Well, sort of. Halachically Yours is a Web site repository for a number of intimacy-related educational resources aimed at the observant Jewish community. You would think that given the number of kids observant Jews tend to produce, that intimacy isn’t an issue, right? Some of you might even know that most observant Jews take pre-wedding Kallah (Bride) and Chattan (Groom) classes in order to brush up on some of the laws and issues they will be dealing with as a married couple.
However, most of that curriculum deals with the laws of family purity, niddah, mikveh etc. These are important matters related to reproduction, but with scant attention given to issues relating to intimacy, a sort of knowledge vacuum exists. Navigating in these waters is complicated by the notion that intimacy is a private matter and that frank and open discussion is immodest – so much so that the people involved may not even know what questions to ask, or how to identify whether or not an otherwise fixable problem exists. Intimacy isn’t just a function of orgasms and sex positions, but also a matter of marital happiness and even physical health and well being.
This is where Halachically Yours has stepped in with a groundbreaking initiative – namely the release of a free Intimacy Curriculum for halachically observant Jews:
Halachically Yours is a free curriculum and set of resources about intimacy designed for the Torah-observant community. The curriculum discusses different types of intimacy and introduces a range of topics including body image, communication skills, getting comfortable with your and your spouse’s body, a worksheet with questions, and a possible activity list… Halachically Yours facilitates a thoughtful, respectful, and halachically-sensitive way for Jews to discuss intimacy. Communities can use Halachically Yours as a stand-alone workshop or an ongoing series, and Jewish couples or individuals can read and review the materials at home in lieu of group programming or unfiltered online searches. We hope that Halachically Yours will educate Jews, further shalom bayit (peace in the home), and provide couples with a tool about how to sanctify a relationship through communication and intimacy.
There is an acknowledgement that Halachic standards may differ from one community to the next. As such, the curriculum can be modified to take into account these differences. People and organizations are encouraged to share this curriculum with their Yoatzot Halacha, educators and
counselors, and implement the curriculum as a workshop within their communities. Halachically Yours even offers free online Skype facilitator training for those community members (educators, rabbis, therapists) who would like to bring the curriculum to their communities.
Sarah Epstein, Halachically Yours’ point person on this project, was educated in Jewish Day Schools where as a senior the girls received a one hour a week class on the laws of Niddah (family purity). At Brandeis, Sarah signed up to be a sexuality educator and went through 200 hours of training, had many one-on-one counseling sessions with her peers about relationships and sex, taught tons of classes around campus, and created and presented a one and a half hour presentation in front of roughly 1000 freshman during freshman orientation. Brandeis being, well, Brandeis, Sarah also got to speak to Orthodox women on campus, which led to the creation of workshops specifically aimed at addressing their particular needs. These workshops continue to this day.
Sarah explained her involvement in this initiative as follows:
I love opening up discussions on taboo topics. My passion is teaching other people to communicate, particularly about sexuality. It’s so fulfilling for me to give somebody the platform to talk about things they don’t normally talk about. Often, people feel like their experiences are unusual or weird because nobody’s told them that everybody has questions, everybody has fears, everybody has desires. Normalizing and making it easier for a person to talk to their significant other is really rewarding… Ultimately, that’s why I became part of Halachically Yours. I want to impact others, promote Shalom Bayit, and make it even just a tiny bit easier for people to talk about intimacy. I love that it’s a really accessible curriculum- you can read it in the privacy of your home or go to a community event. It really allows every person/every couple to approach it in their own way.