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Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices

Sex and Intimacy

Edited by Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff and Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

Publication Year: 2010

In the newest addition to the Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices series, co-editors Elliot Dorff and Danya Ruttenberg have brought together a diverse group of Jews to comment on how Judaism affects their views and actions regarding sex. Contributors range from adult movie actor Ron Jeremy, to renowned feminist scholar Martha Ackelsberg, to noted writer and blogger Esther Kustanowitz, as well as rabbis, doctors, social workers, and activists. They discuss issues of monogamy, honesty, and communication in dating and marriage; testing for and disclosure of STDs; abortion, sex education, sex work, and sexuality. Each volume in this series presents hypothetical cases on specific topics, followed by traditional and contemporary sources. Supplementing these are brief essays, written by contributors of various ages, backgrounds, and viewpoints to provoke lively thought and discussion. These voices from Jewish tradition and today’s Jewish community present us with new questions and perspectives, encouraging us to consider our own moral choices in a new light.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-

No book—let alone a series of books—comes about without the creative energy and support of many people. We wish to thank, first and foremost, Ellen Frankel, Editor Emerita of The Jewish Publication Society, for her vision in first conceiving of this series and for her willingness to entrust it to our editorship. The JPS National Council played a critical role early on as the scope and format of the series were in the development stage...

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pp. ix-xii

JEWISH TRADITION understands the power of sex. Through laws and values, it tries to channel that power for good purposes for both the individual and society in general. It regards sex as God’s gift to us, as a source of pleasure, as a way for a couple to bond and connect emotionally, and as the mechanism through which they might be blessed with children. The tradition also articulates the pain of sexual dysfunction, particularly in regard to infertility...

Case 1: Dating Ethics

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pp. 3-36

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Case Study

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pp. 3-8

ON A university campus, Pat has been dating Sam for two months, while Alex has gone out with Jamie five times in the last two weeks. Neither Pat and Sam, nor Alex and Jamie have had conversations establishing a monogamous, exclusive relationship, but in both cases, some assumptions have been made about their status as couples...

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pp. 9-33

RUMOR HAS it that dating used to be easy. If you—a man—liked a woman, you bonked her on the head and dragged her back to your cave. This was known as “going steady.” When you didn’t want her anymore, you kicked her out of her cave and let her fend off the T. rexes or other wild beasts. This was known as “seeing other people.”...

Case 2: Sexual Consequences

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pp. 35-74

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Case Study

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pp. 37-45

RACHEL AND MATT, both in their early 20s, are sexually involved. If their relationship is a one-night stand, what obligations does each partner have to use contraceptive devices? What if they’re in a sexual relationship that has gone on for one month? What if they’re in a sexual relationship that has been monogamous for six months?...

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pp. 46-72

AS THESE deliciously sensual lines imply, when it comes to sex and the expression of sexuality, we are fortunate as Jews to see intimacy through a framework in which sexuality is a positive element of our human nature. Sexual pleasure is even considered a mitzvah, to be celebrated whether for procreation or pleasure or both simultaneously...

Case 3: Sex Work and Pornography

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pp. 75-110

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Case Study

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pp. 75-81

NAOMI IS a 23-year-old female. She has not had a college education and finds herself with several options for supporting herself. She could earn $7.50/hour as a drugstore clerk without benefits, but it is not clear that she could support herself on that wage, and she would likely be fired the first time that she couldn’t make a shift because she is too ill to work. Alternatively, she could take a job as a dancer in a strip club, where she could earn significant money for minimal hours’ work...

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pp. 82-110

Elliot Dorff: Ron, in the case about Naomi, what do you think she should do? Ron Jeremy: Whether or not to engage in sex work is a person’s own moral choice. The decision should depend on what the individual feels about it. I would not tell this girl what to do; I have no right. But, of course, as I am in the adult industry, I do not find anything wrong with it...

Case 4: Sexual Negotiation

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pp. 113-140

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Case Study

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pp. 113-120

JIM AND SARAH are married, with two children, ages 3 and 1. Although they have a happy marriage, there are some sexual issues that they have to work out. Sarah’s sexual appetite is generally a bit stronger than Jim’s, and she has sexual interests that are not exciting or appealing to Jim—and vice-versa...

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pp. 121-140

ONE SATURDAY in 2002, I was having a fairly typical night for a young single gay man in New York. I was at a small club downtown where the latest remix of the dance song du jour was playing so loudly that it was impossible to talk over it. The place was packed. I was wearing my kippah, as I always did back then...

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Conclusion: The Ethics of Sex

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pp. 141-143

THERE IS a story in the Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 62a) about a curious student who takes his studies past the point of what might generally be considered good taste. Kahane, the yeshiva boy in question, hides under the bed of his teacher, deliberately listening in on the master’s lovemaking with his wife. He is shocked by the way they chat and joke together during the coital act, but tries his best to remain unnoticed. To no avail, however, as in one dramatic moment, his presence—and chutzpah—are revealed...

Suggestions for Further Reading

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pp. 145-146

Editors and Contributors

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pp. 147-151


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pp. 152-156

E-ISBN-13: 9780827609556
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827609051

Publication Year: 2010


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