I already reported the terrible car accident in a Catskills bungalow colony where a teenager crashed a car, thankfully hurting no one in his path, not even himself. Alcohol was involved.
Last week I heard about a terrible accident early Friday morning, where a teenage passenger's life was put on the line. Sadly, he passed away on Shabbat and the levaya was on Tisha B'Av no less. Alcohol was involved. All parties had been drinking.
Newsweek enraged many Orthodox commentors (see YWN and VIN) when they reported on the former accident and asked if there is a growing alcohol abuse problem. I was also informed by a reader that a 28 year old Queens girls passed away during the 9 days from a drug overdose, and I know of another family whose child overdosed and passed on. Heartbreaking.
Personally, I do not know how large the substance abuse issues are in the Orthodox community. None of us have any scientific means to access the problem. Unless there are studies, we can only listen to those who speak out, compare to our own experiences, and listen to our instincts. No matter how you cut it, the news doesn't look too good. My instinct tells me the problem is larger than we care to admit. I've made it into my 30's not knowing a single classmate from my (public) high school who has died in a drunk driving accident or drug overdose, so I am feeling rather bombarded as the period of the 3 weeks comes to a close.
Yet even as these tragedies come to light, an editorial decrying the Anti-Hareidi bias (the writer is reflecting on a story in which a family left one of their 5 children behind in an airport while flying to Paris, not knowing the child was missing until informed by the flight crew) was published declaring how great the Orthodox community is compared to the "secular." The author writes:
When it comes to secular families, and I truly apologize for the generalization, other things happen to the children, and they happen more frequently. Not all parents know where exactly their kids hang out on a Friday night; not every secular parent can swear that his son isn’t familiar with the neighborhood drug dealer.
I don't know who the neighborhood drug dealer is. But, I'm afraid too many young, Orthodox teenage boys and girls are well aware. Is the number comparable to secular teenagers? Maybe not. But too many children in our own neighborhoods are involved with things they should not be and instead of comparing ourselves to others, it is time to start problem solving because problems tend to get worse, not better.