About Sacred Choices
We’re not implementing a sex education curriculum in our religious school. Rather, we’re instituting a program that focuses on issues of communication, body ethics, and values-based decision-making. The Sacred Choices curriculum was developed by the Union for Reform Judaism (our national Reform movement) under the direction and guidance of internationally-recognized experts in the fields of teen education, sexual ethics, and Jewish education. One major goal of Sacred Choices is to help transform adolescence – often a time of tension and confusion – into a time of healthy communication and growth. In addition, this program…
…provides teens with a foundation on which they can make informed, responsible decisions about their health and behavior, including their sexuality.
…equips them with age-appropriate tools to help steer through friendships and relationships.
…offers Jewish answers to many of their questions about sexual behavior, avoiding the temptation to speak generally about values without grappling with the hard issues.
From the URJ…
The Union for Reform Judaism has developed a new resource for our middle school students, a curriculum entitled Sacred Choices: Adolescent Relationships and Sexual Ethics. Today’s Jewish youth are looking for guidance and insight from their community about how to deal with many of the challenges they face at this stage of their lives. Sacred Choices addresses one of these vital challenges.
We know that teens could use help addressing issues of sexual choices and behavior. In few places where teens spend their time do they have the opportunity to talk openly and honestly about these issues or to develop a sense of personal sexual ethics, a spiritual framework for thinking Jewishly about their sexual choices. Our synagogue is a natural place for such conversations to take place. Within the context of the synagogue, our teens find a safe place for sharing and dialogue; they find adult role models whom they can trust for guidance; they find peers who face similar challenges; and they find a tradition that can teach and guide them in safe, healthy, and realistic directions.
And parents struggle as well. Parents seek help articulating their own sexual values and finding ways to support their teens through this time of their lives. While the Sacred Choices curriculum offer opportunities for adolescents to learn about sexual ethics from a Reform perspective, it recognizes that the primary sex educators in our adolescents’ lives are their parents. Sacred Choices requires parents and the congregation to work together as partners in supporting and teaching our adolescents.
For more detailed information about the Sacred Choices project, we encourage you to read the information posted at www.urj.org/youth/sacredchoices.
We implemented this unique and innovative module last year as a result of parent concerns that their teens’ secular sex-ed curriculum, though thorough in its focus on information about health and biology, was woefully inadequate in regards to issues related to values, ethics, and personal choice. These parents of eighth- and ninth-graders came to us because they hoped our Temple could be a safe place for their children to develop sophisticated moral (and Jewish!) approaches to these complicated issues.
It’s important to acknowledge that this program’s implementation at Isaiah is thanks to a number of parents who brought these issues to our attention. Addressing difficult topics from a values-based perspective is exactly the role of religious education. As a synagogue, we strive to be a nurturing environment that offers a space for teens and their families to positively explore these issues. Furthermore, we’re well-prepared to tackle this topic because we have access to curricular resources that are specifically designed to address this topic with eighth- and ninth-grade students.
We’re proud that Temple Isaiah is a Jewish institution that is well-equipped to provide teens with programming that is responsive to their needs, relevant to their lives, and laser-focused on the role we play as a Jewish community. We’re especially thankful to the parents who worked with us to develop this important initiative.