DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
Sex: Heads can’t be buried in sand

OUR Jewish community is becoming more and more polarised. There is no subject on which views are more polarised than on that of sex.

On the one hand, we have Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of Kosher Adultery, Kosher Sex, Kosher Lust and the Kosher Sutra, backing his daughter’s kosher sex shop in Tel Aviv.

On the other hand, there is the charedi community in which sex is a totally forbidden topic until one is engaged to be married.

Rabbi Eli Spitzer, head of London’s Tiferes Shlomo Boys’ School, told BBC Panorama: “If I was to decide tomorrow to teach about sexuality . . . in my school, parents would withdraw their children.

“Charedi parents are very strongly opposed to any sexualisation of their children whatsoever to the extent that they simply wouldn’t mention anything which could lead to a discussion about sex. Simply put, charedi children don’t know how children are made.”

Which is better: far too much information with Boteach, or far too little as with the charedim and, indeed, most of the community who brush the subject totally under the carpet, probably so they can choose, if they wish, to follow the prevailing mores of general society?

Both approaches have their dangers. The Torah is actually pretty open about sex.

I grew up in the 1950s when sex was a totally taboo subject. I gained my sex education from the Torah. We had a linear Chumash which translated every verse into English, line by line, except for those relating to sexual matters, which were left untranslated.

Keen to improve both my Hebrew and sex education, I set about translating all the untranslated bits.

Lack of biological information can be damaging.

The onset of a girl’s first period can be really traumatic if she is not prepared with some biological knowledge of the process of reproduction.

Why wait to teach about Judaism’s wonderful marriage laws till a couple is engaged?

What about the growing number of charedi teenagers who go “off the derech” (off the path) and, in a fit of teenage rebellion against all the restrictions, leave the community and attempt to conform to the permissive mores of general society, leaving behind a Torah treasure of sexual wisdom of which they are still ignorant?

But the charedi community seems to be burying its head in the sand on this issue.

A charedi rabbi I spoke to last week assured me that, separated from the opposite sex, charedi teenagers sexually developed later than the surrounding population.

Really! Do biological changes come later for charedi teenagers? I think not. But, on the whole, they behave differently.

I agree that modern society is far too sexualised and that the charedi societal model has a lot going for it.

Their large family model provides a great demographic boost to world Jewry and to the preservation of Jewish values.

Their accent on every child being a blessing rather than a curse is a powerful counteracting factor to some feminist views that children are a hindrance to career advancement.

If women can cope with juggling the raising of large families and becoming the principal breadwinner while the husband learns Torah all day, then good luck to them.

I personally would prefer to see husbands contributing more financially to their families while giving back to their communities which allowed them to study so much.

The charedi societal model has many advantages, but it has many challenges to address, from kids going “off the derech” to lack of financial viability. Burying one’s head in the sand will not solve anything.

Years ago, the charedi community refused to admit that it had any problems, but unfortunately it has now become aware that mental health and even abuse issues exist and need to be addressed.

Before Ofsted cracks down even further, God forbid, and closes some of their schools, charedim should formulate a really kosher sex education curriculum to teach teenagers the amazing benefits of the Jewish marriage laws before they decide to leave the fold and gain that information in a more unsavoury form.


This was no help to Israel

AMERICAN congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, against whom President Trump made allegedly racist tweets, are no friends of Israel. Omar has been widely criticised for using antisemitic tropes and backing boycotts of Israel.

Tlaib, a fellow member of The Squad as these left-wing congresswomen call themselves, is in favour of a Palestinian one-state solution.

But that does not justify Trump telling them to go back to their own countries. British Jewry’s campaign against antisemitism in the Labour Party has only gained widespread non-Jewish support in the media and across Parliament because our community has been temperate in its language and has not stooped to the racist level of its enemies.

By stirring up race hatred in his base, Trump is not helping Israel one bit. He is only serving to gain sympathy for these pro-Palestinians. Also, any kind of racism can quickly spill over into antisemitism.

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