As part of its Safe Homes, Safe Schools, Safe Shuls initiative, the Orthodox Union Department of Community Engagement has issued a “Purim Safety Alert: Let’s be Safe on Purim” advisory. “In past years, our community unfortunately has heard of countless stories of teenagers and young adults involved in car accidents on Purim due to drunk driving. It is time for parents and teens to be proactive and make certain that safety is the overriding concern throughout Purim,” the alert declares. “Bodily harm through intoxication is not a mitzvah on Purim, and driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal, leads to impaired judgment, and chas ve’shalom, a possible catastrophe.”
In addition, NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s international youth program, once again this year has emphasized that teens should not consume alcoholic beverages; all NCSY Purim events (as are all NCSY programs) are alcohol free.
The OU Safety Alert includes a report on a study of “Alcohol and Children” conducted by the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, which surveyed some 4,000 sixth-to-eighth graders in the Chicago area. The study, which appears in the journal Preventive Medicine, makes it clear that drinking at such a young age opens the door to a host of alcohol-related problems as students grow older, including the increased use of alcohol. More information is available on www.jointogether.org.
The Safety Alert provides signs and symptoms of teen drinking problems. They include: “Changes in moods or attitudes, unusual temper outbursts, changes in sleeping habits and changes in hobbies or other interests.” Also, parents should look for signs of depression, withdrawal, careless grooming, and hostility. “Ask yourself, is your child doing well in school, getting along with friends, taking part in sports or other activities?”
Going beyond Purim, the Alert provides a “Watch List for Parents,” composed of seven items including quick changes in moods, and negative changes in school work, missing school or declining grades.
In a statement, Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, and Frank Buchweitz, Director of OU Community Services, declared: “We live in a society awash in alcohol. Any football game – right up to the Super Bowl – will have one beer commercial after another. No matter what values are taught in the home, in the yeshiva, and in the shul, our Jewish youth come into contact with other, less desirable, values as well. Just as at Simchat Torah, the OU sends out a message to our teens that Jewish holidays can be celebrated with joy and spirit without indulging in spirits.
“Purim presents a particular problem because driving is permitted. So we emphasize, to the teens and their parents alike, that a freilicha Purim can turn to a tragic Purim in an instant thanks to alcohol. There are plenty of ways to have holiday fun without putting oneself – and others – at risk.”
For further information about the Purim safety alert, contact www.oucommunity.org or 212-613-8300.