WHY DON’T WE GET DRUNK…AND LEYN*
Ah, the kiddush club, that sacred fraternity. You may have witnessed it, unaware that it had a name. In the middle of the Shabbat morning service (typically between the Torah and the rabbi’s sermon/the Haftarah reading) a group of men between the ages of 25 and 40 vanish from the sanctuary and retreat to the social hall/basement to belly up to the bar. As they hover over a cluster of bottles, they utter magic words like “Glenfiddich” and “Glenlivet” and “L’Chayim” and soon everything becomes a shiny, happy Shabbos haze. And then it’s back to shul for an unsteady Amidah (silent standing prayer).
Maybe that’s what all the shuckling** is about—loss of equilibrium.
But now, the reigning body of contemporary Orthodox Judaism wants to ban the boozin':
The problem with the clubs is twofold, O.U. [Orthodox Union] leaders said in a meeting with the Forward. They desecrate Saturday morning prayers and set a bad example for the community's youth. "Kiddush is a way to sanctify the day," said Rabbi Moshe Krupka, the O.U.'s executive director of programming. "You're not sanctifying the Sabbath by walking into the cloak room with a hip flask of single-malt Scotch." The decision to eliminate the Kiddush Clubs was an outgrowth of a meeting of rabbis and educators convened by the O.U. on December 21 to discuss questions of substance abuse, gambling, smoking and promiscuity among Orthodox teens. Two days later, in a conference call of O.U. board members, the move was approved by a 9-1 margin.
Miriam’s for the new shultime Prohibition, and notes that in her experience kiddush club has been for an older generation. Personally, the synagogues I’ve attended (admittedly, mostly Conservative synagogues on the Upper West Side) don’t seem to have an active kiddush club culture. (In Riverdale, it’s another story.)
I've always thought that having a male-only kiddush club was a waste of schnapps. Maybe some enterprising synagogue could reinvent kiddush club as a singles scene mid-service--daven, drink, daven. A Jew's Booze-n-Schmooze. Why not? It works for Purim.
You know those friends you had in college who swore that their test-taking skills improved when they were high? (Oh come on. I wasn't the only one with those friends, was I?) Maybe the same is true for improving your spirituality while praying. Most synagogues I know could use the boost, even if the high is chemical.
One last note: I am definitely for the reinstitution of the term "cloak room."
* Yiddish term for “reading Torah.”
**Yiddish term for the rocking motion made by fervent Jews during prayer.