Are Jewish Men Pigs?

By Rabbi Daniel Brenner
January 19, 2018

Personal Reflections on the role of Jewish education in the wake of #metoo

(Author’s note: The above cartoon is from Alabama Media Group, the folks who publish the Birmingham News and other local papers in the state. The essay will say more about why I picked this disturbing image.)

“What’s next? Will I get fired for looking at a woman? Will athletes get fired for patting their teammates on the butt?”

That’s my friend’s anxious line of questioning. He’s a Modern Orthodox Jew and he works in finance. I’m a Reconstructionist Jew and I work in education. We are talking about Jewish men and sexual transgressions in the aftermath of #metoo.

“I can’t stand Al Franken’s politics,” he says, “but he shouldn’t have lost his job. He apologized, the woman accepted the apology, he was publically humiliated. That’s enough. It’s not like he’s Harvey Weinstein.”

While clearly there have been a large number of men who are outside of the Jewish tribe in the headlines, our private game of counting off the Jewish men whose names we have heard in the news went into double overtime. In addition to Weinstein and Franken, the list included Dustin Hoffman, Jeffrey Tambor, Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier, James Toback, Israel Horowitz, James Levine, Jeremy Priven, Woody Allen, Brett Ratner, NPR’s Michael Oreskes, local NYC radio celebrities Lenoard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz… and let’s not forget that Anthony Weiner is currently doing push-ups in his cell in a federal penitentiary in Massachusetts and Rabbi Barry Freundel will be spending the next five Passover Seders behind bars. And what about the still fugitive Roman Polanski? That’s a lot of Jewish men with some atrocious sexual behavior.

But when Larry David opened his latest monologue on Saturday Night Live by saying “You know, a lot of sexual harassment stuff in the news of late and I couldn’t help but notice a very disturbing pattern emerging, which is that many of the predators?—?not all, but many of them?—?are Jews,” he was slammed by the ADL for being “offensive” and “insensitive” and got an earful from the Twitter-verse. And when commentator Mark Oppenheimer wrote in Tablet Magazine that Weinstein is a “deeply Jewish kind of pervert” he had to follow up quickly with a public apology for implying that somehow there was a unique type of Jewish sexual perversion.

My friend and I, like most Ashkenazi men, grew up spoon-fed on the following pride-inducing factoids: Jewish men were superior to other men when it came to winning Nobel Prizes, writing comedy, accounting, making money on the stock market, and pressing lawsuits. Now we might add, with extra snark, “and in sexual harassment!”

At one point in the conversation, my friend made a flippant comment?—?“Men are pigs!” he said, which I think he said to break the tension and feelings of shame that we were experiencing as we were talking about these Jewish men in the headlines– and internally digging into the memories that we each had of sexual missteps that we made as young men. But I really wasn’t sure what he meant by “men are pigs” so the comment clung to me like an earworm?—?“Men are pigs. Men are pigs. Men are pigs.”

Men are Pigs

After the conversation, I wondered: Was he just saying ‘men are pigs’ so that us Jewish men would have a convenient excuse for our bad behavior? I mean, if all men are pigs, then are we any worse? Could this particularly long list of Jewish men in the headlines just be explained by the abundance of Jewish men in entertainment, media, and politics?

To be clear, Jewish men have a long history of being told by other, more powerful men, that we are sexually deviant. Anti-Semites in Europe did so during the middle ages, depicting Jewish men as horny and greedy half-devils. In the 19th century, du Maurier’s Svengali?—?the Jew who seduces, dominates, and exploits?—?became a popular trope. The media-savvy propaganda campaigns of the Nazi Party used the image of the sex-starved and money-hungry Jewish man as one of their favorite memes in an effort to convince the German and Polish people that it was in their best interest to expel and murder millions. And today, alt-Right White nationalists on The Daily Stormer and elsewhere are continuing this hate-speech, gleefully painting Weinstein as the new Svengali, hoping to kick-start a race war in America.

There is an inherent danger in talking about Jewish men and sexual perversion. It would be much easier to simply address these issues by talking about “men” in general and to point to the patriarchy or to “toxic masculinity” or some other term which means “men and the abuse of power.”

But the more I have thought about the Jewish men in the headlines, the more I have been considering the role that family dynamics, religious teachings, communities, and social conditions all play in forming our sexual fantasies, sexual experiences, and sexual ethics.

Before I focus specifically on Jewish men, I think it is important to say that I really hope that all men who come from all different types of religious, racial, national, ethnic, or otherwise communities will be considering the specific ways that we, as men, are taught to think about sex within our communities. Every close-knit community has issues of sexual coercion, harassment, and abuse and they all manifest themselves in very specific ways. We each need to have internal communal conversations to address the specific familial and communal cultures that are holding back change.

As a rabbi and as an educator responsible for designing programs for Jewish middle school and high school students that challenge sexism, I spend a lot of time at the intersection of masculine identity and Jewish identity. In the wake of #metoo, my questions are?—?“What is the story of Jewish men and sex in America? How do we see ourselves in comparison to other men? How have we perpetuated harassment and abuse? How have we ignored it? And, most importantly, what can we do to address past wrongs and to help create a more equitable and safe environment for everyone?” These are not easy questions.

Personal History

A flashback to age fourteen: I am being tutored after-school by an Orthodox rabbi. The rabbi explains to me the importance of wearing a belt?—?a gartel?—?for prayer.

“It is to cut off the lower, beastly, part of the man from the upper, more-godly part of man,” he says. “Do you understand what I am saying?”

I tell him with my nod that I get it. He is talking about the penis. That part of me is beastly. That part is bad. I think for a second about the Farrah Fawcett-Majors poster I put on my bedroom wall, and I feel ashamed.

I was a Jewish day school-educated child, so one of the first stories that I learned as a teenager about male sexual desire is a popular story about tzitzit, the fringes on the four-cornered undergarment traditionally worn by boys and men. The story is in the Talmud in a section titled Menachot 44a.:

A Jewish man travels to a far-away land and pays four hundred gold coins to sleep with a beautiful foreign prostitute. She ascends a tower of six silver beds and lies naked on the top bed. He ascends and takes off his clothing. As he takes off his ritual undergarment, his tzitzit?—?the strings that hang down from his ritual undergarment?—?hit him in the face. He jumps down from the bed and he says to her that he cannot go ahead with the act because the tzitzit are “witnesses” that he must act in accordance to God’s will. She is impressed. She converts to Judaism and becomes his wife.

At age fourteen, I thought that the moral of the story went something like this?—?even though we Jewish men might get horny and spend a crazy amount of money purchasing sex from exotic women, if we remember to follow the commandments concerning special clothing then our ritual fringes will literally slap us in the face and tell us to stop before we have pressed any flesh. And then we will be rewarded with a hot wife.

Most of what I learned about sex, in day school and at synagogue, was that sex had as many boundaries as food. Sex?—?which was defined at the time for me in heteronormative terms as any kind of touching of the opposite sex of anyone other than your mother or bubbe?—?was only allowed within the context of a kosher heterosexual marriage, and anything outside of those boundaries, even looking at someone in a way that connoted sexual desire, was considered filthy. Modesty was a core Jewish value. My Orthodox relatives avoided watching movies with sexually explicit content, wore t-shirts when they went swimming, and would not watch basketball or football on account of the cheerleaders.

In many ways, as I spoke with my Modern Orthodox friend about #metoo, I realized that his community’s response to #metoo was simply to further bolster the enforcement of gender segregation. The basic practice of Jewish patriarchy is to assume that men are pigs and to make sure that women’s elbows and knees are never exposed and that women’s singing voices are never heard in public, that men avoid speaking face to face with women outside of family members, and to label sinful any male sexual act outside of heterosexual marriage.

Some people see this as an attractive alternative to an increasingly raunchy, porn-influenced culture. Unfortunately, the gender separation of Orthodoxy does not, in actuality, lead to a safer environment in terms of sexual health. A lesser publicized story that I read during the #metoo movement was about a kosher supervisor at New York’s Stern College (a school for Orthodox women) who was released for inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature. And there have been countless stories of teen boys being sexually abused within Yeshiva environments (see Dr. David Pelcovitz’s work at Yeshiva University) and serious concerns about what is happening in terms of sexual abuse of girls and women within Orthodox communities. According to Survivors for Justice, an advocacy organization:

“Research by psychologist Dr. Michelle Friedman, appearing last summer in the annual student journal of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah, Milin Havivin, found that Orthodox girls and teens report rates of sexual abuse similar to that of their secular counterparts. The main difference is that, for a variety of reasons, within the ultra-Orthodox world abuse if it does occur is more likely to go unchecked, allowing abusers to remain in business longer, creating more victims.” [1]

Thankfully today there are serious efforts within the Jewish community to combat this type of abuse in both liberal and orthodox communities. [2]

Some men conspire with one another to cover up harassment and abuse. One of the details of the Harvey Weinstein case that fascinated both me and my Orthodox friend was that Weinstein, allegedly, on the advice of former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, had hired an Israeli spy agency made up of ex-Mossad agents to try to silence his victims. This seemed to us both as not only an additional layer of criminal activity but an additional layer of troubling questions about Jewish men and our attitudes about sexual harassment. Are some Jewish men in a secret pact with one another to protect perpetrators? We both know Jewish men who defend men against false accusations of sexual harassment?—?a common job for many corporate lawyers. But would the Jewish men we know defend a serial abuser like Weinstein? Certainly, the spy agency knew what Weinstein was up to. Why did they agree to cover for him?

“Men are pigs!” he said.

Back to the Personal Story

As a teen, I heard all the prohibitive messages from traditional Judaism about sex. I also decided that I was going to ignore them and to pursue pleasure on my own terms. At Camp Ramah, where I took my first steps into romance, intimacy, and sexual activity, my group of teen boys had a baseball-based points system based on our hook-ups with the girls?—?a system perpetuated by the college-student counselors that we all looked up to. I wish I could say that I didn’t participate in this system, but not only did I participate in it, I did so enthusiastically. One summer I hooked up with multiple girls, tried to get as far “around the bases” as I could with each one, and bragged to my bunkmates about each encounter. I look back now on my actions at that time and I feel disgusted with myself. And I am grateful to the people that summer who called me out on my behavior.

Later that year, in my Jewish youth group, I was told by a mentor that ‘shiksas are for practice’?—?a line he used to encourage me to pursue sexual activities with non-Jewish females so I could keep Jewish females “pure.” At the time, I thought it was good advice. Misogyny with a side of racism.

Becoming a Jewish Man in America

If your religious community avoids discussion of sex, or creates a world of “pure” sex in marriage and “impure” sex everywhere else, and it is not a super-comfortable topic for your parents to discuss, how do you learn about it? For me, a lot of my influences were Jewish men who wrote comics or novels, directed movies, or did comedy. Jewish men in the creative class seemed to speak openly about sex in ways that other men did not.

Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer (a pre-cursor to Weinstein in many respects), kicks off a long list of Jewish men who pushed the boundaries in terms of what kind of explicit material could be allowed in American print, radio, film and TV. Men like Lenny Bruce, Phillip Roth, Screw Magazine’s publisher Al Goldstein, Howard Stern, Larry David, and recently South Park co-creator Matt Stone and comedian Nick Kroll all belong on that list. As do all the Mad Magazine guys. Have these men challenged sexism? Sometimes. And sometimes they are outwardly misogynistic, promoting their comic fantasies of men who dominate or degrade women. But has their work challenged puritanical notions of American sexuality? Absolutely.

As a teen, I loved Mel Brooks’ History of the World (and all his other films) but now I look back on his classic scene “hump or death” [3] and his line “it’s good to be the king!” and I ask myself how and why he was drawn to such a twisted and comic fantasy of sexual power.

What motivates Jewish men?

In the late 1920s, prominent sociologists, like Robert Ezra Park, labelled Jewish men and other men who navigated living as ethnic or racial minorities as being “marginal”- characterized by suffering from “spiritual instability, intensified self-consciousness, restlessness, and malaise” [4]

Jewish men at universities (Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Chicago) were all found to have higher levels of neuroses then other students.[5] To counter these neuroses, psychologists argued, many Jewish men adapted a strategy of dominance. Phillip Eisenberg, a psychologist who studied men at Columbia University wrote that Jewish students had a higher percentage of “dominant individuals”:

“The dominant individual feels self-confident, has a high self-evaluation, feels superior, feels at ease with people, and feels that he can control others. . . .”[6]

Early feminist psychologists, like Jessie Shirley Bernard, attributed this condition to the ‘bicultural’ nature of being a liberal Jew in America:

“They had rejected Judaism and now their sense of shame and guilt made them want to tear down the Gentile world also. Since they could be neither Jew nor Gentile they must destroy everything these stood for. It was very easy for them to be revolutionaries because they felt outside of the whole system.”[7]

In the last two decades, as feminist studies birthed masculinity studies, a gender-based analysis has also emerged. Howard Eilberg-Schwartz and other scholars who have studied the psychological history of Jewish men in America argue that Jewish men were “feminized” by both the culture around them (workplace discrimination kept them out of masculine trades) and by Judaism itself (through a steady diet of submissive prayer and study.) To push back against the pasty, book-ish, brainy, feminine persona, Jewish men “pursued embodiment” through sex or through talking about sex. [8]

In other words, Jewish men struggle to find their place in the world, feel inferior to other men, and fantasize about sexual dominance as a way to address their emotional pain. While that theory doesn’t totally explain what I’ve seen among the diverse set of Jewish men I have met in my life, it does make a lot of sense when I think about earlier generations of Jewish men who struggled to assimilate in America. And it makes sense for any Jewish man who feels like he may have “inherited” or “imbibed” even a little bit of that psychological profile to talk about the damage it has done.

Waking Up

In my high school years, the only conversations I had with my male peers about sex or sexuality were about sexual conquests. We bragged, we laughed with one another, and we laughed at one another.

College was a different story I met men who were actively questioning the ways that men were taught to think about sex, men who identified as feminists, bisexual or bi-curious men, and men who only had sex with other men. I learned that at least one of my friends from childhood at Jewish summer camp was now openly gay. At the time, 1987, the religious movement I had grown up in, the Conservative movement, had recently opened the doors of the seminary to women but still prohibited lesbian or gay rabbinical students?—?a position they did not change until 2006. When I started to consider rabbinical school, my newfound consciousness around issues of homophobia and sexism guided me towards the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, a place where the majority of my rabbinical school classmates identified as gay or lesbian. And I certainly can say that being a minority as a straight cis-gendered man was a great educational experience.

For the first time in my life I started to ask what, other than patriarchal restrictions, was to be found in Jewish teachings on sex and sexuality. Luckily for me, I was introduced to feminist women scholars who were answering that question. Hebrew Union College professor Rachel Adler’s masterful work Engendering Judaism challenged those who promoted sex-negative Jewish teachings by illuminating Jewish textual sources that offered models of equity, humor, and subversion. She also laid the foundation of a new Jewish sexual ethic. Carter Heyward, an Episcopalian seminary professor, challenged the heteronormative nature of conquest and possession in Touching Our Strength:

“So deluged are we by the romance of domination that most girls and boys, while they are still quite young, are well under the captivating spell of an eroticism steeped in fantasies of conquest, seduction, and rape. Such eroticism is “normal”: that in which boy takes and girl is taken.” [9]

Heyward and Adler argued that we need new language, metaphor, ritual?—?even new theology?—?to get out from under this “captivating spell.” Adler and Heyward both forced me to think about my own actions as a straight cis-gendered Jewish guy and how I had been captivated by the spell. They made me think critically about my sexual encounters and sexual fantasies. I realized that I needed help making sense of it all?—?healing damage done to me by the conquest fantasy, getting over some of the shame that I felt around my body and pleasure, figuring out my sexual path as a man. I needed some spiritual guidance.

Finding Men

I first encountered a rabbi willing to speak openly about the male experience and sex and sexuality when I met the late renegade ex-Chabadnik Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi. Reb Zalman’s personal road in terms of sex and sexuality was somewhat unusual for a rabbi?—?he had three marriages that had soared and soured before his fourth and final partnership?—?but he spoke with a clarity about straight male sexuality that I had never heard before. He saw sexuality through the lens of kabbalistic and Chassidic thought. He understood the complexity and diversity of gender (replete with Jungian insights) and sexual desires. For Reb Zalman, sex drives were a reflection of a divinely-connected human appetite that sought to unify disparate sparks, his teachings were a combo platter of sex-positive Woodstock vibes and a chakra-aligned Jewish mystical orientation. Reb Zalman was able to talk about creating Jewish sexual boundaries without shaming sexuality. And, probably, most importantly, he could give rabbinic advice that made sense. Like: “If you ate ice cream cake every day, you would get sick of it?—?so masturbate on shabbes and really enjoy it!”

He also told me that I should not be ashamed if my senses were telling me that female beauty was something that I was attracted to?—?but that I should guard myself from the ways that the female body is objectified, diminished, and degraded. Hearing an octogenarian Polish-born rabbi say the phrase “no beaver shots” was a surprise.

Like many people, I had heard tales of the Orthodox “sex sheet”?—?the large white bed sheet with a hole cut out for the penis. But when Reb Zalman brought out Jewish sources, I learned that the Jewish tradition taught the exact opposite, like the following teaching from the section of the Talmud about marriage contracts that crtiques “Persian” sex practices (Ketubot 48a):

“There must be close bodily contact during sex. This means that a husband must not treat his wife in the manner of the Persians, who perform their marital duties in their clothes.” –

A few years later, I served on the faculty of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL) and one of my colleagues was Rabbi Steve Greenberg, a Modern Orthodox rabbi who had recently come out of the closet. Steve’s creative re-interpretation of Leviticus was to say that the kind of sex that the Torah banned was not homosexuality, but sex by force. I learned a tremendous amount from Steve’s approach, which eventually became the book Wrestling with God and Men, because he talked about sex and “play” from a Jewish perspective. He felt that interactions of dominance and submission could happen outside of the patriarchal paradigm of conquest or possession. By allowing for play and risk, he argued that safe sex need not be boring sex. This was important for me to hear.

These men, and later others, helped break the silence around Jewish men and sexuality and helped give me a sense that there were other men who were wrestling with the challenges and blessings that come with male sex drives.

My Responsibility as an Educator

Over the last six years I have worked closely with a psychologist, Dr. Richard Stern, to train over three hundred men to mentor teen boys in the Jewish community. One thing that I have learned from Richard, who has worked with teen boys from every racial, ethnic, and economic background that you can imagine, is that male aggression and male sexual aggression begin in childhood.

The #metoo movement has focused primarily on middle-aged men in the workplace. But what we often overlook is that most men who are perpetrators of harassment and assault are men who began to use sexual coercion and aggression as teenage boys. We know from robust longitudinal studies that tenth grade is the “peak” time for this aggression?—?and that the teen boys who “get away with it” often continue these patterns in college and the workplace. [10]

Studies in the last two decades have shown that more than a third of young men have been sexually aggressive?—?which includes physical coercion, verbal coercion, and taking advantage of someone who is intoxicated.[11] Studies that have looked at college campuses, including the large State schools and private Liberal arts colleges where many Jewish students attend, have also found that between a quarter to a third of men are sexually aggressive. This means that we have a significant subset of Jewish teen boys who are struggling with sexual aggression.

Addressing Underlying Problems

Why do some men use sexual coercion?

While there are not any large-scale studies of Jewish men and sexual harassment, we can learn a lot from those who have researched overall patterns of male behavior. Those who have studied underlying causes of sexual harassment and assault in the last two decades have identified two primary psychological profiles of men who typically start to use sexual aggression during adolescence.

The first category of men is the “alpha” category?—?these are men who are, in terms of their overall personality, aggressive. This is termed in the literature “hostile masculinity” and is associated with men who believe that women are “asking for it,” that male sexual dominance is basic human nature, and that relationships are a ploy that has been created by women to control men. When people reference “toxic masculinity” they are often speaking of this kind of alpha-male misogynistic attitude. Research has suggested that men in this category who use pornography habitually have risk levels of sexual aggression four times higher than other aggressive males. [12]

The other profile of high risk male is less-often cited. This category is termed the “impersonal sex”?—?category. It is characterized by men who do not have aggressive personalities, but who do view sex as a game, and who seek multiple casual sexual encounters that come without emotional attachment. When these men encounter “push-back” or fail to get consent, they often react with manipulation or sexual aggression. Many of the stories that I have read in the slew of #metoo works, especially stories about college and graduate school experiences, seem to be connected to this profile. I have, over the years, met a number of Jewish men who fall into this category, and when I think back to my own behavior as a young man, some of it falls into this category as well.

Peer Pressure

One other thing that we know about teenagers (of all genders) is that during the period between age twelve and age sixteen the most important influence?—?for the vast majority of teens?—?is their same-gender peers.

When a guy turns to his friend and brags about pushing a girl against a wall and “giving it to her,” how will his friend react? High five? Fist bump? Laughter? Concern? What his friend says in that moment?—?how his friend reacts?—?can have a profound effect on future actions.

One of the effective models of education for young men has been the Men’s Program of the organization One in Four, developed by John Foubert, a professor at Oklahoma State University and deployed in a number of high school and college settings. Knowing that men in fraternities have sexual assault rates four times higher than other college students, Foubert’s Men’s program creates conversations, led by a male mentor, for young men, about sexual assault. Research demonstrated that the program not only changed the attitudes of close to 80% of the young men about rape myths, but follow-up studies showed that the program reduced sexual assault by over 40%. How were these programs so effective?

When men actually call each other out on bad behavior and talk to each about ways to reduce harassment and assault, the message sinks in.

Foubert explains: “When men are empowered to be part of the solution rather than being blamed for being the problem, they can feel more engaged in the learning process rather than feeling as though they are being scolded with a condescending message.” [13]

What Jewish Men Can Do

All men grow up in and benefit from a patriarchal society that values dominance and conquest and de-values women. Can we hope for and work for a post-gender era that brings with it a new equitable economic and social system governed without hierarchy? Yes. But while we take steps in that direction, I think it is imperative that we work to diminish the amount of sexual harassment and abuse within our current social structures.

I feel fortunate that I have been engaged in an educational project that is working to diminish the harassment and abuse that occurs in our community and I want to take a brief moment to describe the project that I am involved in.

Over the last three years, along with my Moving Traditions’ colleagues Rabbi Tamara Cohen and Jen Anolik, I’ve been part of a team developing educational materials addressing healthy sexuality for Jewish educators who work with teen boys, teen girls, and trans/non-binary youth. A major element of our work is developing effective methods of teaching sexual consent. We do so in the larger context of creating safe spaces for teens to explore their gender socialization. In our work, teen boys talk about and reflect on the ways that boys are “set up” and offered a limited set of expected behaviors when expressing their emotional and sexual desires. Boys are challenged?—?with humor and seriousness?—?to engage critically with media, to recognize the pervasive objectification of women, and to develop new ways of communicating with someone in a potentially romantic or sexual situation. (Girls meanwhile, in addition to practicing their own giving of consent, unpacking double standards around sexual behavior, and strategizing ways to combat sexualization, are also encouraged to identify and claim their own physical and sexual pleasure.) In collaboration with sexuality education experts Al Vernacchio and Charis Denison, we train educators to facilitate discussions for teens where teens can talk with peers about the mixed messages that they are receiving, the pressures and concerns that they are facing, and the unrealistic expectations that they are being told to meet. They are encouraged to find their own ways to push back on sexism, communicate clearly, and to support one another in developing their own sexual ethics, within a Jewish framework.

I mention this work because I think that it, like the One in Four program, can empower the next generation to make real changes in the ways that people treat one another.

Are Men Pigs?

Call me naïve, but deep down I believe that humans are mammalian?—?we care for one another, we pair bond, and we want to feel like we are a valued part of a group. Men want to both feel the love of the group we live in and want an opportunity to give back?—?to nurture the group in some way. Men want to be good and want to be loved authentically.

Last year, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Andrew Smiler, a psychologist who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina who writes about male sexuality, and to read his new book for teen boys.[14] Smiler’s message to guys is clear:

“If you really listen to most of the guys in your life, you will find that the majority aren’t screwing around or looking for a new partner every weekend.”

Smiler knows the power that peers have on teen boys?—?and his message is basically to remind young men that what is normal for men is not to be a “pig” but to want both sex and authentic human connection.

Like a lot of men, it took me awhile to learn what authentic human physical that kind of connection can be like?—?to learn the difference between “kissing someone” and “kissing with someone.” But I am grateful that I did have friends and rabbis, and eventually a life-partner, who helped me to fully understand the “with” part.

Back to my conversation with my Orthodox friend?—?When I think of the work ahead in the wake of #metoo, I am not only thinking about the conversation that I have with my community here in the wonderfully liberal enclave of Montclair, New Jersey. I am also thinking about how those who live within much more patriarchal Jewish communities can be supported in advocating for healthy and open discussion about sexuality in their schools, synagogues, and communal institutions. I am inspired by the recently launched The Joy of Text podcast[16]?—?—?a great example of Orthodox Jewish leaders, men and women, who are speaking openly about matters of sexual desire and sexual health.

Will #metoo produce long-term change? I hope so. And I hope that Jewish men can play a role in creating a culture where more people of all genders can freely move through the world without experiencing harassment, objectification, or unwanted touch.

Rabbi Daniel Brenner is the chief of education and program for Moving Traditions.

More About Moving Traditions Programs

[1] (

[2]See the work of ;;


[4] “Human Migration and the Marginal Man,” American Journal of Sociology, Volume 33, 1928).

[5] This research I summarized in Harold Orlansky’s “The Study of Jewisn Man: Personality Traits” a 1946 article in Commentary Magazine?—?


[7] “Biculturality: A Study in Social Schizophrenia” (in I. Graeber and S. Britt, eds., Jews in a Gentile World, New York, 1942).

[8] Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, People of the Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspec- tive (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 5

[9] Carter Heyward (1989). “Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God”, Harper San Francisco

[10] (For more on this, I highly recommend reading Sexual Dating Aggression Across Grades 8 Through 12: Timing and Predictors of Onset, H. Luz McNaughton Reyes and Vangie A Foshee in Journal of Youth and Adolescence April 2013)

[11] there is an excellent summary of this research by Patricia Logan-Greene and Kelly Cue Davis in a May 2011 article in The Journal of Interpersonal Violence).

[12] See Malamuth, Annual Review of Sex Research 2000

[13] The Men’s Program: Does It Impact College Men’s Self-Reported Bystander Efficacy and Willingness to Intervene? May 12 2011 Volume: 17 issue: 6, page(s): 743–759

[14] Smiler, Andrew. Dating and Sex: a Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy.

[15] Smiler, Andrew. Dating and Sex a Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy, 151


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