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Sex Education Under Jewish Religious Auspices Discussed at N.Y. Parley

March 31, 1967
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Guidelines for education about sex and sexuality were proposed at a conference yesterday conducted by the Commission on Synagogue Relations of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York and the Metropolitan Association of Jewish Center Workers.

The goal of the conference, according to its sponsors, is to spur the development of sex education programs under religious auspices, since New York State is beginning to introduce the topic in the public schools’ curriculum, and the instruction will be on a secular basis under laws requiring separation of Church and State.

It was suggested that a professional training institute for instructors in sex education should be an outgrowth of the conference, and that priority be given by community centers and synagogues to sex education as an important aspect of their services.

Neither parents nor schools are imparting to children adequate factual information about sex or providing them with a sound basis of determining their individual sexual attitudes, practices and behavior, declared Manuel G. Batshaw, director of national services of the Jewish Welfare Board, who addressed the conference.

“Parents remain the single most influential factor in a person’s sexual development. Therefore, education about sex and sexuality for parents deserves possibly an even higher priority than our concern for the education of children themselves, ” he stressed, Trained leaders and teachers are essential to supplement the role of parents in helping a person with his sex education, he added.


Rabbi Isaac N. Trainin, director of the Commission, disclosed that a recent survey of local Hebrew Day Schools showed formal sex education programs are rare in the classroom, though most principals felt that some kind of effective program should be introduced.

The most comprehensive program encountered in the survey was at a yeshiva which introduced the subject in the seventh grade, with classes of boys and girls meeting separately once a week for a half-year term. The children are provided with textbooks and taught about the physiology of the sexes, the reproductive processes in animals and humans, homosexuality and masturbation. At the conclusion of the unit, a pediatrician addresses the children and answers their questions. Throughout, religious standards for sexual behavior are outlined by the instructor.

The Y’s and synagogues, Rabbi Trainin pointed out, have the responsibility of developing understanding of the Jewish tradition regarding sex and family to fill the moral vacuum created by the failure of parents and schools to provide modern approaches to sex education, and the reluctance of Jewish boards of education to include sex education in school curricula.

The Jewish traditional view regarding sex and the family and the instruction of the young was discussed at the conference by Rabbi Norman Lamm. He said that sex education is not a new phenomenon in Jewish life, but has been an integral part of the traditional approach to ethical conduct.

The conference was part of a continuing examination of the sexual revolution of our times and its impact on the Jewish community by social workers, rabbis and volunteer workers, including the Jewish Federation, which maintains 34 community centers and YM-YWHA’s throughout the city and aids more than 700 Jewish schools in the metropolitan area. Earlier conferences have dealt with intermarriage and its implications, and with marital problems and divorce.

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