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October 6, 2015 | 23rd Tishrei 5776

Philosophy of Sacred Choices

Sacred Choices takes a very clear stand on issues related to adolescent sexual activity that reflects the position of the Reform Movement. At the same time the curriculum is sensitive to the developmental stages of the audience.

The Sacred Choices Approach to Premarital Sex
Sacred Choices asserts that adolescents should not be having sexual intercourse while they are in middle school and high school. In most cases adolescents are not ready for sexual relationships at these stages of their lives. Yet, we know that some adolescents will make choices other than those generally seen as appropriate for this age group. Our tradition urges us to protect the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of our young people by making it clear to them that they can seek out caring adults in their lives to help them sort out their choices and actions even when they have gone down paths we may not have chosen for them. The facilitator should be familiar with and supportive of these stances when implementing Sacred Choices .

We do not tell our kids that sex before marriage is forbidden, although this has been the norm of the Jewish community for more than a millennium. Since many of our children will not marry for fifteen years after the onset of puberty, it is unreasonable to suggest that this traditional standard should be maintained for young people who are adults. Very few of our parents are telling their twenty-five-year-old unmarried children to refrain from having sex. Still, we stress that the Jewish ethical principles that apply inside marriage surely apply outside of marriage as well. And since holiness is attained in a loving, caring, mutual relationship, this should be the standard that we set for our physical relationships.

On the other hand, we say in the clearest possible way that high school participants should not be having sexual relations. Our teens are not adults. They are beset by tension with parents, pressure from friends, a desire for approval, and an uncertain sense of self. What this means is that participants in high school are not yet ready for the loving, mutual relationships that make sex an experience of holiness.

-- Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, URJ 68th General Assembly Sermon

The Sacred Choices Approach to Homosexuality
Sacred Choices recognizes that our teens come from different family structures and have emerging sexual identities of their own. While Sacred Choices recognizes that each congregation, based on its political, social, and geographical makeup will determine the best ways to communicate values regarding homosexuality, it is vital that the facilitator and the congregation support the Union’s stance on homosexuality in the implementation of Sacred Choices and in all congregational interactions with adolescents. Together we can literally save lives by providing a forum that demonstrates that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adolescents are loved by God and their faith community in the exact same way as other people.

Gay and lesbian children are the children of God just as heterosexual children are, and parents need to be prepared for the possibility that their child is gay. And if that is so, they need to create a home that will allow this child to grow into adulthood more easily than he could without their help. It goes without saying, of course, that teens who are gay and lesbian have the duty to live by exactly the same Jewish values as do heterosexuals.

-- Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, URJ 68th General Assembly Sermon

The Sacred Choices Approach to Open Conversation
Sacred Choices, while being developmentally appropriate, also aims to tackle issues head-on and place them in a Reform Jewish context. It is important for the facilitator to allow and encourage open conversations to emerge from participants who are thinking about these issues or are developmentally ready to consider them.

Our kids will not be satisfied with generalities or platitudes. We can help them only if we speak plainly and if we are not afraid to apply the insights of our tradition to the real issues that they confront. That is what these courses do. We do not promote abstinence from all forms of sexual contact. We talk openly about the forms of physical expression that teenagers who care about each other might consider.

-- Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, URJ 68th General Assembly Sermon

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