Beer, Jewish Kids, and Arkansas

The title of this post sounds like a Carnac punchline.

Legislation allowing underage Jews to drink beer during religious ceremonies has sparked widespread support in the Arkansas Legislature and puzzlement, even laughter, in the Jewish community.

“I can’t think of any religion, off the top of my head, that uses beer sacramentally,” said a chuckling David Gilner, director of libraries at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

“I have never heard of this,” agreed David Kraemer, a professor of Talmud and rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.
Arkansas already allows children to receive wine as part of a “religious ceremony or rite in any established church or religion.”

But House Bill 2151 would expand the exemption to include beer. The state House of Representatives passed the legislation 71-17 on March 19, and the Senate’s State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee recommended passage on Tuesday. It’s now awaiting a vote in the Senate.

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