Friday, August 17, 2007

"Secular Temptations Lure Orthodox Youth"

That's the title of today's article in the Times-Record Herald, which discusses the long-growing phenomenon of frum kids in the Catskills drinking, smoking marijuana, and in general doing reckless and dangerous activity.

"Inside the pool hall and spilling out into the street were hundreds of frum (religious) boys and girls hanging out, cavorting, drinking, and snorting drugs," Halpert wrote in a letter that has become the hottest topic on Orthodox Jewish Web sites and blogs.

In a phone interview, Halpert said, "I could clearly see that there was drug paraphernalia changing hands. I've seen a lot of things in my community, but I've never seen anything like this."

Most say the drug use was limited to marijuana.

Boys and girls were making out; girls had taken off long, traditional skirts to reveal shorter ones and most had been drinking alcohol, eyewitnesses said.

"This sort of stuff is unheard of in our society until recently," said Judah Eckstein, founder of the Jewish news Web site Yeshiva World. "It's against Jewish law."

A shoving match broke out between some Jewish elders and bouncers when the elders tried to enter the pool hall's dance club. Monticello police came to the scene around 1:30 a.m., but most of the kids had already been taken away, Halpert said. Police did not charge or arrest anyone. Police Chief Doug Solomon said no evidence of drinking or drug use was found.

I think that one of the most comforting lines in the article is how the "Jewish elders" (gotta love that term, which makes them sound archaic and closed-minded - just see the second comment on the piece) handled the issue:
Jewish community leaders had an emergency meeting with Village of Monticello officials the following week because they were unsure as to how to handle the situation.
This is a far cry from days past when problems were always "handled internally" - this is precisely the type of situation (drugs, heavy underage drinking) that requires the authorities. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

One final note: While the article discusses both the reckless and the religious issues, it seems that they are addressing the two as separate items, even as they address them simultaneously. That's another good and important step, as there is a marked difference between wearing short skirts or kissing a girl and drinking heavily or smoking up. One may be wrong, but the other is dangerous.