Reflective Parenting

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz


Purim, and The Search for Yossi II

 “The more often and earlier a child smokes, drinks and
uses marijuana, the likelier that child is to use harder
drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

“It’s all about children. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so.”

“Teens who smoke cigarettes are 12 times likelier to use marijuana and more than 19 times likelier to use cocaine”.

- Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Chairman and President

 I began last week’s column with these 3 quotes from Joseph Califano, who heads The Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse (for more details about their work, research and published articles, please visit – please note that I inadvertently gave the wrong website information in last week’s column YH.).


Last week, I asked several rhetorical questions:

“Where is Yossi Califano?”

“Where is the Jewish leader who will step forward, call a spade a spade and address this issue?”

“Who will break through the denial and apathy and stop this insanity of the exponential growth of smoking and drinking among our dear children?”


I amended the Mission Statement of The Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse to reflect what may be a working draft of a mission statement for our community.


This week, I would like to begin elaborating on some of the bullet points of my proposed mission statement.


Mission Statement of The Jewish Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse

·        Inform Jews of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives.

·        Assess what works in prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.

·        Encourage every individual, ba’al simcha, shul and yeshiva to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction.

·        Provide those on the front lines with the tools they need to succeed.

·        Remove the stigma of abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.


·        Inform Jews of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives.

The first steps necessary to address any issue are honest reflection and brutal candor. Let us ask ourselves some honest questions:





Several weeks ago, I noted in this space that the opinion of the vast majority of kids with whom I spoke was that their parents are ‘clueless’ as to the extent of the magnitude of teen drinking and smoking.


In the spirit of Purim, please allow me to share with you a true story that happened to me several weeks ago. I was approached by a group of teenagers who wanted to discuss these columns and the impact they may have on their lives. They were very respectful, but quite upset. They were concerned that their parents would get ‘bent out of shape’ and ‘crack down’ on them after reading my observations about teen drinking and smoking. They also felt that their parents may not allow them to go to Eretz Yisroel as a result of what I had written.


I asked them to share with me the particular segments of my columns that upset them. One of them asked me, “How can you write that 20-50% of teens are smoking?”

I smiled and asked him if he agreed with my assessment. He told me that he thinks the number is higher than 50%, but he shared with me several reasons why he felt it was a ‘bad idea’ to publicize this information.  


Then, one of his friends, a charming 17-year old delivered an off-the-cuff one-liner that spoke volumes. He told his friend, “What are you so worried about? None of our parents will do anything; each of the parents who read that article will think that their son is from the other 50% [who are not smoking]!!


Your honor, I rest my case.  


·        Assess what works in prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.

I will address this bullet in next week’s column. But for now, I think the real question for us to answer is whether we are prepared to help arrest, convict and lock up those criminals who are pushing drugs to our children.


Recently in my hometown of Monsey, more than 300 people turned out at a Town Hall meeting to voice their opposition to a proposed cell tower that was to be built in their neighborhood.


Well, are we prepared to display the same moxie when a bartender serves unlimited liquor to 17-year-olds at a wedding? More in next week’s column.


Best wishes for a safe and meaningful Purim.


Rabbi Horowitz welcomes your comments and letters on this column. He can be reached at



Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and Menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.

He is a popular lecturer on chinuch and parenting topics in communities across the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape sets. To sign up for Rabbi Horowitz’s weekly parsha email; for more information on Rabbi Horowitz’s published articles, tapes, or to schedule a speaking engagement in your community, please visit