N.J. woman joins forces with Anglo writers to launch ‘Jewrotica’ website

By Mordechai I. Twersky, Oct.12, 2012 [Ha’aretz] The 27-year-old native of Leonia, New Jersey, presents a concept for a ‘hub for Jewish sexual expression’ that she says has been sorely lacking from an otherwise ‘hyper-organized’ Jewish community.

Ayo Oppenheimer, founder of Jewrotica. ‘Are we to be embarrassed about our sexuality or not?’

A silhouette of Adam-and-Eve-like figures with attitude adorns the homepage of a new website urging its visitors to “Get Jewish. Get Sexy.” And it’s not a lone fig leaf each is wearing, but a strategically placed Star of David.

“The story of Adam and Eve inspired our logo,” says Ayo Oppenheimer, founder, editor and self-proclaimed “Lady of Mischief” at the helm of Jewrotica, which launched this week. Recalling that the Bible’s first two characters in the Book of Genesis were embarrassed by their nakedness after they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, Oppenheimer draws a modern-day parallel to fellow Jews contending with their sexuality.

“Are we to be embarrassed about our sexuality or not?” asks Oppenheimer. “How do we draw that fine line between tzniut [modesty], in a positive sense, and shutting out conversation altogether? Where does the Judaism, quite literally, fit in to the sexuality?”

At this summer’s ROI Summit – an international gathering of Jewish social entrepreneurs that convened in Jerusalem – the 27-year-old native of Leonia, New Jersey, presented her concept for a “hub for Jewish sexual expression” that she says has been sorely lacking from an otherwise “hyper-organized” Jewish community. As a “social entrepreneur,” she was awarded a micro-grant of $1,000 from the Schusterman Foundation, based in Tusla, Oklahoma.

With the new site encouraging submissions spanning six different categories – Romantic Tales, Awkward Stories, Naughty, Reflections, Reviews, and Confessions – Oppenheimer hopes to generate a discussion she thought was also lacking from her Orthodox upbringing and yeshiva day-school education.

“There were lots of things that were taught very well, but sexuality and sexual education were not some of those things,” said Oppenheimer, a resident of Austin, Texas, who has lived, studied and danced professionally in Israel. “I wished there was something that spoke to the reality of the sexual tension that exists in communities where the laws of negiya [touching] are observed.”

Sarah Tuttle-Singer – a 31-year-old immigrant from Los Angeles who serves as the site’s Israel-based “Mistress of Social Media” – says Jewrotica.org “has the ability to seriously start a conversation about sex and Judaism in ways that have long been overlooked – from the profound and intellectual to the visceral and sensual.”

Tuttle-Singer’s essay “The Rabbi and the Vibrator” is promoted on the site’s homepage, along with a photo of a vibrator bearing a Star of David.

“I love being part of a sex-positive site that can reshape the way we see our community and ourselves,” adds Tuttle-Singer, a mother of two. “Because, guess what? You can be a Nice Jewish Girl and love sex. And for many, this idea creates a revolutionary shift in paradigm.”

David Abitbol, the Israeli-born founder of the website “Jewlicious” who grew up in Montreal, Canada, is a member of Jewrotica’s six-member team of volunteers. Like Singer-Tuttle, he too is based in Israel – a factor he feels is critical to the site’s prospects for success.

“Jewrotica is a very compelling project and it’s no surprise that there’s a significant Israeli Anglo component in its inception,” said Abitbol, 48. “Many of us are rooted somewhere in between the Diaspora, with its easy life, and both the idea and reality of Israel. It’s a little schizophrenic, I think, but it’s a fertile breeding ground for the growth and development of creativity and innovation of all kinds.”

When asked if she has a business model for the site, Oppenheimer responds, “Yes and no.” Her long-term vision “for revenue and income” will include workshops in Jewish comminities via local JCC’s and some limited, on-site advertising. “But no pornography or explicit images,” she stresses. “I am very clear about values and priorities.”

The site’s “Swag” line offers branded, erotic undergarments, T-shirts and thongs “with a very modest profit margin,” Oppenheimer says, with the words “Jewrotica” strategically placed on each garment.