7/20/2005

YU's Tzelem Project

YU is launching a sex-ed project for teens and singles.
You can read about it at the following links:
http://spider.mc.yu.edu/news/articles/article.cfm?id=100986
http://www.jta.org/page_print_story.asp?intarticleid=15606&intcategoryid=4

This is a great start. Some (actually, probably very few) of you might remember the 'kol koreh' that I issued about this a few months ago. It's good to see that some young mechanchim who care are practicing in the mirror.

I'm not sure it's enough, though. This really has to start much earlier - we're talking early elementary school, when core values are being internalized. Children don't need to understand these things in an explicit manner, but the values must be communicated on their level (like the overjustified 'muktza' and 'treif', 'not tzniyus' can become a taboo-buzzword to the mind of a 4 year old).

Another few issues:
  • Not to sound obnoxious, but the two project chairs are not married. Given that Jewish sexuality can't be divorced from it's vision of marriage and family, I can't help but wonder if that won't inhibit the efficacy of this curriculum. Perhaps, like Ben Azzai, perhaps we can say 'Sod Hashem le-yerei'av', but the question must be raised.
  • Don't get me wrong. I went to YU. I love YU. But YU students are a bit naive about sexuality. Most Orthodox students aren't going to YU. They're in much more sexualized contexts. YU is not where most of the high-school students that this program reaches will be going. A discussion of "intimacy, relationships, dating and sexual identity among the Orthodox" falls way short of what the average MO student will encounter. LGBT, porn, casual sex, morning-after pills, and sexuality when it comes to non-Orthodox or non-Jewish members of the opposite sex are real challenges. If the goal is to awaken students to their own sexuality, then the project's leaders must be prepared to deal with whatever walks through the door. And it'll all walk through the door. The YU senior interviewed suggested that pre-marital sex is a very troubling topic for many MO singles. Well, it may not be as troubling as we'd like to believe.

In short: Great idea, good start, too little, and too late in life.

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