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Sexuality and Judaism: Targum Shlishi Supports JOFA Programs Designed to Improve Communication, Teaching and Understanding

Sexuality and Judaism: Targum Shlishi Supports JOFA Programs Designed to Improve Communication, Teaching and Understanding

(Miami, December 13, 2015) – Targum Shlishi is supporting two innovative programs developed by JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) to disseminate knowledge and foster greater understanding of the intersection between sexuality and Judaism: Chatan and Kallah Teacher Training Workshop and the Joy of Text Podcast.

“One might think that in an age of technology when knowledge is easily accessible, that the Orthodox community would be fairly educated about sexuality. Unfortunately, this is not true. Many enter marriages without adequate knowledge of biology, the mechanics of sex and the range of sexual acts permitted by Jewish law,” notes Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, executive director of JOFA.

These two programs are part of JOFA’s efforts to educate the Orthodox community about issues of Jewish law and sexuality, to improve marriages, and to promote healthy sexual activity in the Orthodox community.

“JOFA is not afraid to step up to the plate with these programs, which in some quarters are unfortunately still viewed as controversial,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “We have long supported JOFA’s pioneering work, and feel that these programs are bringing much-needed information to the Orthodox community—marriages will literally be saved thanks to these important initiatives.”

The Chatan and Kallah Teacher Training Workshop was held in June 2015 at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. For four days, participants, all of whom were trained educators from Modern Orthodox communities, studied primary halakhic sources and discussed the range of interpretations of  hilkhot niddah (laws of menstrual purity). Participants also explored preconceived sexual biases and gained a greater understanding how varied the human sexual response cycle can be. The workshop was taught by professionals with medical, halakhic, and pedagogical expertise.

As JOFA’s Weiss-Greenberg notes, the workshop is necessary because many kallah and chatan teachers are unprepared for this role, having been provided with information and resources that are rudimentary at best, and at times  incorrect. They are often provided with limited, if any, halakhic options to discuss with participants and don’t have the primary text mastery to fully understand what they are teaching. Additionally, many are understandably uncomfortable talking openly and frankly about sex.

Workshop participants were enthusiastic, responding to the experience with positive feedback:

  • “I think this was invaluable. Everyone in that room felt that the information and the experience will almost immediately and powerfully filter out to hundreds, if not thousands of brides/grooms over the next few years. Yasher kochachem!”
  • “Attending the conference gave me so much knowledge, confidence, and resources to bring to my teaching that I would not have been able to get otherwise. The comprehensiveness of the curriculum, the expertise of the instructors, and the passion of the cohort were incredibly special and I’m so grateful to have had this experience. I think the couples and brides who I teach in the future will benefit so much from my having attended the conference.”

This was the third time JOFA has offered this workshop, which was organized in conjunction with Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) and Yeshivat Maharat, a graduate women’s program. Twenty-two participants attended the workshop. For more information, visit the website: http://www.chatankallahteachers.org/

The Joy of Text is a new monthly podcast about Judaism and sexuality. The podcast launched on January 21, 2015 and is co-hosted by Rabbi Dov Linzer and Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus and moderated by Maharat Ramie Smith. The Joy of Text features in-depth conversations by rabbinic and medical experts about subjects rarely discussed from a halakhic perspective anywhere else, even online. Each episode also includes interviews with guest experts and answers to listener questions.

Topics explored on the podcast have included: female masturbation, LGBT Orthodox Jews, “dirty” talk, premarital sex and condoms, talking to kids about going to the mikvah, fantasy, sexual abuse in Orthodox communities, and the halakhic permissability of Kama Sutra cards and vibrators.

The Joy of Text has been the #1 Jewish podcast on iTunes, and based on listener feedback, it is changing the lives and marriages of its audience. Anecdotally, JOFA reports that as a result of the podcast there is an observable shift in the way rabbis and congregants in Modern Orthodox schools, synagogues, and communities engage with questions about sexuality and Jewish law.

The podcast reaches an average of 2,100 unique listeners per episode, with the audience growing with each episode.

The cohosts have extensive background in Judaism and are uniquely qualified to host this podcast. Bat Sheva Marcus, Ph.D., a licensed clinical social worker, is the founder and clinical director of The Center for Female Sexuality, with offices in Westchester County and New York City, and chief operating officer of MAZE Laboratories. She has lectured internationally on women’s issues and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows. Bat Sheva is also the president of JOFA’s Board of Directors and one of the founding members of JOFA.

Rabbi Dov Linzer has been a leading rabbinic voice in the Modern Orthodox community for over twenty years and one of the most influential rabbis in the United States. He is the rabbinic head (Rosh HaYeshiva) and dean of the “open Orthodox” Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in Riverdale, New York and the primary architect of its groundbreaking curriculum of Torah, Halakha, pastoral counseling, and professional training. He teaches extensively, including a Daf Yomi shiur available on YouTube and iTunes. He was most recently the convener of the 2012 Modern Orthodox Siyyum HaShas.

Ramie Smith, the moderator of the Joy of Text, is a graduate of Yeshivat Maharat. She also received a bachelor’s of arts in English communications with an emphasis in women’s studies from Yeshiva University. The podcast’s website is: http://www.tjot.org.

About JOFA
JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) was founded in 1997 following an overwhelming response to the first international conferences, each attended by more than one thousand women and men. Over the past eighteen years JOFA has become a powerful voice of progressive, feminist ideals within Orthodoxy, advancing the status of women in the Orthodox world and in Jewish life. JOFA’s mission is to expand the spiritual, ritual, intellectual and political opportunities for women within the framework of halakha (Jewish law), by advocating meaningful participation and equality for women in family life, synagogues, houses of learning and Jewish communal organizations to the full extent possible within halakha. JOFA is the leading organization advancing social change around gender issues in the Orthodox Jewish community. For more information, visit its website: http://www.jofa.org.

About Targum Shlishi 
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aryeh5.

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