Everything He Wanted To Know About Sex Among the Orthodox

Interview With Haredi Politician Gets a Bit Awkward

Let The Rebbe Call Her Rebel: Former Jewish Home party candidate Racheli Ibenboim sits down for a chat with Tuvia Tenenbom.
Isi Tenenbom
Let The Rebbe Call Her Rebel: Former Jewish Home party candidate Racheli Ibenboim sits down for a chat with Tuvia Tenenbom.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published February 16, 2014, issue of February 21, 2014.
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Her father was in the business of importing porcelain from Bavaria and she was given much freedom, “within limits,” to do what she pleased. She became an activist within her own sect. She arranged forums and events, and seems to have ruled her peers.

“At the age of 18 and one month I got engaged,” she said. “It was like in the movies, really: We got engaged after meeting each other for less than 20 minutes. Let me say this: We were engaged less than 24 hours from the first time that I heard his name, and after less than 20 minutes of talking to him. Seven months later we got married. By the way, during these seven months we never met or talked, not even on the phone. He is one of 14 children. And I remember, when I was at his family’s house and I looked at them, asking myself: Which of them would I like to marry? My answer was: None. This, of course, was a little problematic. Luckily, my husband, as I found out later, is a very impressive man.”

“May I ask a question, the sort of question all idiots would ask of you?” I say.

“Go ahead!”

“You have never up to that point met a man. You have never up to that point touched a man. How does this work? You didn’t know your husband-to-be but you married him, a man, and you were supposed to have sex with him. What went on in your head? Were you scared?”

“Yes. On one hand it was very confusing, but on the other hand I knew I was not the only one going through this; every girl goes through this. All my friends go through this. This is something that you are prepared to go through; it is a natural part of life, something very normal. It is accepted and expected in the world that I am part of. But I was very curious. I was asking myself: Who is this man that I got? What is he?”

“How does something like this work in practical life? You never touched the man and now — how does it feel?”

“It is a ‘technical’ thing, that’s all there is to it.”

“Technical?”

“Technical!”

“Technical on both sides?”

“Yes.”

“No excitement?”

“It is just one of those things that we have to go through. There is the event of the wedding in public, and then an event in private. A series of events, one after the other. That’s it. And after this, everything changes. I left my parents’ home and then I had to cover my hair, to wear a wig. The wedding day is the one day in your life when so much of your life changes.”


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