“Like any kid, you just kind of figure it out,” he says.
But his rabbi, who’s affiliated with a large Orthodox synagogue in Toronto and is, in Jacob’s view, relatively liberal in his approach (“he wasn’t embarrassed to say words like ‘penis’ or ‘cunnilingus’”), dispelled the myth that Judaism values sex solely for procreation.
There are the libertine characters in Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen’s novels and in Woody Allen’s films and, more recently, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s show Broad City, whose protagonists pursue sexual encounters and self-abuse with the same abandon they apply to discussing their use of anti-depressants.
The over-sexed and self-obsessed American (read: secular) Jew is a trope that’s long prevailed.
For decades, Jewish artists in North America have been churning out Jewish characters as neurotic as they are lascivious.
“The way it works is you’ll have teachers who are close with their students,” Malka says.For a woman, there’s the corresponding kallah (bride) class, taught by the rabbi’s wife or another teacher.Of course, the so-called Jewish perspective on sex has another, markedly different face.Wearing a sheitel and a long, modest shirt and skirt, she is amiable and petite.As she makes coffee in the kitchen, she confesses how happy she is to once again indulge in the beverage she gave up during her most recent pregnancy – her fifth.With attitudes toward sex in the Jewish consciousness occupying two such extreme poles – one that firmly constrains it and the other that’s pathologically preoccupied with it – one wonders: does Judaism – do Jews – have an unhealthy relationship with sex?ϖ The front lawn of Malka’s house, at the corner of a wide suburban cul-de-sac, is strewn with plastic children’s toys.Nowadays, “people aren’t as comfortable with that.” ϖ Judy Greene is a New York-based sex educator and the director of admissions for Ramah Israel’s teen programs.She’s taught courses on Jewish sexual ethics at Camp Ramah in New England and at various Hillel branches on American college campuses.In a dining room lined with books, Malka (also not her real name) – a certified sex therapist, former kallah instructor and a high school teacher at a religious girls’ school – explains that she and her husband identify as somewhere between modern and “more right-wing Orthodox.” Her clients, however, range from ultra-Orthodox to unaffiliated Jews, as well as non-Jews.What’s fascinating, she reports excitedly, is that regardless of their background, her clients’ sexual issues are basically “the same across the board.” She rattles off a list of the most common issues individuals and couples see her for: woman experiencing physical pain during sex, often a result of a pelvic floor issue; premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction for the man; a lack of desire, pleasure or the ability to orgasm on the part of the woman; and “couples who say they have sex problems, but actually just have a horrible marriage.” Malka’s quick to stress that the Orthodox community can’t be painted with one brush, as each subset approaches sex differently.