How Long Can We Really Talk About Montana?

December, 14 2009

By Caroline Kessler

I’ve realized that the world of writing about all things Jewish is small—or perhaps the powerful juggernaut that is the Internet just makes it feel that way. Case in point: the “hey-there-are-Jews-even-in-the-backwoods” piece in the New York Times that people can’t seem to stop talking about: the wide-eyed take on a bomb-sniffing dog that only understands Hebrew, but is trapped in the flatlands of Montana. This piece has been ripped apart in more places than I want to count (but did, as I put off my final exams).

So, in the spirit of tackling Jewish issues before the rest of the snarkier, faster blogging world gets to them, I want to point out another “relevant” piece in our favorite New York paper. Slightly hidden in their ‘N.Y. / Region’ section (that I can’t imagine many people outside of the region actually look at), I found this gem: “In a Manhattan Classroom, Judaism Meets the Facts of Life.”

Interestingly, Tablet’s blog, The Scroll tackled the issue of sex education in Orthodox Jewish schools a few days ago, albeit the focus was Israeli schools. The Times article focuses mainly on Rabbi Haskel Lookstein who teaches at the Ramaz High School on the Upper East Side. There were several quotes from previously anxious students, now relaxed and even excited by the idea of talking about sex with a rabbi who’s pushing eighty.

Why so serious? Or rather, why so relaxed? Perhaps because the candid Rabbi Lookstein, challenges his students by playing the devil’s advocate. He aims to make the discussions relevant to today’s teens by using newspaper articles, but also draws on Jewish theology. Judaism is one faith that rarely treats sex as taboo (see Catholicism for that one). And it’s refreshing to see this “touchy” subject making it into schools like Ramaz. What’s next? Rabbis giving demonstrations of rolling a kosher condom onto a cucumber?

Caroline Kessler, hailing from the not-so-charmed city of Baltimore, is an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University.

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