Every year before Simchas Torah (and Purim for that matter) I get concerned about the lack of supervision, conversation and prevention around underage drinking in shul. I am glad that over the years many, if not most, shuls have taken serious steps to limit access to alcohol by minors, but more is still needed. There are still those shuls and parents in those shuls who still take a very lackadaisical approach to this issue. This got me thinking about the various Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) that exist for underage drinking and how they might apply to us. As the individual in the above film trailer about underage drinking states, “it takes a community to really pull together and come up with solutions.”
In my search for underage drinking PSA’s, I first stumbled across this episode of ABC’s What Would You Do? and, while it is not a PSA, I found the situation similar to what our kids sometimes have to deal with on Simchas Torah and Purim. There are shuls where a kid could attend and be pressured, not by their peers but, by adults to have a L’Chaim. Personally, when I was 12, I was poured three 12 ounce cups of black label by one such adult in shul on Simchas Torah. Suffice it to say, I don’t drink much these days and certainly not on Simchas Torah as I get nauseating flashbacks almost immediately. So, if you are in shul and an adult is serving minors alcohol, what would you do?
Of course, while any adult who serves alcohol to minor is liable, where are the parents? Assuming they are not ones offering up the shots in the Sukkah for the community kids, what should they do? Well, the first thing is to be a role model. What do you think the message is to the kids when their own parents are the ones getting plastered in between Hakafos? I think this PSA speaks to that rather disturbingly.
But what if you are being a good role model? What else can be done? You want your kids to have an enjoyable time, hang out with their friends and feel they can shul hop safely without you hovering over them. The first thing you can do is talk to your kids about drinking at shul, what you expect of them and how you are there for them. I found this PSA nicely addresses the hesitance we as parents sometimes feel about speaking about these issues and the unspoken appreciation our kids feel when we do speak to them.
Still not sure what to do? This video presents some more detailed strategies for parents.
Of course, you can do nothing and take the risk that your child will have a problem like David in this PSA.
Let’s all do our part to make sure all L’Chaims are for life and not death by not tolerating underage drinking in our shuls. Chag Sameach and may you and your family have a safe and meaningful Simchas Torah!