Author Archives: Bat Sheva Marcus

Bat Sheva Marcus

About Bat Sheva Marcus

Bat Sheva Marcus, PhD is one of the founders and the Clinical Director of The Medical Center for Female Sexuality. The Center, founded in 2000, is dedicated to helping women with a wide variety of sexual issues and has three centers in New York, in Westchester, NYC and Great Neck. Bat Sheva earned her PhD in Human Sexuality at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, CA. Dr. Marcus also holds a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University as well as a master’s degree in public health and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Bat Sheva is a founding member and Vice President of JOFA and has sat on the board of directors for 16 years. She is a coordinator of her partnership minyan in Riverdale, Shachar and was past chair of the Women’s Tefillah Network. She has lectured internationally on women’s issues and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows including CBS News, News 12 Westchester. She has been written up many times in New York Times, Time Magazine and Westchester Magazine as well as a myriad of local publications.

Confronting Mikveh with Honesty

sad woman sitting alone, b&wThere have been numerous conversations recently about mikveh, tzniut, niddah, and sexual relationships within the Orthodox community. They have spanned the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s about time that we’re having these conversations, because these are really important and central issues that have an enormous impact on our lives. And when issues of personal status, ritual, and belief systems are hard to talk about, they tend to get swept under the rug or ignored. And when people feel ambivalent about halakha, they often feel a terrible sense of shame.

Two years ago, Mayyim Hayyim asked me to write a blog about sex and the mikveh. Now might be a good time to revisit the issue of when halakha becomes a smoke screen to hide sexual problems. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

I’m a medical sex therapist. I see dozens of women each week who are struggling with their sex lives. The struggles don’t differ much between the women in the Jewish community and other communities. But I am constantly struck by the role that the mikveh (and the laws surrounding its use) plays in the observant Jewish woman’s personal struggle, how it both effects and is affected by the quality of the sexual relationship.

Continue reading “When the Mikveh Feels Overwhelming” at Mayyim Hayyim’s blog, The Mikveh Lady Has Left The Building.

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Posted on May 13, 2014

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One Student’s Ordination Affects Us All

chagYeshiva University’s recent decision to withhold semicha (rabbinic ordination) from one of its about-to-graduate rabbis because of his participation in a Partnership Minyan should be of serious concern to the broader Modern Orthodox community. I know there are many of us who have essentially “written off” YU. We feel like they have lost touch with the ideals of what Modern Orthodoxy was created to embody.  And I get that. And often I just shrug my shoulders when the institution does something I don’t admire and go along on my merry way.

In this case, I really don’t think we should because the underlying message they are sending is of significant rule-changing. And that’s just scary.

Here’s the deal:

—  YU needs to be more transparent and can’t change the rules retroactively. If they have standards they want to hold rabbis to, (and let’s face it, every semicha granting institution has a right to its standards) they should make those clear before a student signs up for four years of study. If they aren’t clever enough to foresee the issues that may arise later, that’s really their problem. They just can’t start changing the rules whenever they want to or all the rabbis out there with semicha are in trouble.

—  They are essentially changing the meaning of semicha. The last time I looked, “Yoreh, Yoreh” on the semicha document meant that a rabbi could rule on things he thought he understood. It didn’t mean that he merely acts as a conduit, channeling the vision and opinion of his Rebbe. That is a new, and frankly, a scary course for Modern Orthodoxy, one that separated it from the Chareidi institutions. Yes, we assume properly trained rabbis will know their limits and go to more knowledgeable ones when necessary but we want to benefit from the blessing of smart, thoughtful, rabbis who may take a new and more nuanced approach.

—  YU is closing ranks and including only a chosen few in the new definition of “poskim” (halakhic decisors). Why do THEY get to decide who the poskim are? Where did that come from? If I want to count Rabbi Daniel Sperber as my posek who are they to tell me otherwise? But the new message from YU is “here are the final arbiters.” No real dialogue is acceptable.

I think this whole event portends an ever-more concerning approach by YU, and I, for one, hope there is some backtracking on the issue.

 

Posted on March 1, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

VIDEO: Ruth Calderon: A Familiar Voice, from Israel

MK Ruth CalderonMany wonderful things happened at last week’s JOFA Conference. But the highlight for me was Israeli Knesset member Ruth Calderon’s impromptu remarks about feminism and the long road to equality.

Ruth‘s schedule opened up at the last minute, so there was not a whole lot of time for us to prepare for her and, I’m assuming, for her to prepare for us.

And that’s partially why I loved her presentation so much. It focused less on the government and communal concerns and more on the day-to-day reality of being a woman in a man’s world. She talked about growing up in a traditional home where she was expected to help clear the table and do the dishes while her brothers were not. She talked about the one-woman letter-writing crusade she mounted to get the toiletry kits in business class flights geared towards women as well as men. She talked about a Knesset that still has a significantly higher percentage of members using the men’s rest room than the ladies’ room.

And perhaps most movingly she spoke about raising her children to have strong Jewish values in a secular world. And she described her surprise and delight when she realized that her daughter had absorbed the message of a Jewish life. So many of us in the room put a great deal of energy and time into affecting the communal agenda. And then, on some level, we worry about whether those same messages are heard at home and whether we have instilled in our kids the values we hold dearest.

It was touching and inspiring to hear this strong, confident, brilliant woman voice her own insecurities about the issues we all face. And it showed once again that no matter how different our worlds may look from the outside, in Israel and in the US, from the inside they may be pretty similar.


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Posted on December 19, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy