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Hip Yap Hooray

Hip Yap Hooray

08 August 2011

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s Youth Alcohol Project (YAP) is about to celebrate its second birthday.

To auspice this important occasion, YAP has taken to the schools, the streets, the community and parents with a message of say ‘No’ to inappropriate alcohol consumption and yes to positive role modelling.

The YAP Project Manager Debbie Zauder told the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV) August plenum of an alarming picture of Jewish children as young as 12 and 13 drinking alcohol regularly at local parks and friends for the ‘pres’ before going out for the evening.

Ms Zauder said youth ‘stash’ alcohol for bar/batmitzavahs and parties accessed through older siblings or friends, adults paid outside liquor stores and sadly parents. In fact parents often supply their own and others children with alcohol.”

The foundation of YAP is the educational program focusing on Year 6 students and their parents at the majority of Jewish schools in Melbourne. The program is facilitated by drug and alcohol experts combined with members of the Victoria Police Force. The rationale for addressing the Year 6 level is that it is the pre bar/batmitzvah age, when Jewish youth are frequently and regularly exposed to settings where alcohol is served. The focus of the program involves educating both students and their parents with facts, skills, knowledge and power to combat the underage binge drinking issues that are widespread and appear to be increasing from that age bracket within the Jewish Community.

The JCCV is proud to announce three unique and valuable initiatives assisting the work necessary for change of the current drinking culture in the youth sector of the Jewish Community.

First, the JCCV have produced an Alcohol and Youth Policy that was ratified unanimously at the August Plenum. The main thrust of the Policy is to encourage leaders of the Jewish Community plus community organisations representatives to model the responsible supply and use of alcohol. Zauder states “Youth today are very perceptive. For better or for worse they observe and imitate adult’s behavior, including their actions, values and words. As leaders in the Community you are regularly in the limelight and thus are in the position of power to influence the youth of our community.

Think about the messages that you portray and the way you can influence Jewish youth’s alcohol behavior.” The Policy also calls upon Jewish Parents to be appropriate and responsible role models in relation to alcohol use, for their own children and for all children in the Community. This supports current research which indicates that parents are the greatest influence on their children’s alcohol and drug behaviour patterns and thus can help to discourage harmful levels of alcohol and drug use.

The second initiative is the publication of the JCCV Alcohol and Drug Resource Book for Parents. This book has been developed by Trinity Grammar parents and since its first printing has been widely acclaimed in Australia and overseas. It is a book written by parents for parents. The Resource Book reflects current knowledge and best practice in the alcohol and drug field. Most importantly, the information provided allows and encourages parents to have a conversation with their child about these important issues. Copies of the Resource are made available to parents that attend the Year 6 Educational Sessions. Further copies are available from the JCCV Office.

The third initiative is the extension of the Year 6 Educational sessions with the introduction of Year 7 Drama Workshops. Students are exposed to a variety of techniques through the medium of drama that empower them to feel comfortable to “just say no” to peer pressure, alcohol and risky behaviors.  The Drama Workshop Facilitator Elinor Zetlin of Shine Brightly Speech and Drama states “I like to teach and inspire a child by being creatively stimulating and energetic. The YAP drama workshops explore the issue of alcohol effectively, while students are learning and engaging openly and creatively.” In the workshops, students work in small groups to create a slogan, song and poster with messages of alcohol awareness. Students are then encouraged to perform and display their work back to their classmates with a follow-up discussion on the emerging themes. Feedback from the students and staff alike has been exemplary.

David Southwick Member for Caulfield, recently attended a YAP Year 6 Educational Session at Yavneh College. Impressed with the work accomplished by YAP, Southwick spoke in the Victorian Parliament about the YAP initiative, stating that “…this program is a good model that could be taken up by other schools and other community groups to reduce children’s consumption of alcohol.”

So has YAP made a difference to the current alcohol issues with youth in the Jewish Community?  The latest research from the Australian Drug Foundation describes the requirements of change as “generational”. Issues like smoking, drugs and the road toll have experienced large and expensive campaigns in the general community over many years’ even decades. With YAP celebrating its second birthday, Zauder states “I believe that YAP has planted a seed in the Jewish Community that will sprout and grow in time. I implore everyone in the community including representatives of affiliate’s organisations, parents, teachers, Rabbis, madrichim to assist with spreading the YAP message and provide the nourishment for the seed to grow.”

The JCCV YAP is a collaborative Jewish Community Project, including representatives from Jewish Care, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, The Jewish Psychologists Association, Chevra Hatzolah and the Council of Orthodox Synagogues Victoria.

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