Thursday, January 27, 2005

Prohibition?

After an embarrassing incident involving underage drinking, the OU has issued a ban on kiddush clubs. Some people are happy about this, mainly, it seems, because they dislike the kiddush clubs at their local shuls. This is not entirely logical. You may have had a bad experience at summer camp, but that doesn't necessarily mean that camp is an evil institution and ought to be banned. I've visited the kiddush club at my parents' shul a number of times. It is not at all exclusive (heck, they let me in), and I have never seen anyone, let alone a child or teenager, get seriously drunk.

In any case, the incident that supposedly provoked the ban did not occur at a kiddush club. It occurred at an apparently unsupervised party hosted by an 18 year old. If those kids had been drinking single-malt scotch with adults in their community rather than cheap beer with their buddies from school, I doubt that anyone would have had to call the police.

American history has taught us that banning alcohol consumption does not prevent alcoholism. What it does prevent is responsible drinking. People are not normally inclined to behave responsibly when what they are doing is considered illicit either way. I don't know whether people are actually making kiddush in cloak rooms, but if they are, there is something very wrong with the atmosphere in our shuls, and it isn't the fault of those buying the liquor.

I think it's telling that this ban has been issued by an organization that responded to a sex abuse scandal by cracking down on mingling between boys and girls at youth group events. Do they really think that by turning any contact with the opposite sex into a crime, they are going to prevent sexual harassment? Or was sexual harassment not really the issue? Along the same lines, one can't help but wonder whether the "crackdown" on kiddush clubs is really a response to underage drinking. Especially when a rabbi argues that the problem begins "once people start bringing in cholent."

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