Sisterhood Blog

Good and Bad 'Sex With the Rabbi'

By Rebecca Honig Friedman

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“Sex With the Rabbi…” would be a great title for a sex column written by a rabbi’s spouse. (To any rebbetzins or husbands of rabbis reading, it’s yours!) But “sex with the rabbi” also a subject that’s been in the news lately — first as the informal moniker given by Modern Orthodox yeshiva day school students to a mandatory course on Jewish Sexual Ethics that was featured recently in The York Times’ “On Religion” column.

Days after the Times piece ran, the subject of “sex with the rabbi” came up in a in a very different, more sordid context, when the prominent ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Leib Tropper was allegedly caught, on audio tape, admitting to having a sexual relationship with a woman seeking to convert to Judaism. He was also allegedly heard admitting to giving her money and asking her for sexual favors on behalf of other men.

Oy vey is right.

The Times article about the Jewish Sexual Ethics class at the Ramaz Upper School begins with a discussion of the class’s homework assignment, reading an article from the Forward “about a married couple who participate avidly in both synagogue and swinging. ‘Aren’t these people just being honest?’ Rabbi [Rabbi Haskel] Lookstein asked.” I’ve heard some criticism of Lookstein for discussing such themes with teenagers, but I, a former student of Ramaz’s “Sex With The Rabbi,” think he should be given a tremendous amount of credit for openly confronting the issue of sex — already on the minds of most teenagers — in the context of a religious viewpoint. So often religious institutions either ignore the subject entirely or turn sex into something forbidden. Lookstein’s Jewish Sexual Ethics class, which has become an institution at Ramaz, attempts to teach students that sex is natural and positive when handled respectfully, within certain boundaries dictated by Jewish law.

I wonder if the New York Post article about Rabbi Tropper’s alleged sexual wrongs will become required reading for Lookstein’s class. Though some of the increasingly sordid details are better left to the imagination, for teenagers and adults alike.

Compounding the controversy is the fact that Tropper has been one of the American rabbis most vocal in questioning the validity of and overturning certain conversions in which he found the converts in question to be lacking in their religious observance. (In one case, a woman’s conversion was overturned, allegedly, because she occasionally wore pants and neglected to cover her hair.) It lends an added air of hypocrisy to the whole disgusting scenario.

Even the Rabbinical Council of America has issued a statement on the matter, reading: “What we have heard, if true, violates the fundamental elements of all that Judaism holds sacred.”

But the extent the violations have not been proved (see DovBear’s “food for thought” for some measured skepticism about the accusations). Certainly, the details of Tropper’s supposed sexual fantasies and proclivities are no one’s business but Tropper, his wife, and the other sexual partners he may have had.

What does matter is whether or not this ultra-Orthodox rabbi cheated on his wife, paid for sex, and used his position of power to force or coerce a woman, or multiple women, to engage in sexual acts against their will.

Tropper has not commented publicly about these accusations, though the New York Post reports that “a source close to him said the rabbi feels like he’s a victim and was used by [Shannon] Orand [the woman who allegedly made the audio recordings].”

If the allegations are found to be true, the real victims here, besides the women he allegedly abused, would be the people who trusted him as a religious authority, and especially the people whose status as Jews have hung in the balance of his faulty, human hands.

And that is another lesson that Jewish teenagers would do well to learn. Rabbis, no matter how righteous they may seem, are still people, with faults, weaknesses and capacity for wrongdoing as the rest of us.

And, oh yeah, they have sex, too.

No Lies Tue. Dec 22, 2009

The so-called Rabbi Lookstien has no credibilty after authorizing Ivanka Trump's phony conversion for marriage and hundreds of others. He's a fraud. I wouldn't let my children take a class with him or even get within a 100 feet of him. He has violated Halacha law for so long that he doesn't know what true Judaism is.

Danny Thu. Dec 24, 2009

To No Lies. You may find that many thousands of people will disagree with you. Both Rabbis Lookstein have done a very great amount of good.

No Lies Sun. Dec 27, 2009

So this "Rabbi" has done good by violating Halacha at every turn? The only good "Rabbi" Lookstein has done is for the hundreds of Christian shiksas who he falsely "converted", like Ivanka Trump, so that they could marry their rich Jewish fiances in faux Jewish ceremonies. The "Rabbi" conveniently marries these interfaith couples for a big payoff. The "Rabbi" disrespects Judaism and should be scorned in the Jewish community.

Moshe aron kestenbaum,Williamsburg Mon. Dec 28, 2009

Rabbi Tropper could go and shtupp and f-k as much and as many girls that he wants too, that his personal addiction problem. But when he cloaks himself in the rabbinical cloak and uses that influence to ween a girl into to his perverted swinging or threesome sex acts thats a sin of mounumental porportions, he should be banned from ever calling himself a rabbi

Bevalosian Ralbag Fri. Jan 8, 2010

No Lies needs to get off his religious high horse and learn some facts. Not only has R. Lookstein not converted "hundreds of shiksas"; he did not convert Ivanka Trump either. He referred her conversion to a respected Rav who specializes in such matters.

Bevalosian Ralbag Sun. Jan 10, 2010

No Lies needs to get off his religious high horse and learn some facts. Not only has R. Lookstein not converted "hundreds of shiksas"; he did not convert Ivanka Trump either. He referred her conversion to a respected Rav who specializes in such matters.

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