PITTSBURGH (Jun. 24)
Rabbinical delegates to the 91st annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the association of Reform rabbis, examined yesterday such problems as how to judge whether a woman convergent coming to discuss marital problems wants help or a flirtation, and the limits of a rabbi’s responsibility when he wants to help a couple who have a sexual problem.
Discussion on these and related issues took place during a special session of the convention at which Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Adjunct Associate Professor at New York Hospital Cornell University Human Sexuality Program, cited factors which obligate the rabbi to develop competence in dealing with sexual problems among his congregates.
She pointed out that, with the extended family a thing of the past, people confide increasingly in their spiritual leaders, and that the divorce rate among Jewish families is a major concern. She also declared that the sexual function is a significant factor in the stability or instability of the marital relationship.
She told the Reform rabbis that “to be effective in helping congregates in this subject area,” Rabbi” must be at ease in discussing sexuality, and clear about his role. He must understand the implications of the relationship between sexuality and religion. He must be ready to counsel, while understanding that it is not for him to be a sex therapist.”
More than 50 of the Reform rabbis holding pulpits in small outlying communities took part in a pioneering workshop series which opened the convention Sunday. The sessions were designed to help such rabbis to upgrade their education programs and to help offset the lack of support personnel and other resources available to larger communities.