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NEW YORK - Rabbis at hundreds of Orthodox synagogues in North America devoted their sermons yesterday to preaching against abuse of the informal Shabbat morning drinking circles known as Kiddush Clubs.

The rabbis sounded a warning about alcohol addiction, which they say has spread among the Orthodox public in America as a result of the excessive drinking of spirits such as whiskey and gin at Kiddush Clubs.

The sermons were delivered yesterday as part of a campaign by the Orthodox Union to uproot the phenomenon from synagogues.

As reported in a Forward story that appeared in Haaretz last Wednesday, the Orthodox Union distributed an internal memo to some 1,000 member congregations, declaring the Shabbat of February 5 as the launch date for its crackdown on Kiddush Clubs.

A senior source at the union's New York office told Haaretz Friday that reports indicated tremendous response from rabbis to the campaign against what the memo termed "trampling on the importance and value of prayers and desecration of the synagogues."

Kiddush Clubs, which were first noted a decade ago, have increased in popularity recently, sparking greater concern about growing substance abuse among Orthodox youth.