By Miriam Shaviv
August 4, 2008
Newsweek is running a piece on the supposed rise of alcoholism among American Jews, particularly Jewish ones.
The assertion is unsupported by any real figures - numbers about "Israelis younger than 33" do nothing to shed light on trends in the Orthodox community in the diaspora - but anecdotally, I can believe there probably has been such a rise (no word on whether there is a similar trend in the UK).
In addition, while the article goes some way to explaining why alcohol addiction among Jews has traditionally been low, it never really even attempts to explain why that might be changing now.
Doing a little research on the web, I was fascinated to come across this piece from Time magazine in 1958, about a Yale study asking why there is so little alcoholism in the Jewish community. It includes the following strange theory, which I have never heard before:
...A more convincing theory, [Yale Sociology Professor Charles R.] Snyder believes, is the Jewish emphasis on food, "so that 'compulsive' eating is more likely to be selected as a means of alleviating psychic tensions [than] addictive drinking." He cites one psychological study showing that Jewish mothers' anxiety about their children's eating often causes the Jewish child to remain an infant, "so far as taking food is concerned, much later than other children.
Could the much lamented death of the Jewish mother -- and the diet culture -- be responsible for our descent into alcoholism???