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Teenage Drinking

27 February 2009

Jewish community council of Victoria confronts teenage drinking.

With Purim only a few days away, alarm bells are sounding in the Jewish community about drunkenness and the related improper and unsafe behaviour of many young Jews.

As the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has also recognised, however, such conduct is increasingly becoming a year-round phenomenon.

According to JCCV president John Searle, “While there is a lack of hard data about the extent of this problem, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that alcohol consumption by Jewish youth is now consistent with wider community practices, which are in themselves problematic.

Danny Elbaum, Hatzolah’s Operations Manager, has reported greater numbers of young Jewish women drinking alcohol, Jewish youth generally drinking at a younger age, increased assaults, a link between alcohol and serious medical problems and a common combination of alcohol and drug use.

These concerns are echoed by the principals of Jewish schools who note that alcohol is too often seen as a normal part of social activity.”

Searle continued, “Our community can no longer pretend that underage drinking is not a problem and the JCCV’s Social Justice Committee accordingly formed a working group earlier this year to tackle it head on.

This group is constituted by persons from a range of backgrounds who are experienced in this area and committed to helping young people.

It includes Sergeant Peter Benjamin (Victoria Police), Michelle Bernshaw (Principal, King David School), Danny Elbaum (Operations Manager, Hatzolah), Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant (President, Rabbinical Council of Victoria), Donna Nuttall (Manager Young People, Jewish Care Victoria), Jesse Sharp (former Vice President, AUJS), Rimma Sverdlin (Chair JCCV Social Justice Committee) and Geoffrey Zygier (Executive Director, JCCV).

The group has already suggested a number of strategies and the JCCV has agreed to commit resources to support them. These include funding to underpin a preventative program targeted at 12-18 year olds and provision of information for parents, many of whom seem unaware of the extent and seriousness of the problem.

The JCCV intends sending a strong message that the organised Jewish community recognises this problem and is determined to help.”

Please address any queries to Geoffrey Zygier 03 9272 5579

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