Jewish teens get sauced at shul

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Teenagers all over the country experiment with alcohol, but kids in Orthodox Midwood are doing it at their local synagogue.

It’s known as “shul-hopping:” boys in their early teens spend their Friday nights going from temple to temple attending Shalom Zocher parties — where men come together to celebrate a newborn boy’s birth — and get drunk on free booze.

But these teens aren’t just sipping wine: some of them have gotten so drunk at these parties that they’ve been rushed to the hospital — prompting a handful of Midwood synagogues to change their party policies when teenagers are involved.

Julius Derdik, a member Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin on Avenue L, said his congregation banned hard alcohol at its Sholom Zocher parties after two children attending separate Friday night parties passed out from too much drinking and were hospitalized. The synagogue has also stepped up its supervision of beer and wine consumption, Derdik said.

Medical professionals in the community agree the shul-hopping trend is a problem — and part of a larger teenage drinking trend that hasn’t been adequately addressed in insular Orthodox communities.

“This has been going on for years, unfortunately, but there’s more of it because there are more kids out there,” said a local emergency medical technician, who requested anonymity. “It’s a taboo topic, that’s always been swept under the rug for some reason.”

The issue has slowly been getting the attention of local bloggers, community leaders and rabbis.

“The most troubling aspect of the phenomenon of alcohol abuse throughout our community, but especially among the youth, is that alcohol consumption is condoned within the context of our religious celebrations and on the premises of our religious institutio­ns,” wrote Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, in a recent article titled “Why I Dread Purim,” a holiday in which alcohol is also freely available, in the Jewish Press. “Alcohol use is sanctioned, and in some cases encouraged and even idealized, by many of the leaders of our community.”

Many are thankful the problem is finally getting addressed — and a few noted that a lot less alcohol was served at local Purim celebrations than in years past. “It takes time for communities to get used to talking about things that are uncomfortable to talk about,” said Ruchama Clapman, a social worker in the community and the founder of Mothers and Fathers Aligned Saving Kids. “But more and more organizations are talking about it. People are ready to hear about it now.”

Yet neighborhood teens are characteristically non-chalant about the trend and the crack-down.

“It’s more of a guy thing,” said Tali, a teenage yeshiva student in Midwood, although she said shul-hopping doesn’t always involve alcohol. “It’s just some kids doing stupid stuff they’re not supposed to.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at
Posted 12:00 am, March 22, 2012
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Reader feedback

Ym from Brooklyn says:
Why are the words "teenager" and "kid" used interchangeably?
March 22, 2012, 9:18 am
Ellen Barshevsky from Bay Ridge says:
Oy! What's a mother to do?
March 22, 2012, 4:51 pm
Ruchama says:
Im not a social worker, im the founder and exec dir of MASK
March 23, 2012, 12:03 am
Ben from Madrid says:
Hey Eli my educated author...Temple and Synagogue are two differeent things! This article is a real revelation teens gettign drunk. I do not believe this has happened before!¿
March 23, 2012, 7:14 am
Paul from Bay Ridge says:
Ummm...two questions: alcohol license? Underage drinking? If a parent allowed kids to drink at their house they could get arrested. Maybe the synagogues/temples should think about that. These laws exist to protect young people, and everybody has to obey them!
March 23, 2012, 10:49 am
gary from brooklyn says:
Our Place is an organization that saved my life. Hundreds and hundreds of jewish kids and teens go there. It has been working on this issue since the 90's. The. Community rarely supports them and they are always having financial difficulties. When I was there in 01 the community was still anti the organization. Its all hypocritical.
March 24, 2012, 1:08 am
Alan from Brooklyn Heights says:
What's a little alchohol to the young adults? After they are b'mitzva'ed, they should be able to have a little drink, no?
June 3, 2012, 8:15 am
Alan Sheketovits from Brooklyn Heights says:
This is the road to doom. I personally started to go down hill after starting to drink, and having easy access to alcohol is the problem. As a victim, I too want to figure out a solution to the alcohol issue. It has cost me the woman I could have married as well as a good job, that I cannot replace.
Dec. 22, 2012, 8:11 am

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