Friday, March 17, 2006

Purim Parties: Absentee Parents and Absentee Rebbes

I have been extremely busy and am not addressing this topic timely in regards to Purim, but I'd rather believe that in true SephardiFamily style that I am addressing the issue really, really early. The issue: drunken Purim parties where parents, Rebbes, and all other should be role models check out for a day and let the chips fall as they may.

This issue has already been addressed by Orthomom here and here, by Beyond BT here and here, by Must Gum Addict here, and by Gil Student here. However, I am hoping that my post will add a new dimension to the discussion that is pragmatic and hopefully agreeable to all on a communal level.

I don't think we need to debate the halacha and chase our tails around in circles (see the reader's and author's discussions here and here for examples of such discussions) to come up with an acceptable solution that takes into account the fact that there are different opinions regarding Purim drinking and takes into account the absolute and undeniable fact that alcoholic parties are potentially dangerous--physically and even spiritually, as is proven over and over again Purim in and Purim out.

By instituting common sense policies and procedures in our communities, we are not forcing anyone to abide by only certain halachic decisors, we are only ensuring that the events taking place in our communities are safe for teenagers and youngsters, do not have the great potential for the chillul Hashem that results from public drunkenness and public parties, and (possible most importantly) allows parents to maintain their authority over their own children. As Beyond BT commenter Menachem Lipkin points out here "[e'lu v e'lu in regards to the halachot of drinking on Purim] is fine for us as adults interacting with each other, but it’s much more complicated when you have a 15 year old son in Yeshiva. And even more so when you firmly hold like the Mishna Brurah, that drinking should be limited a little more than “normal” and many of his friends and role models are getting plastered. It’s a little harder to respect other psakim when they affect you so directly."

In my opinion, parents should be the ones to make the decision of what (if any) their children drink, just like they do on Shabbat. Certain families have a history of alcoholism and may not want to introduce their children to alcohol period, while other families may have no problem allowing a teenage son to enjoy wine with their Purim seudah. And, still other families may (stupidly enough) decide that their sons can drink an entire bottle of Jack or Shmirnoff. That is their perogative, but they shouldn't dictate the policy in my home by serving alcohol to my children and I will be happy to reciprocate.

Here are my ideas to curtail this problem. Please add your own and excuse the choppiness of this post:

1. All organizations that are hosting events where teenagers will be present should either refrain from serving alcohol completely or should institute policies that only allow those of age to drink. Those who are allowed to drink should only drink modestly.

2. Organizations that allow (of age) drinking should have bar tenders and not allow alcohol to flow freely.

3. Any organization that allows (of age) drinking should have sober adults present that can monitor the drinkers. Those drinking should not be allowed to drive home. Keys shouldconfiscatedated when a drink is taken and only returned upon the assurance that it is safe to drive again.

4. Neighbors should not serve alcohol to teenagers by neighbors.

5. Parents should do their homework before allowing their children to attend a Purim party, even if it is at a Yeshiva. They should call to speak to the school in advance and find out what sober individual(s) will be supervising the party? What sober individual(s) will be supervising the party? Who will be allowed to pick a child up from the party in a car (i.e. other parents and siblings who are drinking should not be providing transportation)?

6. Preferably parents should drop in randomly to check on their teenagers who are attending events.

7. Teenagers and young adults should not show up drunk to a party if they are to be admitted.

I'm sure you (my readers) have plenty of common sense ideas based on your experiences. Please chime in with those ideas. Anyone who has seen a young person plastered knows that it is a scary experience and ripe full of potential for chillul Hashem. I believe it is best for drinking to be kept in the confines of one's own home at one's own seudah and not be something on display for the rest of the world and neighbors who are not ready to expose their children (younger and even older) to such behavior.


queeniesmom said...

Prior to any Purim Haggiga in any shul, yeshiva, etc. Priority1,JACS or even Hatzollah should be called in to do a very vivid and graphic multimedia presentation to all involved - students, parents and rabbaim. Maybe after a number of these presentations the message will be heard, processed and understood as to how dangerous this "harmless practice (it's only tat Purom, Jews don't have a drinking problem)" really is!

Two of the most gripping presentations at the HS where I teach are by people who were involved in alchol related accidents (not all involve driving, some are from alchol poisoning, which caused other problems) and when Mothers against Drunk driving display a car that was involved in a drunk driving accident on the school lawn.

The other very sobering idea would be for all to visit the local hospital/rehab center where victems of alchol accidents are sent. Maybe if everyone saw the real physical cost of this stupidity then people would stop.

I live in hope, until then I will continue to harp at my kids about the dangers of alcohol.

Just a random point - how is it that when I was younger we all went to our Menahals house for both Purim and Simchat torah and No one Adult or Student was ever drunk?! Ours was a MO yeshiva/YI type community, so I'm confused as to when this became tolarated and/or permissable?

Orthonomics said...

Hi queensiemom. Your comments brought back memories of the staged drunk driving accidents (the car used was from an actual accident) that took place nearly every year at my (public) high school and other local high schools before prom time.

Thanks for commenting.