Michelle Bayefsky, senior at Ramaz, wrote this article for The Jewish Week about reconciling societal sexual expectations and teenagers’ real sexual experiences with religious teachings and Jewish law. Bayefsky provides a comprehensive take on how Jewish day schools teach “the birds and the bees” to students from varying religious backgrounds and sexual experiences/desires. As the mainstream culture becomes more and more progressive concerning sexual education, much of Judaism, an ancient religion, remains static.
Michelle shows her understanding of the seeming contradiction, “Jewish schools must find a balance between teaching sexual education courses that inform students of halachic laws while teaching the necessary substance in case a student deviates from those laws.” The purpose of an education, broadly speaking, is to make students aware of all the options available to them and then leave the results to the individuality of the students. It is true that this does get tricky when these options contradict, but the options must still be communicated for the sake of safety nonetheless.
A Jewish education should encourage us to question and to interact yet when this questioning is concerned with sexuality and this interaction is concerned with bodies, we freeze and that very freezing excludes people from joining a religious body (pun intended). Every single school – Jewish or not – has the responsibility to educate its students on their bodies and on how they could have sex safely with whomever they choose. Only this type of education can remove the fear and stigma surrounding the human body that seems to be ingrained in too many minds. Only this type of education can truly give students the options to choose from and all of these options can – if we work hard to incorporate them – work within a Jewish context.