Photograph by Sima Tuchman Freedman
Earlier this month, Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld gave the inaugural lecture for her role as “manhiga ruhanit,” a spiritual leader, to an audience of 60 people at the Mishkan Tzipora synagogue in the Zayit neighborhood of Efrat. One of the first cohort of Jewishly learned modern Orthodox women to hold public positions in Israel, Rosenfeld, 34, who immigrated from New York, has just been appointed to this newly formed role in the Israeli city of Efrat, population 10,000, by its municipal rabbi and founder, Shlomo Riskin.
Dr. Rosenfeld will be answering legal questions that those in the neighborhood wish to pose to her. Her sponsor, Rabbi Riskin was very clear about the validity of this role. “The only reason why women cannot be judges is if they are not accepted by the people. When it is clear they are accepted and have halachic knowledge, they can render halachic decisions,” says Rabbi Riskin. Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner, director of the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halachic Leadership, stated that a ”major success, is having women enter what I call the great halachic conversation, ongoing development of halacha” and added “Talmudic training leads to an ever changing reality.“
Each month, Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner hosts The Salon, a conversation with Rachel Sklar of Change the Ratio and other Jewish women about life, love, politics and everything in between. In the latest episode, Sisterhood contributor Sarah Seltzer discusses lessons from Hurricane Sandy; Amy Webb, author of “Data, A Love Story,” talks about how she gamed JDate to meet her perfect mate; Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld, co-author of “Et Le’ehov: The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy,” about sex education in the Orthodox community, and all five chime in on the Jewish vote and election 2012. Check out all of the clips here.
Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld is equally at home teaching a page of Talmud and showing women how to use a vibrator. Dr. Rosenfeld, 31, who co-authored the book “The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy,” which the Sisterhood weighed in on here, is also an Orthodox Jew, and her expertise in sex education is aimed at an Orthodox audience. The book, which the Jerusalem resident wrote with sex therapist David Ribner of Bar-Ilan University, explores the most intimate topics with no restraint, topics such as female orgasm, masturbation, and varieties of sexual positions. She spoke recently with The Sisterhood.
Elana: Sztokman: Why did you decide to write this book?
Jennie Rosenfeld: My work at The Tzelem Project, which I cofounded in 2005 with Koby Frances in order to address sexual education in the Orthodox community, convinced me of the need for such a book. … Running training conferences for chatan and kallah [grooms- and brides-to-be] teachers and rabbis, hearing the questions that were asked, I saw the need first-hand: Seeing the outpouring of people that came to our conferences, wanting to learn from medical and mental health professionals so that they could do a better job at preparing their students, seeing the way that often the teachers don’t know anything about sex beyond their own experiences, and speaking to young couples who simply weren’t given enough information or accurate information about how to begin their sexual relationship. This was the real tragedy for me.
What were the greatest challenges in writing about sex for the Orthodox community?