For many years I was a Health Educator for Planned Parenthood. I presented workshops on all aspects of sexuality and relationships.
I know what you may be thinking! Sexuality can have many definitions. Sexuality is more than just sex. It encompasses sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image and gender roles. Sexuality education addresses the biological, socio-cultural, psychological and spiritual dimensions of sexuality, including the skills to communicate effectively and to make responsible decisions.
While many public schools address sexuality education in health class, they fail to address sexual ethics and are prohibited from teaching sexuality within a religious framework. Conversely, Jewish day schools are not required to follow state mandates for health education which means they may not educate youth about preventing HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. JLoveandValues brings an added value of addressing not only the sexual ethics within a Jewish framework, but also the biology and interpersonal relationships that young people need to learn about in a safe and Jewish environment.
More than ever, our children need age-appropriate information, boundaries and guidelines to become sexually responsible. When working with Jewish teens, I bring the added dimension of Jewish values to the discussion of sexuality. JLoveandValues offers a forum for Jewish teens to think about healthy choices and responsible decision-making based on Jewish values and moral reasoning.
2. How has the Jewish community responded to the need to address bullying?
Bullying has become recognized as a significant issue within our greater culture. States have created anti-bulling legislation and many public schools require professional development for all staff. This effort (has been in large part) is due to the extreme forms of bullying committed against the teens who have ultimately committed suicide.
The Jewish community recognizes bullying is in conflict with Jewish values and the tenets of living a Jewish life. However, bullying looks different in every community. In the Jewish setting, particularly within day schools or summer camp, bullying may take on subtle forms of aggression, known as relational aggression. This includes behaviors such as exclusion, gossiping, spreading rumors, or taunting in the hallways.
That being said, it’s very easy for children to deny or hide that there is a problem. From an administrative or Jewish community point of view, everything may appear to be fine because their narrow definition of bullying is one which may solely feature physical acts of cruelty or blatant verbal taunting.
The reality is that Jewish youth, particularly those in middle school when bullying or aggressive behavior peaks, need teachers and fellow students to take a stand against aggressive behavior. Youth also need safe spaces and trusted adults who will listen when they need help. In order to create such an environment, Jewish Institutions must strive to reach/educate/train every administrative employee, educator and youth-serving professional to understand not only how bullying is defined on a continuum of aggressive behaviors, but also to know institutional policies, procedures and protocols, and finally to know how to respond to overt and covert forms of such aggressive acts.
3. What are you most looking forward to at YouthCon?
I look forward to meeting and networking with fellow professionals who share the same passion for working with youth.
Mara Yacobi is a Licensed Social Worker with over ten years of experience working in adolescent sexuality and prevention education. As a dynamic speaker and educator, Mara has led workshops and presented motivational speeches for thousands of students in middle schools, high schools, colleges, camps, youth groups and agencies. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Simmons College and Masters of Social Work from New York University.
Check out her website: http://www.jloveandvalues.com
Follow her on Twitter: @jloveandvalues