April 15, 2010
"There's Only 1U" is a Houston-based program combining core Jewish values with comprehensive sex education. Its creator, Rabbi Amy Weiss, has presented the curriculum to more than 150 local youths.
Harris County is one of the top areas in the country for STDs. The county ranks sixth for chlamydia, fifth for syphilis, and fourth for gonorrhea. More than half of these STDs occur in people younger than 24, with a few hundred each year in people younger than 14, according to a February report by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services.
The overnight program focuses on five Jewish values: truth (emet), not embarrassing (lo levayesh), courage of the heart (ometz lev), taking care of your body (shmirat haguf), and honoring one another (ohev zeh et zeh).
The lock-in begins with students watching clips from "South Park's" sex education episode as a way to stimulate conversation. Participants rank behaviors from least to most intimate and explain why. They list slang terms for sexual acts and discuss their appropriate use in different settings. Medical professionals, psychologists, educators, and social workers helped develop the curriculum.
"They need to get information from informed sources and rely not solely on the Internet," said Linda Atzil, whose daughter attended the program.
Sex education has been a priority within the Reform Jewish tradition since 2005, when Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, informed the group's general assembly on the prevalence of the "hook-up culture" and oral sex. URJ created a sexual ethics program, "Sacred Choices," though it is not universally taught at synagogues and Jewish schools and is not a comprehensive sex education curriculum.
The next session is scheduled for April 16-17. For more information on the program, visit www.theresonly1u.org.