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Does your shul ban alcohol?

This is one of the most vague, strange questions I have ever received from a reader – it was strange enough for me to write a post about it.


I was wondering if you and your readership could help me with this. First of all, if you print this, please don’t disclose my name! I was wondering if you or people who read your blog could supply names of Orthdox shuls in New Jersey that are do not ban alcohol but are not Lubavitch.
Thanks in advance.

Now when I read that the first time all I could think of was that this guy wants to move somewhere in New Jersey and to narrow down his options based on such a silly item, at least in my mind it seems silly, but I guess you could judge the entire community based on whether they do allow alcohol in shul right?

It also seemed pretty vague to me, there are probably hundreds of none-Lubavitch shuls in New Jersey that allow alcohol. Now if he were to narrow it down to type of shul and location it may give him something, but to search out the entire state of NJ seems a bit nuts actually, maybe to search out specific parts of NJ, but of course this leads me to believe that the person sending me this email is either working on some sort of story or clinically insane.

Of course alcohol is a hotly debated thing in shuls, in my shul growing up people brought flasks to shul, the kiddush club was open to anyone who didn’t want to listen to the rabbis speech and at kiddush they had a large booze table that was open to ladies and children, so maybe this man is scared of the trend in shuls to ban alcohol. Then again, many shuls especially OU affiliated one’s have banned the Kiddush Club, but although seen as a ban on individual rights – it is not a ban on alcohol.

What’s the big deal about drinking at shul anyway, isn’t shul about davening and cleaving to the Lord, not about talking politics over a bottle of booze during laining or getting away from your wife at kiddush to drink with the guys? If your shuls banned alcohol just drink at home or at a bar, is it really that big of a deal?

{ 45 comments… add one }
  • Bubba Metzia April 6, 2011, 9:09 AM

    The Conservative shul I went to growing up didn’t allow alcohol. I heard that there was some incident that caused them to put that policy in place. I don’t know the exact details of what happened though.

  • gebroktz April 6, 2011, 9:16 AM

    many shuls in the five towns are dry. most notably the YI, Aish, Beth Shalom, etc.

    the shteibelach types always have alcohol, its the MO shuls that try to pretend like kiddush club isnt part of our mesorah

    • Stanley Katz April 6, 2011, 11:24 AM

      CBS is not dry

    • m23 April 7, 2011, 4:50 PM

      beth shalom is definitely not dry!

  • David April 6, 2011, 9:23 AM

    I don’t approve of the kiddush club, nor do I think that shul should be a “place to drink” but I also don’t agree with shuls having a policy that no alcohol is allowed. It is one this if the shul is the type of shul that simply doesn’t have alcohol because that is the culture of the shul, but I don’t see why I can’t have alcohol if I am sponsoring a kiddush. If I have a major simcha I want to have some schnapps there. The only thing served at my Grandfather’s bar mitzvah was herring, cookies and whisky. Why can’t I have that at my son’s bar mitzvah?
    So to me, it isn’t so much a question of alcohol, it is the extreme nature of these bans I don’t like. “You don’t need liquor at shul” people will say. Well you don’t need kugel either, why not have that at home?
    I can almost assume that a shul that bans stuff is not a shul for me.
    Heshy, even though you are not a drinker, I’m surprised you don’t agree, since you seem to not to be into bans either.

    • Heshy Fried April 6, 2011, 11:25 AM

      I can go both ways, I do enjoy good wine and beer – the two types of alcohol that have never made headway into the Jewish community. You rarely meet Jews who like either and I have never been to a shul that served good wine (tough since most of it is non-mevushal)

      But I don’t think that banning alcohol at shul is a big deal, it’s done for good reason and I agree with the reasons.

  • Tova April 6, 2011, 10:29 AM

    The kiddush club is an important Jewish tradition! The phrase “shikkur iz a goy” doesn’t mean that Jews can’t or shouldn’t drink. It’s an important part of the religion, actually.

    (Full disclosure: I do not drink.)

  • The Real Joe April 6, 2011, 10:44 AM

    Its when I read articles like this one that I dace that I am chassid its simple these shuls are fooling themselves when they ban drinking I don’t think anyone will be able ot proof that Chabad or other drinking shuls have a higher rate of alcohol abuse then the non drinking shuls

    • ipity April 7, 2011, 9:34 AM

      i agree.

  • Yoreh K'chetz April 6, 2011, 11:06 AM

    I daven at an M.O shul on Shabbaos, they have a massive kiddush club. I’m guessing it’s the main attraction, as it’s pretrry much empty for the other services. They now offer scotch after davening every morning as well.

    I’m all for shuls serving booze, I just don’t think it’s appropriate to have the kiddush club during laining,just to have everyone come back for a boring speech. If anything, the speech should be the cue for people to head out to drink, but then the rabbi would probably feel pretty uncomfortable trying to compete with single malt and smoked salmon.

    • Anon April 6, 2011, 11:56 AM

      Where is this shul located?

      • Yoreh K'Chetz April 6, 2011, 12:50 PM


        Shomrim Laboker In Montreal.

        • Anonymous April 8, 2011, 3:54 AM

          its not uncommon for montreal shuls to have big kiddush clubs. I live in cote saint luc and every single shul has a kiddush club. the shul I daven in has three.

          • Yoreh K'chetz April 8, 2011, 5:07 AM


            Yeah, I’ve heard all about the “exclusive” kiddush club at R. Poupko’s shul. They only accept single malt above a certain dollar value. They’ll refuse plain old 12 year Glenfiddich or Glenlivet, stuff has to come out of the lock and key cabinet at the SAQ.

            Shomrim’s is cool, as it’s sponsored by the shul’s richer supporters. Glenfiddich 15 is the standard. The bartender is 94 years young and pours 6-8 ounces shots.

  • JD April 6, 2011, 12:08 PM

    I know of a few shuls that are dry simply because they have members who are dealing with alcoholism. They may not “sell” that reason (they may say it’s because of the kids or because alcohol is not for shul), but for people in the know, it is the reason.
    Seems 100% correct to me that a shul whose membership includes people with this problem would put their health/family/safety needs above other people’s desire to drink.

  • Synapse April 6, 2011, 3:43 PM

    “do not ban alcohol but are not Lubavitch.”

    So he wants alcohol, but not the people most likely to have it? If you have to be that picky, just bring your own bottle to shul.

    • OfftheDwannaB April 6, 2011, 4:05 PM

      I agree Synapse. But I think this goes to the root of the issue here.

      This man wants a nice shul social club. (No judgment involved here, many people do.) He’s used to booze, probably a bit of an alcy, and doesn’t feel comfortable around Chabadniks because he’s not part of them

  • BB April 6, 2011, 4:57 PM

    Five Towns shuls had to go dry because of recent Nassau County laws- can’t serve liquor to minors even in homes or private settings.
    At my NJ shul, minors have gotten drunk, which puts some heavy liability on the shul should a minor say trip and break something in the shul parking lot. The lawyers in my shuls are not comfortable with the alcohol being just out on a table. Who’s going to play bar tender?

    Doesn’t kiddush club = separating yourself from the community?

    • David Delaney April 8, 2011, 11:39 AM

      I’ve been to shuls at which they have the liquor on a liquor cart that someone wheels around and makes sure only adults take.

  • A Nonymous April 7, 2011, 8:31 AM

    To answer the question, I know of no shul in Teaneck or Englewood that bans booze.

  • J April 7, 2011, 9:21 AM

    Actually living in Teaneck the alcohol is the only selling point in a lot of the shuls.

  • sara April 8, 2011, 3:47 AM

    Huh. In California, I’ve never even heard of a shul banning alcohol. Seems unkosher somehow.

  • Tirtza April 11, 2011, 4:44 AM

    I grew up in a very large, very black hat Jewish town in NJ…. you can guess where I’m talking about. Watching all the Tattys drinking at Kiddish club is a vivid, warm memory of mine. Something about watching my very serious father turning red and laughing or discussing both important and funny things together was a comforting part of my Shabbos memories.
    I know my shul now has a “kiddish club” of sorts because my husband can usually never nap during the day… until Shabbos afternoon when the whole house can hear him snoring.

  • MerionMentsch April 11, 2011, 5:24 AM

    In LMS, we have a kiddush club with a small kiddush spread.

    • PA-Bound November 17, 2011, 6:17 AM

      Where does the kiddush club meet? In the kitchen?

  • Doug April 11, 2011, 10:41 AM

    Come visit the Old Broadway Synagogue. It’s an orthodox shul without a rabbi. After Rabbi Kret retired, we never found the right match. We have a small and very diverse group of congregants (that we’d like to see grow), a lovely sit down kiddush (often with a fleishig chulent as well as a parve chulent), and various types of drink, including juice, soda, seltzer, wine, vodka, rye, liqueurs, scotch and bourbon that people donate as they like, creating a lively and heimeshe atmosphere. It is one of the warmest shuls in New York City.

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