Excessive holiday drinking not in spirit

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Intoxication at festival events detracts from community

By Jacob Schaperow
Editor-in-chief
@jschap1

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A few days in advance of Simchat Torah each year, students affiliated with either the Orthodox or Conservative student groups at this university receive the following communication from Ari Israel, executive director of Maryland Hillel, beginning with:

“1. The Sifrei Torah will not be handled by anyone who appears to be intoxicated.

2. There will be no consumption of alcohol on the Hillel premises, including outdoor areas.  Any alcohol found will be confiscated.”

And so on.

Israel began sending out letters addressing the Maryland Jewish community six or seven years ago in an effort to curtail excessive drinking and make the holiday experience more meaningful and spiritual, he explained in an email.

In addition to warning students not to consume alcohol on Hillel grounds during the holiday, the letter says that by entering Hillel celebrants are agreeing to the possibility of being searched. Furthermore, no water containers may be brought into Hillel on the night of Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah, which fell on Oct. 6 this year, the holiday on which Jews celebrate receiving the Torah, may be the single-largest drinking event on the Jewish calendar, but it is far from the only one.

Other drinking institutions, such as Sukkah Tisch, an annual beerfest in the Hillel sukkah, and kiddush club, a group that consumes spirits behind Hillel after morning prayers each Shabbat, are long-standing traditions in the Orthodox Jewish community at this university.

I get it. The holidays are a rough time, especially if you are skipping classes and having to make up work. Sometimes people use alcohol to forget their problems. Personally, I think playing Settlers of Catan is a perfectly good way to forget my problems, as is not checking my phone for 24 hours.

I understand that drinking can have positive effects. It definitely makes people more fun at parties. To a point. Then it makes them less fun because you have to navigate them out the door and guide them to a safe place where they can sleep it off.

I do not want to experience the feeling of helplessness of watching a person collapse during Saturday morning kiddush, not knowing whether I should get involved or what I can do to help.

As a college student, celebrating Shabbat should be about enjoying meals with friends, maybe going to prayer services and getting outside or playing games in the afternoon, not about getting so drunk before Kabbalat Shabbat that you are still feeling it at mincha the next day.

If you strongly agree or disagree with the opinion that excessive drinking correlated with Jewish holidays should be discouraged, send in a letter to themitzpeh@gmail.com.

Jacob Schaperow is a senior civil engineering – environmental and water resources major. He can be reached at jacob.schaperow@gmail.com.

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