Sex-Ed in the Synagogue
Sex can be a difficult subject to talk about in any venue. In a synagogue, it can be especially awkward. But that wasn’t the case at the Manhattan Jewish Experience on West 86th Street, when Rachel Hercman — a psychotherapist specializing in sexual health, relationships and trauma — addressed a crowd of more than 100 Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s.
Hercman spoke in conversation with MJE education director Ruthie Braffman in the last of a four-part series dubbed “Let’s Talk About Sex.”
Hercman addressed some sexual misconceptions and said that all parts of a relationship could affect a couple’s intimacy.
“What happens in the bedroom affects what happens outside the bedroom,” she said. “And what happens outside your bedroom affects the dynamic inside the bedroom.”
She also said that people are scared to openly discuss their sex life — or problems in it.
“We live in a culture where we tend to be more comfortable joking about sex than actually really having honest discussions with vulnerability,” she said.
She added that when it comes to sex, couples need to communicate effectively rather than try to be mind-readers. She also spoke about break-ups, advising people not to stay friends with their former lovers.
“It doesn’t give that space to heal,” she said.
Hercman said that people often romanticize past relationships — and that a good relationship is one where both partners feel truly at ease.
“I find that with relationships we want to feel like we are accelerating. We want that feeling of kind of speeding on the highway with the wind at our back…I find that sometimes the compatible relationships are more of a cruising feeling…”
She also said that women should not expect that a man will solve all of their problems and should not think “that love is this hospital so to speak; that it’s just going to heal you, [because] when it doesn’t, people sometimes wonder if that’s a sign that the relationship isn’t the right relationship.”
She also warned that while some couples agree to embark on a casual relationship that they claim isn’t serious, one person often develops feelings while the other one “doesn’t get the memo.”
Asked how people can get married when they’ve never had sex, Hercman said that there are many successful marriages where that happens. “In a long-term relationship,” she said, “sex takes work. It takes communicating and navigating as the couple’s life changes.”
MJE West director Atara Neuer said that she’s received positive feedback from attendees and from those who participated in the talks on Facebook Live, where these events were also shown.
“The idea behind the series was to create a platform for young Jewish professionals to seek spiritual guidance at the same time as receiving expert advice on taboo topics surrounding sex and intimacy,” Neuer said.
As he walked out of the final event of the series, Yossi Rosenberg said that he was glad he attended.
“It was pretty gutsy to do,” Rosenberg said “But the conversation was respectful and we were cognizant of the fact that we were in a synagogue.”