Sexuality Education (URJ)

View statement online

Submitted by: The Commission on Social Action & The Department of Jewish Family Concerns


Jewish texts and tradition often discuss 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 recognize, often celebrate, 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 to the 1998 Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) convention, the Ad Hoc Committee on Human Sexuality 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 sh’leimut— wholeness— as a fundamental goal of human experience. The Hebrew root (shin, lamed, mem) 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 all call for disseminating accurate educational materials.

Experience with the Reform Movement’s youth programs indicates that Reform Jewish youth are 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, workshops 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 which 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 Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

1. Encourage its departments and affiliates to work with synagogue schools, day schools, camps, and youth groups of our movement to:

A. Offer all our members courses and programs appropriate to each age level built on Jewish values, emphasizing the role of sexuality in the context of healthy committed relationships, and provide comprehensive sexuality education including objective information about reproduction, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, sexual orientation, and other issues of sexuality; and

B. Provide tools and educational materials for parents, to assist them when they talk to their children about these issues; and

2. Support federal, state, provincial, and local legislation to 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 exclusively for abstinence-only programs.

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