Just ahead of Purim, rabbis, educators and activists from the Crown Heights community met up to address excessive consumption of alcohol and to launch an organized campaign against underage drinking.
By Anash.org reporter
Just ahead of Purim, and after a number of incidents where excessive drinking resulting in danger to life, a group of community leaders from Crown Heights gathered to launch an organized and urgent campaign against excessive and underage drinking.
The event was organized by the local Chevra Kadisha and Misaskim branches, together with the United States Chaplain Corps. Attending were Crown Heights Rov Rabbi Yosef Braun along with educators, shul rabbis and community activists.
They had come together to address the issue of alcohol consumption and to launch PAUD – Parents Against Underage Drinking.
In a conversation with Anash.org, Chaplain Rabbi Mendy Coen, Director of United States Chaplain Corps, shared what had led to the launch of the organization.
“During this past Simchas Torah, I witnessed scenes of literal sakanas nefashos, bochurim who had drunk enough alcohol to kill them r”l. It was only through Hatzalah’s intervention that their lives were saved,” he said.
He also related that on Simchas Torah night two years ago, Hatzalah received a call from the NYPD about a bochur wandering around Park Slope. They rushed to the scene to discover the bochur in an unbecoming state, and unable to remember his name or any personal information besides for a phone number. It was only after he was treated and his parents were called on Yom Tov (due to the situation), that he was able to recall what happened.
He said that he had been “sukkah hopping,” saying l’chaims at sukkahs around Crown Heights, when a friend slipped something into his drink, saying it would make him feel good. That was the last he remembered.
Coen warns that excessive drinking has already ruined people’s lives. He says he knows of 3 frum bochurim from various communities who remain imprisoned after driving under the influence, crashing and taking someone’s life.
The new initiative hopes to educate parents about the dangers of drinking, especially for those under the legal drinking age.
The Crown Heights Beis Din has thrown their support behind the initiative, publishing a letter about excessive alcohol consumption. Harav Braun also attended and addressed the event on Motzei Shabbos, and spoke strongly about the Rebbe’s takana to limit the drinking of mashke.
The Rebbe always focused on the positive, but here he made a g’zeira to stop a negative influence, Harav Braun noticed. He stated that the issue is one of saving lives and the opposite r”l.
Chaplain Coen says that the initiative began with an advertising blitz before Purim. NCFJE’s Project Survival, directed by Rabbi Yaakov Berhman, who was also in attendance by the event, is also holding a campaign to educate community members.
PAUD will continue with their campaign after Purim and throughout the year, working with schools and yeshivos to educate youth. They will also strongly focus on getting parents involved to empower them to help curb the issue.