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October 4, 2015 | 21st Tishrei 5776

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is Sacred Choices a sex education curriculum?
A. Sacred Choices is not a sex education curriculum. You will not find full sessions on the human body, safe sex, masturbation or the abortion debate. Because Judaism can make a positive contribution to helping us live every aspect of our lives, these lessons are Jewish ethics lessons, exploring those texts and values that are relevant to this crucial aspect of the human experience, sexual behavior and relationships. If you want to expand the learning experience to include sex education, please refer to the Sacred Choices bibliography, which does offer some suggested resources for these topics.   

Q. How do I purchase the curriculum?

A. Sacred Choices: Adolescent Relationships and Sexual Ethics can be purchased online from URJ Books and Music or by calling 212-650-4120. 

Q. What’s the difference between the middle school and high school modules? Can we teach just one or should we teach both?

A. The middle school and high school modules of Sacred Choices are quite different. The middle school module, geared toward 6th-8th grade participants, focuses on the skills young teens need to build and navigate their way through healthy relationships - from maneuvering through friendships with peers and early romantic interests to successfully communicating with parents, teachers and coaches. The middle school module presents a broad scope to the conversation. The skills pertain not only to issues of sexuality, but are also relevant to other teen issues such as drinking, drugs and academics. The skills addressed in the middle school module include:  addressing peer pressure, communication, recognizing one’s self-worth, developing a sense of self-control and setting appropriate boundaries on one’s friendships. 

The focus of the high school module, geared toward 9th-12th grade participants, is on sexual ethics. The first four sessions address messages presented by the general culture about gender role definitions, love and lust, modesty and sexual orientation and the Jewish messages that challenge each of them. The subsequent three sessions focus on ethical relationships and sexual choices. It is a much more direct approach to the topic of sexuality and sexual relationships. It also provides opportunity for each participant to do his/her own self-exploration and learn to hear and stay true to his/her inner voice.

Q. Should we implement Sacred Choices youth sessions in mixed-gender or single-gender groupings?
A. There are benefits and challenges to teaching Sacred Choices in both mixed-gender and single- gender groupings. We recommend that Sacred Choices be taught in mixed-gender groupings. One of the significant challenges our adolescents face today is in learning how to communicate with each other and in coming to a greater understanding of each other’s perspectives. Mixed-gender learning provides the opportunity for the young men and young women in your congregation to dialogue together about issues of sexuality in a safe and supportive environment. On the other hand, single-gender grouping may allow for an openness of conversation that some teens may find intimidating in a mixed-gender environment. Regardless of which model you select, please be aware that the gender identity of each student may be different. For example, we cannot assume that all boys in a male-only group will gender identify as male or be heterosexual.  
Q. Can we implement Sacred Choices in grades other than those recommended?

A. You know your students and learners best. While the lessons were written with the designated age groups in mind, if you feel that other students are ready to engage in the learning the lessons can be adapted as necessary. It is important to listen to and watch participants’ responses to the learning taking place. In any given age group, the participants will be maturing at different rates, have differing levels of experience with issues of sexuality and have varying degrees of comfort discussing these issues.

Q. How long is each Sacred Choices lesson? 
A. The 75 minute timeline for each lesson is a guideline. Facilitators may adapt the length of any lesson to expand over multiple sessions or may choose to abbreviate sections of any lesson should the students not be responding to it. It is important to listen to and watch participants’ responses to the learning taking place. If you find that there are a significant number of participants who are not engaging with a particular discussion, end it sooner than you may have originally planned. If you find participants are highly engaged and eager to delve deeper into the subject matter of a particular topic of discussion, try to allot the time for them to do so.

Q. Who should facilitate Sacred Choices?
A. In order for the program to be successful, you will want to identify an appropriate facilitator or facilitators for the teen sessions and the adult sessions. The facilitator should be someone who has extensive experience teaching and facilitating learning with teens, can handle sensitive issues of sexuality in meaningful and appropriate ways and can commit to teaching all the Sacred Choices sessions that will be implemented. A more extensive list of qualifications for a facilitator can be found in the Sacred Choices: Adolescent Relationships & Sexual Ethics Module Guide.

Q. What kind of training is required to facilitate Sacred Choices?
A. It is highly recommend that those preparing to teach Sacred Choices spend time learning more about the curriculum and how it is designed, exploring implementation questions, and personally delving into the Jewish texts and values the curriculum presents. Several Sacred Choices teacher training webinars are posted in the Union for Reform Judaism webinar archive. Those can be downloaded for free. Additionally, Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, RJE, Youth Specialist is available to URJ member congregations for one-on-one or group consultations on implementing Sacred Choices in your congregation.

Q. What evidence have you seen that this curriculum has been successful? 
A. The jury is still out on whether or not people can be taught to make good choices about sexual behavior through classroom lessons. In reality, many of these lessons young people will have to learn on their own. That is why the lessons try to help participants tune into their own voices, their own sense of what is right and wrong and even to figure out what to do when they make decisions they don’t feel good about, to learn from those experiences, to forgive themselves and to move on in a healthful and Jewish way.

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