Sisterhood Blog

Where an M.R.S. Degree Is a Course Requirement

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Avishai Teicher

Is marriage a legitimate prerequisite for a university course?

That is what some female students are asking at Bar-Ilan University.

The controversy surrounds a course in “marital communications,” which we told you about here. It requires those who enroll be married for at least one year. The course is intended for those who want to become “bridal counselors,” the women who explain ritual Jewish law related to marriage to Orthodox and non-Orthodox. The course is offered under the umbrella of the university’s “Midrasha” — an advanced Torah study program for women, one of several Bar-Ilan programs that merge academic and religious study.

The university justifies requirement by saying that since the course is meant for the women training to be bridal counselors, it makes sense that experience in marriage is necessary. The problem with that answer is that the class is also open to female Bar-Ilan students who are not in the bridal counseling program, but who wish to receive credit for it toward the university’s Jewish study requirements.

A married student in the class defended the requirement to Haaretz by saying topics could be discussed that “could frighten an unmarried woman,” elaborating that discussion of family purity laws and male-female relationships “could be scary because it’s about life, not theory.”

Scary? Let’s face it: the debate is all about sex. Assuming the students in such a course would be female and religious, the Midrasha has decided that it would be wrong for such unmarried women to talk about intimate bedroom activities, even in an all-female setting, before marriage.

I’m with the head of the Masorti movement, Yizhar Hess, who calls the requirement “discriminatory and patronizing, with a dash of Jewish fundamentalism.”

The rule represents the slippery slope of religious educational institutions in Israel requiring behavior of their students — particularly female students — that has nothing to do with their studies or on-campus comportment. One incident that has recently received attention is the plight of Efrat Daniel, who was expelled from her high school in Dimona after it was discovered that, to help support her family, she was working alongside male co-workers at a kosher McDonald’s in town. The incident sparkedg debate as to whether an ultra-Orthodox high school with state support should be able to impose such a stringent “modesty” code on its students.

But the Bar-Ilan Midrasha is for adult women, not high school students. It is an impressive institution that benefits from its location at a large government-backed university with a diverse population. Therefore, the courses open to the wider population must admit from all backgrounds, of all ages — married, divorced, and yes, (gasp) some who may be single without being virginal.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Torah Study, Sex, Marriage, Bar-Ilan University

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.