The Debrief: Making Jewish Sexuality Both Public and Private

jewishboston By Mimi Arbeit on June 11, 2013 [Jewish Boston]

Ayo Oppenheimer, 27, is the founder and editor of, an online hub for Jewish sexual expression from Torah commentaries to erotic stories. Today she tells us more about this project and what it’s becoming.

ayo_oppenheimer_of_jewrotica_largeJewrotica is highlighting the need for more conversation about sexuality in the Jewish community. My mission is to engage Jewishly—to educate about sexual health and sexual expression and to celebrate sexuality in a fun, playful and thoughtful way. At Jewrotica, you don’t need to check your Judaism at the door, but you also don’t need to check your sexuality at the door. We celebrate Jewish culture and Jewish tradition in a sex-positive framework.

Some have critiqued Jewrotica for taking what “should be” private and making it public. I think Jewrotica beautifully tows the line between the two. The workshops we offer are a combination of educational (“Kedoshim Tehiyu/Holy You Will Be”) and entertaining (“An Evening of Jewrotica: Bedside Reading”). The writing includes commentary on the weekly Torah portion, essays, erotic poetry, confessions, fiction, advice columns, educational articles and more. Though the fiction can get racy, the stories are not tied back to specific people and names are changed in order to prevent lashon hara (gossip) and respect privacy.

I’m all for privacy, but what we mostly have in the Jewish community today is silence, not privacy. And silence leads to ignorance, shame and embarrassment. Many of our readers have reached out to us to thank us for making them feel less ashamed and less alone, and for providing a healthy and positive forum for discussion and sexual expression. That alone is enough to make this project worthwhile.

jewrotica_high_res_full_logo_largeJudaism has a unique heritage, richness and values all our own that inform our writing, our loving and our lives. Sometimes seeing sexuality in a Jewish context makes the subject more relatable, like it did for this young woman from the Gush in Israel. Many pieces on Jewrotica document memories and stories of sexuality that are inextricably interwoven with Jewish heritage, like this piece on a childhood crush’s tzitzit (fringes), this piece about a lesbian encounter on Chanukah or this piece about a couple fumbling in the dark on Shabbat after putting the kids to sleep.

Other pieces are not erotic, per se, but deal with relationships and the Jewish lifecycle, like this piece on family and fertility. Some writing addresses interfaith relationships, including this Saudi Arabian tryst and musing on first kisses, this exploration of interfaith dynamics at holiday time, this essay of “coming out” as dating a non-Jew to the writer’s Orthodox family, and a rendezvous aptly called “My Sweet Boy, My Goy Toy.” Many, if not most, are true stories.

Read a handful of these stories and you’ll understand why they need to be told and see the powerful conversations they can spark.

We welcome all contributions! (Send them here.) We have between 3,000 and 15,000 readers visit Jewrotica each day, and we have had over 100 writers contribute to the site thus far. Our readers and writers hail from all around the world and are representative of the various flavors of Judaism. We even have an octogenarian writer who was the president of a Martha’s Vineyard Reform temple for many years. Our eight volunteers assist with editing, graphics, web development, sexual education and Judaics. I try to see to it that Jewrotica is a fun experience for everyone involved.

debrief290px_largeMy advice for Jewish adults today is kavod habriyot—honor boundaries. Think about what your boundaries are and communicate them to your partners. With this firm respect for boundaries, you might push past your comfort zones and dare to be creative. There is a world of playfulness and intrigue waiting for you if you want to find it. And you’re always welcome to write about your adventures on Happy playing!

Thanks, Ayo!

P.S. This Friday is the last day to enter our hot summer date contest.

The Debrief appears every Wednesday on Read past columns, or contact Mimi at