Tzohar advocates sexual education in religious community
Rabbinical organization hosts 150 women in one of first public forums on issues of intimacy within Religious Zionist community. 'Sessions like these are critical for preserving the holiness and sanctity of our families and children,' says religious institute director.
While the topic is commonly addressed in smaller sessions, the event represented one of the first public forums from this community.
"We know that these issues are typically closed off and kept behind closed doors, but today we’ve decided to openly talk about it and how important these ideals are to our lives," said Tzofia Hirshfeld, communications director at Tzohar and moderator for the evening.
"Sexuality is something that touches every person at some point in their lives and needs to be addressed."
The evening was opened by Rabbanit Rama Ganzel, a family and couples therapist and sex educator, who asked the women in the audience to try and remember the first time they heard about the topic of sexuality, one that is typically not truly addressed until long after our formative years.
"Sexuality impacts positively on our thoughts, emotions and interactions with the world around us," she noted. "Recognizing this and how it can influence every aspect of our overall wellbeing, we need to prioritize sexuality as a basic human right."
Significant attention was paid to questions over how people personally identify their individual relationships with sexuality and how that image is transferred down to the next generation – who you are attracted to, people who feel or identify as the opposite gender in their own body or even those who prefer more stereotypically male hobbies rather than female hobbies.
"If we, as Torah-observant women, aren’t publicly dealing with these issues and educating ourselves and our children, we know that they will only go to other, possibly less appropriate sources, to become informed," said Tami Samet, psychologist and director of Be’er Emunah Institute.
"Sessions like these are actually critical for preserving the holiness and sanctity of our families and children and must be addressed in a safe and open forum."
"Everyday experiences as a parent can help normalize the learning process of our bodies for our children," said Yaffa Zuckerman, an educator who has focused her attention on helping others maintain a healthy body image. "But in order to properly educate our children, we have to be open to educating ourselves."
The panel discussion was followed by a dramatic dance performance and discussion with the dancers from Postal Delivery To God, all of whom come from a religious school background. The spoken and choreographed performance focused on the sexual maturation and internal struggle of girls coming from the often-rigid religious world. The audience’s reaction to the visualization of this struggle that so many young women are dealing with further highlighted the need to address the issue before it's too late.
"Human sexuality is an issue which is a central part of who we are as religious Jews and therefore needs to be addressed in a respectful and informative manner," said Rabbi David Stav, chairman and founder of Tzohar.
"While this needs to be done in a way that protects sanctity and intimacy, as rabbis and educators we need to be sure that it is not being ignored or else we risk losing our children to the influence of potentially destructive forces. But if this topic is spoken about with intelligence and respect, I am wholly confident that it will be to the great benefit of our community and the Jewish community at large."