I’m disturbed by Rabbi Stern’s claim that the incidence of teenage pregnancy and AIDS in the Jewish community is not a problem that needs to be taken seriously. Similar claims were once made about alcoholism and domestic violence, driving the problems underground, preventing education, and silencing the victims. It has already been more than a decade since the Tzvi Aryeh AIDS Foundation was founded in New York City to serve Orthodox Jews suffering from AIDS. The Tzvi Aryeh Foundation targets the very traditional Jewish community by presenting sexual education and choices in ways that have been sanctioned by Orthodox rabbis and that comport with normative Jewish law. But the organization works in almost total secrecy because of the severe stigma that an AIDS diagnosis brings in certain segments of the Orthodox world.
No, AIDS and teenage pregnancy are serious problems and I would applaud the Orthodox Union if it were actually promoting education, awareness, and prevention. But it’s not. Instead it’s using these issues–as well as the specter of cervical cancer, suicide, and date rape–as scare tactics to push a moralistic agenda. While encouraging teenagers to delay engaging in sexual activity may be a laudable goal for any number of reasons, providing bad information will never be the right way to go about promoting this objective. The OU should rethink it’s abstinence website, and perhaps abstain from disseminating misleading information to teens.
Read the Full Debate: Should We Teach Abstinence to Teens?