January 28, 2005

by Andrew Silow-Carroll
Don't drink and daven

This just in from the O.U. (of course, for the definitive scholarly view on Kiddish clubs, see my article).


In response to an urgent request from rabbis and educators, the Orthodox Union has designated Saturday, February 5 for OU synagogues across the United States and Canada to call for the elimination of so-called “Kiddush Clubs” during their Sabbath services. To participate in the Kiddush Club, a group of congregants leaves the service to make Kiddush -- often on hard liquor -- during the haftarah reading.

Read more:

The request was made in late December at a meeting of 65 pulpit rabbis and yeshiva principals convened by the OU in New York to deal with a variety of abuses that have been on the increase in the Orthodox teenage community and which have resulted in a number of unfortunate incidents. The representation at that meeting spanned the spectrum of the Orthodox community. Plans are underway to hold similar meetings across North America.

“It became clear at the meeting that the rabbis considered elimination of the Kiddush Clubs to be an important step – one of many – which will be required to create the desired change in our communal mindset,” declared Rabbi Moshe D. Krupka, OU Executive Director of Programming, who is coordinating the OU response.

Two days after the meeting, the OU Board of Directors convened in Los Angeles and overwhelmingly approved a statement calling for an end to Kiddush Clubs.

“The Kiddush is a religious act to sanctify the day,” explained Rabbi Krupka. “Kiddush clubs have the opposite effect and are simply unjustifiable,” he said. “The action of the OU Board reflects how inappropriate these clubs are during the davening. Moreover, we are concerned over the general glorification of hard liquor during Kiddush.”

The Kiddush Club challenges the sanctity of the synagogue in multiple ways. The OU points out that the synagogue serves as a mikdash me’at (literally a miniature Holy Temple) – a place for prayer and kedusha (sanctity). “Any behavior that detracts from the kedushat beit haknesset (the holiness of the House of Prayer) is insulting to the entire congregation,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. Moreover, missing the haftarah reading leaves a void in the service for Kiddush Club participants. “The haftarah,” explained OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, “is the one opportunity during the Sabbath prayers to encounter the message of the Prophets.”

Besides denigrating the Sabbath prayer service, “these clubs also have a harmful influence on young people because of the clubs’ idealization of alcohol,” Rabbi Weinreb emphasized. “This is particularly disturbing because it is emblematic of the larger dangers of alcohol consumption and substance abuse in our community.”

Nevertheless, Rabbi Weinreb cautioned, it is important to consider the issue of Kiddush Clubs in the appropriate context, in recognition that OU synagogues overwhelmingly are houses devoted to prayer and study, with deep religious feeling; that the number of prayer services (minyanim) within each synagogue are growing, so that on a given Sabbath there may be multiple services taking place simultaneously; that advanced study takes place daily; and that programs for children, teens and adults are held with large attendance. “Kiddush clubs are in a minority of Orthodox synagogues and the people who attend them are a minority within that minority,” Rabbi Weinreb said adding, “Kiddush clubs are an aberration from the atmosphere of kedushah so prominent in our synagogues.”

Consequently, the OU has asked rabbis in all of its synagogues, even where the Kiddush Clubs do not exist, to call for their elimination from Orthodox shuls in their sermons on the Sabbath of February 5. “This will be part of a campaign through the entire OU network in North America to raise consciousness against the improper use of alcohol, to empower synagogue leadership to deal with these issues, and thereby to pave the way for a whole series of responses to the abuse problem through the OU task forces that are currently being developed,” declared Mr. Savitsky, the OU President. The OU is developing “Safe Homes, Safe Shuls, Safe Schools” task forces to deal with the entire range of abuses discussed at the meeting with rabbis and educators. The OU will make available educational materials, workshops, scholars-in-residence and other creative programming to assist its synagogues in their efforts.

In his call to action, Rabbi Weinreb states: “Since the influences of the world around us inevitably invade our dalet amot (environment) – we as a community can sweep this behavior under the rug or we can isolate it and respond to it. We have chosen to respond.”


I am not a big fan of Kiddush clubs, but it is a fantasy to think that kiddush clubs are even a secondary cause of substance abuse among young people in the Jewish Community.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch at January 28, 2005 4:11 PM

I have never been to a kiddush club, I don't drink, think they are not appropriate-BUT is that the issue to make a gimmicky shabbos out of. Savitsky and Weinreb are both capable of much better. They are both good men.

Posted by: mykroft at January 30, 2005 9:19 PM

Rabbi Weinreb need not blame the "influences of the world around us" for the Kiddish Club situation.
Better to look within.

Posted by: Dena Silver at February 2, 2005 10:13 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

type the word "captcha" (you would rather decode a crazy picture?)