Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Alcohol and Marijuana Stigmas in the Frum Community

I am not scared to admit that I am part of a Kiddush Club. We meet once or twice a month, after shul (as opposed to a majority of KC's that meet during haftorah) and it is a good time to catch up with friends, eat some food, and drink some fine scotch. Additionally, it is a good opportunity for our wives, who are busy with school/work, to get together and schmooze as well. This KC started at UMD and we have kept it going for the guys that have made aliyah to Baltimore. Camaraderie is a key part, and so is the alcohol. I'll say it flat out: Kiddush Club would not be the same, and we would not make it out to be the holy ritual we think it is, were it not for the alcohol.

I have recently received mussar from a couple of people regarding this. These individuals question why we need to drink to have fun, etc. They seriously think because we get together 1 or 2 times a month, we have alcohol problems. I'll be the first to admit that alcoholism is a serious problem, one that does exist in the frum community; however, not all members of Kiddush Clubs are alcoholics. Even though their mussar is clearly out of line, it made me think: why are these people obsessed with giving me mussar?

All of this led to the main focus of this post: explaining the stigma in the frum community surrounding alcohol and marijuana. It needs to be explained why this stigma exists much more so in the frum community than it did, let's say, in my hometown (small, somewhat rural town in MD). In the frum community, all of the kids that smoke marijuana and drink alcohol are bad kids. They are not bad as a result of their drinking; rather, they are the kids that are simultaneously skipping school, rebelling in their frumkeit, etc. It's just a fact; teenagers in the frum community that drink and smoke are the lowlifes; they are the kids that are going nowhere fast. These are the kids that go to the local yeshivas that bribe them to come to shiur with cigarettes (because, as they say, it’s the lesser of the evils).

This is not so in the non-frum, non-Jewish, secular communities. I am not ashamed of the fact that I spent all but 1 of my high school years in a public school, a school with a mere 10-15 Jews. I have said it many times, but if I had to do it all over again, I'm not sure I would change anything. I'm not sure if I had the power I would make myself a FFB that went to a yeshiva high school and spent 4 years learning in Israel. I am quite happy with the education and life experiences that I got in public school, and am quite happy with my level of frumkeit, and the level of frumkeit I wish upon my family one day, IY"H. Therefore, with my knowledge of what goes on in the secular community, I will shed some light for all of you.

Drinking is a problem in secular communities. People that are lowlifes and are going nowhere, are probably also drinking and smoking marijuana. What then, you ask, is the different between secular and frum communities? The difference is that in secular communities, just because you drink and smoke marijuana, it isn't a GIVEN that you are a lowlife; it isn't a given that you aren't going to go anywhere with your life (which, I posit, IS the case in the frum communities - at least that is the path that he/she is leading themselves on). It's no secret, and I am not ashamed of the fact that throughout high school, I drank alcohol (sometimes excessively) on the weekends. I am not ashamed of the fact that *(edited on the advice of legal counsel)*. Why am I not ashamed? I am not ashamed because my friends and I, that lived this routine for most of our 11th and 12th grade years, were GOOD KIDS. I was by far the dumbest of my friends, and I graduated high school with a 3.6 (unweighted) GPA and over 1200 on my SAT's. Most of my friends were valedictorians/salutatorians. The fact is that while we drank on the weekends, we took care of business. We made sure to get good grades; we were always respectful to our parents; we participated in school athletics. We were good kids.

The stigma in the frum world is that drinking turns individuals into bad people. This is why I receive mussar from people for my membership to a Kiddush Club - they assume that because I enjoy drinking alcohol, I must also be a bad person. If they were to understand that this is just a phenomenon in the frum community, they would understand that it is not the alcohol that turns teens into bad people, but other factors.

It is for this reason that I will not forbid my children from drinking alcohol. My parents raised me in a way that made me understand the consequences for my actions. It is because of this upbringing they trusted me around alcohol. Whenever I had friends over, they made sure (and still do when I go home and have friends over) that nobody was driving home after drinking, that everyone was in control. I believe it is the attitude in the frum community that leans toward outlawing or banning problematic things that causes kids to go off the derech. If a kid's parents tell him never to drink, and refuse to admit that sometimes this is just what kids do, they will have no guidance if they do actually experiment with alcohol. I plan on raising my children to know the difference between right and wrong; to know to take responsibility for their actions; to understand that there are consequences for actions. It is with this upbringing that Gd willing they will understand how to drink responsibly.


Blogger Jewboy said...

Long live Kiddush Club!

9:13 AM, January 19, 2006

Blogger Zazy said...

Another thing. Some of the kids that do drink in the frum community do well but jsut dont act stupid about it (i.e. they know how to "cover up", they usually dont get outt of hand, they do in the proper enviorments). Most of the COmmunity only sees the "at risk" kids becasue they are more blatant about it.

3:32 PM, January 19, 2006

Anonymous peglaz said...

Didn't get much past the first paragraph. Let's just be honest: kiddush club is not for the wives, so don't use that for an excuse. Remeber those days not too long ago when girls weren't allowed?? That being said, I'm sure the rest of the blog was interesting and informative.

10:57 PM, January 19, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Ahh that's my wife. So sweet and gentle. OK I'm busted. But as Jewboy said...hail Kiddush Club! YUMMM can't even wait for that Glenlivet 18 this shabbos. Nothing like scotch on pallate at 11:30 AM.

10:58 PM, January 19, 2006

Blogger Jewboy said...

What, you two can't have a conversation at home? Why do you have you use the blog for this?

11:03 PM, January 19, 2006

Anonymous Fetuslaz said...

All this blogging is preventing me from being created.

11:13 PM, January 19, 2006

Anonymous peninah said...

Alan- go burn some DVD's. Oh, Thanks. You rock! 2 down, 8 to go...

11:24 PM, January 19, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Peninah...the cost for watching the movies is letting me know what you thought of them. Oh, and don't scratch them or I'll charge you 3X what I paid for them (JK)...oh crap, 3 x 0 = 0. That's why I'd be a bad business man.

11:33 PM, January 19, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you need to justify this Kiddush club of yours? I have to give you credit for taking it out of the shul and doing it in your own home, but your kiddush club at UMD was not the holy experience you make it out to be. It's not something that we should be condoning nor trying to justify.

Your actions at UMD had no kedusha involved, only alcohol.

1:10 AM, January 20, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Ahh. Anon, if you only had the guts to reveal yourself, then it would be quite obvious to everyone that, while you are so quick to speak about the UMD KC, you, in fact, have never been to a UMD KC. Let me just tell you a bit about the UMD KC (as the Pickwick KC has changed a bit). Not anyone can be in the KC; there is a process of trying out, etc. We basically are looking for normal guys that enjoy a bit of scotch, but that are Torah serious. We, as the UMD KC were/are not the slum of the Hillel house. I should mention that the president of the orthodoxy community, and both gabboim are members. So, clearly, this KC stands for more than just alcohol. We have had very worthy candidates try out that assumed that all they had to do was put on their good drinking face and they would be in KC. On more than one occassion, we have denied entry based on this. Additionally, giving Divrei Torah is not a plus, it is mandatory. Finally, if something were have happened the night before and one overslept on Shabbos, or one was too intoxicated the night before and overslept on Shabbos morning, that person has to sit out Kiddush Club. There are rules in place that if an individual doesn't make it to shul by the Rabbi's shiur, no KC. Your narrow minded view that the UMD KC was only about alcohol was the reason that individuals like yourself would never/have never been granted admission into the holy society that is the UMD KC. L'Chaim!

4:42 AM, January 20, 2006

Anonymous Greg said...

So far I have consumed Achorman (I give 2.5 out of 5 stars) and Day after Tom (2.5 as well). I started Passion of the Christ, which is much better.

But regarding the topic at hand, I think you are mostly correct. Due to a general non-exposure to the affects of drugs and alcohol and the actual lifestyle of an addict, most frum Jews can not distinguish between acceptable levels of consumption and abuse. So things that are really harmless are viewed as evil because they are misunderstood.

Our educational system as well puts to much focus on a single path to success, namely learning. Anything that deviates from that single path is viewed as evil, and so not being interested in a watered down version of Chumash or obscure legal nitpickings at the tender age of 14 is viewed culturally as no different than hanging out behind the Pizza Shop and smoking a jay. If we'd develop a curriculum and a society that offered one the ability to take pride in any number of pursuits, including just getting a good job, watching a little tv, and paying your tuition, we'd have less kids flipping to abusive behaviour when they are really just looking to draw attention to themselves.

The issues with both of these substances is that at some point they take away from a person succeedingin life. For many this point is never reached, and depending on how libertarian or fascist you are, you're feelings on how these substances should be treated fall accordingly. I know plenty of very successful people that smoke weed regularly. As a constrast, I am currently unemployed.

Also, you got totally burned by peglaz.

And now we return to a codine-induced showing of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ.

7:46 AM, January 20, 2006

Blogger Jewboy said...

I can only echo Alanlaz. You clearly don't know what kiddush club is all about. In addition, you seem not to have read his original post very carefully, because he was addressing those who think like you.

Fetuslaz: Keep trying. Dani could use a cousin.

8:55 AM, January 20, 2006

Anonymous Zev says youre full of it said...

This is such BS. I was a co-founder of UMD kiddush club and know that its just an excuse to drink under the guise of religon. Most of the guys who go don't even show up for shul until the end of mussaf or later.

I like drinking too, it makes me stupid, lets my guard down, and is fun. But to say that its holy, religious, or Jewish, is not being honest. Many opinions even say its forbidden for a Jew to EVER be drunk, and I mean EVER, including Purim.

Anyway, enjoy your drinks, have fun, get stupid. Just don't pretend its something holy. Anonymous was right.

10:31 AM, January 22, 2006

Anonymous peglaz said...

I am not a huge fan of kiddush club myself (see previous post), but I will defend it in this instance. Zev, maybe kiddush club used to be an excuse to get drunk, but it has evolved. Yes, alcohol plays a big part, but there would be no kiddush club without the crazy dvar torahs. And it is true that participants must be in shul at a certain time to be included. Take this for what it's worth: a post from someone who, in any other instance, would probably be posting against kiddush club. In my opinion, that's even better than being impartial. I just feel bad that you weren't around to see your kiddush club change into something that isn't just about the drinking.

11:08 AM, January 22, 2006

Blogger Jewboy said...

Peglaz: Kudos to you. I appreciate your support, and I'm sure Alanlaz does too. Let's remember that the dvrei Torah are real ones, simply with a funny twist at the end to tie it into kiddush club. There are a lot worse things one could be doing than having a gathering of guys on Shabbos, all of whom attended shul, to drink a little and share words of Torah.

12:21 PM, January 22, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


Kudos to you for being one of the "godfathers" of the original UMD KC. Without you doings, KC as we know it today may not exist. However, you were the co-founder of the UMD Kiddush Club - what we do today, while it is ultimately an extension of the UMDKC, is entirely different.

Any institution or organization goes through changes over time. At its inception in 1776, America was a country founded with slavery at its core. As the times changed, we realized this was discriminatory and wrong. Therefore, there is no slavery in America today. We cannot expect any group of people to be static in its ways.

So too by Kiddush club. While it may have previously existed only to drink alcohol (under the guise of yiddishkeit), our Kiddush club makes Torah an integral part. It is expected for everyone to say over a vort; something that applies to everyone at the table. Guys that are not serious abou their Yiddishkeit are not welcome in Kiddush club.

I am sorry that this was not an integral part of your KC days, and I am sorry if you are offended that we have changed the ways of Kiddush Club. As a founding father, I want to invite you, whenever you would like to come, to see the fruits of your labor . Then and only then you will come to realize that KC of yesteryear is much inferior to that of today.

8:25 PM, January 22, 2006

Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

There's definitely a distinction between a KC that happens in shul, and a KC that happens after shul in someone's home. I find the former to be totally inappropriate, partially for reasons enumerated in R' Weinreb's criticism of Kiddush Clubs, and partially because I don't like the idea of a special 'club' within the shul's membership. If you want an exclusive club, go play golf and show off your putts to the other boys.
It sounds like your current KC is in a home. Very nice. Unclear how that would work on a campus. Was it in a dorm? Was it at Hillel?

12:21 AM, January 23, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Yes, our KC is done not in shul, but rather on a rotating basis in our apartments. There is certainly no sacrificing any part of the service for this ritual. However, like previously mentioned in the comments, KC was not always like this. Apparently, at its inception, divrei torah were not an integral part of KC. Furthermore, we would leave after Kedusha of mussaf and go out to the side of hillel.

The KC of today has changed. As we have matured as individuals and become more serious (both in Torah and personally...thanks to our wives), KC has changed drastically. DT are now an essential part of our ritual, and we do not skip out on any part of davening. Like I have emphasized, times have changed.

5:03 AM, January 23, 2006

Anonymous Joey Pollack Intercepted said...

Peg and Laz,

I think you guys misunderstood Zev's post....The fat chinned man has also seen the kiddush club (KC?) since it became "holy" yet like myself is still not sold on its noble purpose.

Sure its nice to sit and around and get hammered but let's call a spade a spade and not make comparison's to the abolishment of slavery. I for one love taking fun yet absurd things and attempting to give them the sound of a higher purpose (take Tour de court for example). But I certainly will admit to myself and others the sheer fun and imaturity of the experience.

What I see with you guys is just that. Sure its nice that you have your attending minyan requirement (which is why I'm never even invited) and the drunken dvar torahs, but the ultimate purpose here is that big bottle of scotch.

I got no problems with that but lets not get carried away here with the allusion of it being much more than that. Word around the shomrei football game is that this is known as the "Jihad Kiddush Club."

P.S. Laz, how long into your becoming religious did you adopt the "so too by X..." usage.

10:37 AM, January 25, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


Thanks for the post. I will readily admit that without alcohol there would be no Kiddush club. Shikkur is certainly the ikkur. All I am saying is that previously, KC consisted of the "Shikkur is the Ikkur" concept with a bunch of cool guys. Now, I teitch that KC consists of the "Shikkur is the Ikkur" concept with a bunch of cool, Torah-serious guys. With the addition of being "Torah-serious" has come more divrei torah as well as more rounded (religiously) group.

10:47 AM, January 25, 2006

Blogger Opinions said...

I agree that moderate drinking is no huge evil, marijuana I am less comfortable with. That may be due to my sheltered background, or it may be because I legitimately believe it is inherently bad or that it may be a "gateway drug" leading to use of more serious drugs. I also feel that those who fear, if based upon any merit, are worried that others will go to the extreme. My kiddush club centers around the cholent with alcohol having a supporting actor award at times (might even be called a guest appearance). I do not have the affinity for alcohol but do not begrudge anyone who does. Moderation is the key to everything. The only time I would be adverse to it is in scenarios where a person "needs" the alcohol or regularly drinks to the point of intoxication. Appreciating a fine single malt is not a crime. Appreciating a fine cholent is a mitzvah.

10:35 AM, February 08, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


I would certainly not advise or permit my children to smoke marijuana. My point is that just because someone drinks/smokes occasionally, that doesn't make them a bad person (eg, most of my friends in high school who are all college graduates with good jobs). I would agree that it is a gateway drug, however, I don't think there's anything inherent to marijuana that makes it the gateway drug - I think it's just the most mild and when one uses it it opens their minds to the world of drugs. If all of the marijuana in the world was extinct, there would still be another gateway drug. I believe the "gateway" only opens up for certain type of people. Those that are well-grounded, goal seeking, etc, in my opinion, will not succumb to the opening of the gateway.

10:52 AM, February 08, 2006

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