Peg Tyre (Crown Publishing, 2008, 320 pp, $24.95)
Reviewed by Max Klau
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The task of adolescence is to explore and construct a personal identity. This search for meaning provides fertile opportunities for those of us committed to building the Jewish future, and to more life-affirming and nuanced expressions of what it means to be a man or woman.
Hot educational topics tend to resurface in cycles, and the discourse of a “boy crisis” once again permeates discussions of American and Jewish education, offering both challenges and opportunities. The current concern about drop-off of male participation in formal Jewish educational programming could focus attention on targeting “Jewish boys” as a uniform constituency with identical issues and needs, and launch discussions about the types of programming that are perceived to attract all boys to Jewish life.
Sally Gottesman moderates a discussion with admissions directors of several rabbinical schools about gender and how it affects the learning and culture of the training program.
The issue of how to approach pubescent teen boys enthralled by sex remains a challenging one for educators. There are certain fixed realities to contend with: hormones, the developmental transition away from parents toward peers, sensation-seeking consistent with the appeal of novel experience and the belief that pushing the envelope is an adolescent birthright.
After one spends time in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, the sight of homeless people in American cities becomes normal, just one of the more unpleasant aspects of urban life. Seeing people sleeping in parks and on benches becomes an ordinary sight, one that doesn’t seem disturbing or unusual.
How might Jewish communities and educational opportunities reach out to boys without putting aside the needs of girls? Do boys step back and away as girls step up into leadership roles? As educators, what might be the impact on students of our unexplored gender biases and attitudes toward sexuality?