In “Back Off on the Bacchanalia” (April 1), Gary Rosenblatt takes a courageous step in calling attention to the danger of using alcohol as an outreach tool for attracting young people. He also notes that this practice is not restricted to young people, as in the case of “kiddush clubs.” He has identified a very real and serious problem.
In 1980, UJA-Federation of New York launched the first program anywhere specifically for Jews struggling with alcohol and other drug abuse: JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others). In 1992, JACS became a program of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. JACS’ primary goal is to raise awareness within the Jewish community that many thousands of Jews suffer from alcohol and other drug abuse and addiction — not only the users themselves, but also their family, friends, teachers and employers.
There has been much progress on this front, with JACS now sponsoring a large support network of Jews in recovery and reaching thousands of young people each year through prevention programs.
Unfortunately, there have also been many developments in the creation and marketing of alcoholic drinks as well as prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs that outpace our prevention and treatment efforts.
The outreach tactics that Rosenblatt describes reflect a dangerous denial, both of this reality and of the vulnerability of members of the Jewish community to the abuse of this growing range of mind-altering substances.
Although alcohol and an increasing array of psychotropic substances are facts of contemporary life, even people who will never become alcoholics or addicts can experience lifelong psychological and/or physical scarring as the result of an episode of reckless drinking or other drug use. To say that “all college students drink” can be an irresponsible act of denial, in light of the surge in binge drinking and destructive consequences that mar the college years of a growing number of students.
Rosenblatt’s forthright call for a more thoughtful approach to the ways we involve young people with Jewish life is a challenge we need to accept.
Director, Jewish Community Services