Educating about Intimacy: Openly and Honestly

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A Yom Iyun for Kallah Teachers and Rebbetzins was held June 7, 2015 at the White Shul (Congregation Kneseth Israel) in Far Rockaway, NY. The program was entitled, “Educating about Intimacy:  Openly and Honestly.”  The program was coordinated and sponsored by the Orthodox Union (Department of Community & Synagogue Services) with Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future and the White Shul.

Close to 125 women participated in the program representing communities throughout the Eastern seaboard.  The women came from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Florida.  Attendees spanned the halachic spectrum – while the majority of the participants were affiliated with either OU synagogues or Yeshiva University, there were numerous women from various Chareidi communities and Chassidish women from Belz, Vitznitz, and Lubavitch (she is a rebbetzin at an OU shul!).  There were also attendees from the Syrian, Bukharin, and Persian communities.  We were especially pleased that 4 JLIC educators attended, from Brooklyn College, Queens College, University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis University.

Participating speakers were Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, Associate Director, Community Services, Orthodox Union; Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner of the “White Shul,” Rebbetzin Meira Davis of Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future; Scott Chudnoff, MD ,OB/GYN; Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn and Women’s Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Director, Gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center; AASECT certified sexuality counselor and supervisor; Rivki Chudnoff, PT, MSPT;    Rebbetzin Abby Lerner, Young Israel of Great Neck, faculty of YUHS for Girls, Kallah Teacher;   Sara Barris, PsyD, Co-Director of support groups for Paths to Parenthood and A Time. Clinical Psychologist in private practice;   Toby Carrey, MSW, Consultant for Shalom Task Force

Topics included: Almost Everything the Kallah Teacher Needs to Know about Sexuality and Intimacy; Resources for the Kallah Teacher; Emotional Intimacy in Marriage; Cultivating a Heart- to-Heart Connection; Recognizing the Red Flags: Responsibilities and Role of the Kallah Teacher.

The repeated message throughout the day was the importance of referring Kallahs/couples for professional help before problems become monumental.  Kallah teachers were urged to be a listening ear, be nonjudgmental, and to follow up and be available to the young women following the wedding.  During the various sessions, the attendees were given biological, anatomical, psychological, and emotional lessons regarding intimacy. The importance of teaching young women about positive body images and having a healthy relationship were also stressed.

The special nature of this training program was the combination of the professionals lecturing- in addition to the spiritual, halachic presentations from the Rebbetzins, there was a medical doctor (OB/GYN) psychologist, physical therapist and social worker.