alcohol they had enjoyed, identifying the various bottles by brand, year and price. Some of the kids I saw had had so much to drink that they were literally stumbling over their own two feet trying to make their way home.

And that was before we even got to the second days of yom tov.

The drinking that I just described all took place before Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah rolled around. Things were exponentially worse on the last days of yom tov, particularly when it came to those who don’t live in Eretz Yisroel who found themselves facing a 48 hour drinking bonanza. First they got plastered on Shemini Atzeres, joining Israeli shuls and families who were also celebrating Simchas Torah on the same day. Then they enjoyed an encore alcohol binge on the next day, joining foreigners for their Simchas Torah celebrations and, once again, getting completely and totally bombed.

But wait, it gets worse. There was one location where well meaning individuals set up second day minyanim for the chutznikim, but there was no supervision whatsoever. From that site alone there were over 25 students who were so drunk that they were rolling around on the floor. Six more kids from that location ended up hospitalized, two of whom had to have their stomachs pumped because they had alcohol poisoning.

It goes without saying that not every young adult who goes to study in Eretz Yisroel engages in this kind of destructive behavior. I witnessed beautiful yom tov celebrations at both Rabbi Senter and Rabbi Fisher’s yeshivos; there was zero alcohol present, just true simcha that emanated from the hearts of everyone present as they experienced the pure joy of yom tov. I have no doubt that there were many other sober events throughout Eretz Yisroel and I applaud everyone who participated in those as well. But there is no question that there were way too many events where the alcohol flowed freely and multiple friends who spent Succos in different neighborhoods in Eretz Yisroel told me that they had seen exactly the same type of drinking that my family and I witnessed.

I wish I had all the answers to problems like these, but I don’t. Still, I know that what I saw in Yerushalayim is simply not acceptable and we all need to work together to put an end to this situation before more lives are ruined or worse. No matter what country or neighborhood you find yourself in, if you are a responsible adult, be it the head of an institution or simply someone who wants to invite young adults for a meal or for a simcha, I urge you to do the right thing and to refrain from serving alcohol to your minor guests.

It is also important to remember that the burden of responsibility for the excessive drinking by young adults in Eretz Yisreol falls upon many sets of shoulders. The yeshivos and seminaries to whom we entrust our children must not look away from these problems and must take a firm proactive stance on these issues. The well meaning baalei batim who invite our children to their tables need to understand that they have no business allowing students to consume alcohol in their homes. We parents also need to be well aware of the many opportunities for destructive behavior that exist when our sons and daughters are spending a year or more away from home and we need to make sure that they are equipped to face those dangers responsibly, no matter how tempting they may seem or what their peers are doing.

Finally, it is important to remember that children mimic the behaviors that they see around them which means that adults need to drink responsibly. Hoping to further that goal, Amudim has been promoting the concept of having a designated adult shomer in charge of all alcoholic beverages at every simcha, event or kiddush. That person would make sure that all alcohol is kept in a single location, would pour all drinks to anyone of legal drinking age and would refuse alcohol to anyone who has had one too many. We are confident that by introducing measures to eliminate unsupervised access to alcohol we can drastically reduce the number of young adults who find themselves addicted, a situation that can have fatal consequences.

As a frum community, we need to remember that we are not immune from the problems that plague the outside world. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more how alcohol, and yes drugs, are destroying lives all around us, shattering families and inflicting unspeakable damage. The time has come for us to take a strong stance against these problems – not only do we need to demand accountability to those who are entrusted with the care of our children, but we also need to require the same level of stringency from ourselves.

Nothing is more precious than our kids. The time to stand up for them and to protect them from harm is NOW.

Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering from addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 19 years.  For more information go to www.amudim.org.  

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Will all due respect to Mr. Gluck and his wonderful organization, this letter does close to nothing to address the problem. Anyone in possession of a brain at this point can understand that keeping these substances out of reach is an exercise in futility. Ein ‘dovor soif first of all, and even if there was a soif, the underlying problem would still be there. We should stop trying to kill the messenger and finally address the root cause. These “kids” (I presume some of them are probably over 70 as well) are trying to numb their pain and distract themselves from internal trauma. It’s up to the parents and educators to provide emotional warmth, security and stability, so that their children won’t have to seek it elsewhere. Professional creepy video clips are simply not solving the problem.

    • I believe you are making a wrong assumption by saying the reason kids drink is to “numb the pain and distract themselves from internal trauma”. i don’t know were you got that from, but it sound like you read it somewhere and never experienced a drink yourself…
      kids, young adults (and older ones) drink to experience or experiment with the feeling of being high. some don’t know the limits and go too far.. some learn the hard way what too many drinks does… and some learn by using their brain…
      you might be right in some extreme isolated cases that the reason someone will drink at a kiddush is because of emotional issues… but that is very isolated compared to the majority.

      • Leaving out my personal experience in dealing with young adults with a variety of these types of issues, just think about it: If kids drink just “to experiment with the feeling of being high”, we wouldn’t have this rampant addiction problem that R’ Zvi is addressing and portraying in the clip. The top experts in the field agree unanimously: Addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling, you name it) all serve one purpose. To distract the brain from internal issues.

        • Something being addictive is a chemical and biological fact, addiction itself does not serve any purpose other than to feed the addictive need. Why someone initially tried that addictive item is a different story, but can very likely be because of experimenting.

  2. Tzvi. Stop already !! We have been drinking for thousands of years. Its self control that needs to be worked on ! Why dont you give a shiur in chovos halvovos , he has some good pointers on self control. ! And lastely can i take you out for drink ?

  3. Great letter that raises many valid points. However, in the scenarios you brought up (in Eretz Yisroel) pretty much all of the bachurim are of legal drinking age (which in Israel is 18)!!

  4. It’s a gr8 letter and a great point period. Baalei Batim who want to make a matzav at their seudos put out alcohol and that’s where the problem starts. If you out a little but, it may not be fine but its understandable. But then, at some simchos, guys are putting out multiple bottles of Liver 18 & 21, Fiddich 14 & 16, and the bochurim are guzzling. And that’s totally not acceptable.

  5. Alcohol consumption has definitely increased over the last decade.

    The part that’s bothersome is it’s creeping into our Shuls as kiddish clubs. Kids are coming to shul and when they see that they think it’s normal.

    It’s not. It’s bad.

  6. ‘Multiple bottles of liver 18 and 21’

    I would think liver is bad at that age

    As to Tzvi’s letter …
    Despite the attempted “professional” approach, the problem is presented lwrong..

    It’s not an Israel problem

    It’s societal… when the adults here drink to excess and worship the alter of “Chashuve” bottles how do you expect their children to resist?

    Somehow those that have influence on the parents, shuls and yeshivas need to take note of the ever growing problem

  7. L Phi Aniyas Daati this is an issue of the glorification of bigger better richer etc. It’s not that we didn’t drink 20 30 years ago, it’s that we need to out do the next person. Be it the types of alcohol the amount of alcohol the size of the house the table at the citadel the type of car the summer home etc. This culture of needing to outdo the others is what allows for irrational over indulgence in all areas of life. Teenagers today are growing up in a society which promotes this behavior through fundraising events and promotes the people who engage in this type of activity.

    Klal Yisroel has been blessed with a generation who sees unprecedented amounts of wealth but the dangers of misusing this gift is what we are seeing out there.

    I am surprised you didn’t mention the pot epidemic now rampant in our culture which has become Naase Kheter.

    It’s time we all look at what we glorify and who we praise as our kids have been watching and listening.

    This is not to take away from old fashion addiction issues which have always been there.

  8. As one of the “first responders” when crisis strikes, Tzvi Gluck is the one in the trenches dealing with the devestating consequences of addictions and other emotional turmoil. If anyone can speak to this topic, it’s him. As parents, we need to be responsible when drinking (like parents since the beginning of time) and model how to drink appropriately and in moderation.

  9. Tzvi plz dont listen to @Lchaim. It seems hes already had one drink too many. I cant believe the oilam is knocking what Tzvi is saying. Self control ? Teach Chovos HaLvovos ? Childhood trauma ? Obviously the kids who are drinking are having trouble on all fronts and whereas is 1989 they would have maybe one or 2 shots of Chivas Regal and Crown Royal, cheap $20-$30 bottles which were very common 30 yrs ago and are really, not very good, today they’re being offered shots from an abundance of $150 bottles, some of which are delicious. Truthfully, tho, an alcohol monitor is not gonna help much. The only eitzah is, make a takara in shuls, they’re only allowed to buy 3-4 bottles of schnapps and only the ones under $40. And bourbon and vodka under $25. Problem solved.

    • I am so saddened to see grown men drink 8 oz or more of hard whiskey at once on a shabbos morning. It is gross and ridiculous and causes a lot of problems at home. When I make my next kiddush I don’t intend to have alcohol at all. After all the kugel, cake, herring, cholent and soda I think most folks wont even notice.

  10. Like so many issues, alcohol addiction is a human problem. It only becomes a Jewish problem when people are in denial and maintain that it isn’t in our community. Calling out a problem is the first step to obtaining a solution. Therefore awareness is crucial. Only after we are aware can we starting changing.

  11. Being a woman I don’t get the pull of alcohol. I do like to drink some wine and liqueur on shabbos at the meals, but, not all that much and while I’ve tasted hard liquor, I think it plainly tastes awful. Why would anyone get addicted to it is beyond me.

  12. To all the negative commentators, you all have no idea what you are talking about, I have experienced it first hand and work with those that are struggling, Tzvi is 100% right, and all the negative comments just make the issue worse. As for the Scoop, I think you are doing a great Disservice to the community by allowing these comments to be posted.

  13. Theres a famous expression ”No Good deed goes unpunished”.

    Here we have someone who is Moser Nefesh to help Klal Yisroel and tries giving a little constructive criticism, and is harassed and belittled. A little respect!!!!

    Just on a side note…the amount of negative comments just comes to show how real the problem and how afraid people are of actually addressing it and taking away their beloved alchohol.

    Thank you R Tzvi and Tizke Limtzvos!

  14. Well the good news is that if so many people were hospitalized, then they weren’t experienced drinkers and likely that was their first time drinking in such excess.

    People who drink often, aren’t hospitalized and don’t have their stomachs pumped. It’s not like drugs were a bad batch can cause someone to OD. The problem with alcoholism are more about the mood swings it can cause and long term damage than they are about OD’ing

  15. I’m watching a grown man who through his business has contact with heavy drinkers. They taught him how to drink and to be a connoisseur of wines. Now his Shabbos table is laden with wines of all sorts and his children drink away! Being half drunk, he doesn’t notice, or chooses not to! It’s so sad! Al Taamin BeAtzmecha Ad Yom Moscha!
    Abraham you are so right!
    Zvi, I know you and you’re doing a great job! Scharcha Harbay Meod! You should be matzliach in everything you do!

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