Simchat Torah Approaching, OU Once Again Warns Against Excessive Drinking, Zero Tolerance for Youth
The Orthodox Union, which has taken the lead in combating teenage drinking in the Orthodox community – with special efforts being made at Purim – and has done likewise with adults, criticizing the concept of the “Kiddush Club,” has now turned its attention to Simchat Torah. The holiday, which marks the end of the annual Torah cycle and the beginning of the next cycle, features dancing with the Torahs and festivities, which often include alcohol.
Simchat Torah falls this year on Thursday night, October 4 and Friday, October 5.
The OU's anti-drinking efforts are part of its comprehensive "Safe Homes, Safe Shuls, Safe Schools" campaign, which seeks to ensure that Jewish youth can find a safe environment in the main locations in which they live their lives -- home, synagogue and school -- as a bulwark against the influences of the society around them.
In a letter to rabbis and presidents of OU synagogues across North America, with the intention that the letter be shared with parents and teachers, OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb and Rabbi Bini Maryles, Director of the Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services, declare:
"The reality is that no one should overindulge in alcohol on Simchat Torah, as it is not conducive to the spirit of the day. Even adults should be careful that their celebrations do not go counter to the appropriate decorum of our synagogues. But when it comes to our youth, we must be extra zealous, for additional matters of safety and law.”
The full text of the letter is as follows:
"As we stand on the cusp of Simchat Torah, we wish to draw your attention to a serious problem in our communities: underage drinking.
The Orthodox Union has addressed this issue over the past several years, particularly as it pertains to Purim. The problem may not be as widespread on Simchat Torah, but neither is it as well-recognized.
The reality is that no one should overindulge in alcohol on Simchat Torah, as it is not conducive to the spirit of the day. Even adults should be careful that their celebrations do not go counter to the appropriate decorum of our synagogues. But when it comes to our youth, we must be extra zealous, for additional matters of safety and law.
Parents should know where their children -- including teens -- are, with whom, and what they're doing. Synagogues should not make alcohol available to minors. Authority figures should not turn a blind eye if they see underage members of their community drinking.
Working together, we can ensure that all of our congregants and family members enjoy a happy and safe Simchat Torah."