Teach Values First

December 1, 2007
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David Silverstein

Jewish teens learn their religion’s take on sexual ethics by amassing a laundry list of vague “dont’s” through a grapevine of rabbis, fearful parents, and sometimes unprepared youth educators. Though I agree with Ruttenberg about speaking frankly with teens about sexuality, Jewish sexual ethics should be addressed only once teens have a clear foundation of the overarching and related importance of perpetuating Jewish survival through dating, marriage, and family life. As a young man in college, rarely do Jewish sexual ethics cross my mind when I make my decisions. Rather, I am influenced by the values that my parents, youth educators, and mentors instilled in me: that I represent the Jewish people, that I am a key to their survival and future.

We need to know, and teach, the crucial cultural and spiritual benefits of creating and maintaining Jewish relationships. Before discussing Judaism’s stand on safe sex, parents need to discuss with their bar or bat mitzvah aged teen the values of maintaining the Jewish people.

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David Silverstein, a senior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, was Programming Vice President for the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) 2004-2005. Former faculty member at the URJ Kutz Camp and counselor at the URJ Eisner Camp for Living Judaism, he is a contributor to A Dream of Zion ( Jewish Lights ).

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