Come on…you know you want it. (670 comments can’t be wrong…)
A new initiative at Yeshiva University here aims to tackle an issue that organizers say has received insufficient attention in the Orthodox Jewish community: Judaism and sexuality. Tzelem, which is Hebrew for â€œimage,â€ is a nascent organization founded by two Y.U. alumni, Koby Frances and Jennie Rosenfeld, who say they hope to encourage a greater willingness to discuss questions surrounding intimacy, relationships, dating and sexual identity among the Orthodox…
Teens will receive particular attention from Tzelem, which aims to work with Orthodox high schools to develop curricula and seminars that address sexuality.
They’re talking mostly about programs for teenagers. The article goes on to point out that low self-esteem can lead to usage of drugs and engaging in “promiscuity” (but does not define what kind of behavior constitutes promiscuity–presumably, this category includes all pre-marital physical contact). The idea is not to provide sanctioning of pre-marital
dancing sexual expression and experience, but to reduce discomfort in communication between teenage boys and girls. (Note that this is in diametric opposition to the “NEVER NEVER TRUST A BOY“-type discussions that abound on the internet. Not that we should rampantly start trusting boys. But you know what I mean.)
According to Ari Fridman, an undergraduate senior who serves as editor in chief of The Commentator, the student newspaper of Yeshiva College and Sy Syms, the issue of premarital sex is particularly troubling for modern Orthodox couples. â€œWhile large portions of the Orthodox world now accept dating as a precursor to marriage, new issues related to that process continue to emerge, not least of which is the premarital sexual relationship, commonplace in general society, but unacceptable according to Jewish law,â€ he says.
â€œFor American Orthodox Jews, foregoing a premarital physical relationship proves quite difficult, particularly because the partners have imbibed from the youngest age a cultural view that permits, even encourages, such relationships. The issue plagues many dating couples in the modern Orthodox world,â€ Fridman adds. â€œWhether there is a halachic solution to this dilemma, I am not sure.â€
And that’s how the article ends. But unless teenagers are administered some sort of hormone suppressant that prevents them from thinking about sex (or at least, the opposite sex), that’s not the end of the issue. Programs designed to reduce awkward conversation between the sexes? A new SAT (Social Aptitude Test)? I’m totally for it. In fact, I’d like some of those programs administered to people my age.
But if a previous post with 670 comments has taught us nothing else, it has informed us that pre-marital sex as an issue only grows in urgency as the population of singles leaves their teens and enters their twenties and thirties. Modern Orthodox leaders in Israel recognized this, and made an effort (at least) to talk about it.
Tzelem’s a good first step into an issue that many Orthodox Jews don’t really want to talk about; my hope is that the discussion doesn’t end there.