Adopted by the Board of Trustees
Jewish texts and tradition do not avoid the topic of sexuality. Ranging from the Song of Songs, the most explicit writing in the Torah, to very specific discussions of the laws of family, our holy texts accept sexuality as a necessary and crucial part of life and development. Further, our modern practice of Judaism views sexuality, and its ultimate goal of a healthy and committed relationship, as a matter of religious concern.
In a report by the Ad Hoc Committee on Human Sexuality to the 1998 Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) convention, the committee stated that “Jewish religious values are predicated upon the unity of God and the integrity of the world and its inhabitants as Divine creations. These values identify Shleimut as a fundamental goal of human experience. The Hebrew root ShLM expresses the ideal of wholeness, completeness, unity and peace. Sexuality and sexual expression are integral and powerful elements in the potential wholeness of human beings.” Sexuality is a part of what it means to be human.
In 1977, Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) urged its Sisterhoods “to include family planning and sex education” in their programs. Later, in 1987, the CCAR adopted a comprehensive resolution “On Sex Education in the Schools,” addressing both sexuality education in the schools and youth programs of the Reform Movement and in the public schools. These resolutions are predicated on the idea of disseminating accurate educational materials.
Experience and anecdotal evidence collected through the Reform Movement’s youth programs indicate that Reform Jewish youth are sexual and as sexually active as their peers. In addition, every scientific study that breaks down participants by religion shows the same results. Just as importantly, at programs such as the L’Taken Seminars and NFTY Conventions, programs dealing with topics of sexuality fill quickly. Our youth are asking questions, and they are looking to us for guidance.
Studies show that the availability of accurate information about reproduction, sexually-transmitted diseases, and contraception have been demonstrated to have a positive impact on curbing adolescent pregnancy and the incidence of sexually-transmitted disease. Yet, beginning in 1998, and continuing until 2002, a federal appropriation of $50 million per year has been made available to states to support abstinence-only programs which teach that physical and emotional harm are likely to result from premarital sex, and cannot be used for dissemination of more complete information about reproduction, sexually transmitted disease, and contraception. Further, every $4 the government provides must be matched by $3 from the state, thus increasing the amount of money spent on abstinence-only programs to $88 million per year. Allocating money in this way diverts funds from the more effective and broader based “abstinence-plus” programs, which encourage abstinence while teaching accurate information about sexuality, reproduction, sexually-transmitted diseases, and contraception.
THEREFORE, the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolves to
1) Encourage its rabbis to work with their synagogues, the appropriate UAHC departments and Reform affiliates to encourage congregations, synagogue schools, day schools, camps, and youth groups of our movement to:
a. Offer age-appropriate courses and programs to all age levels-from our youngest to our oldest members-in comprehensive sexuality education, dealing with objective information about reproduction, abortion, sexually-transmitted diseases, contraception, sexual orientation, and other issues of sexuality as well as with Jewish values that emphasize the importance of sexuality in the context of healthy committed relationships; and
b. Provide tools and educational materials for parents, enabling them to talk to their children about these issues; and
c. Support Federal, State, Provincial, and local legislation that would provide for the inclusion of comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education in the public schools on all levels (from grade school through high school), while opposing Federal, State, Provincial, and local funding restricted to abstinence-only programs.