Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Israel News

Of Religion and Rubbers

‘It keeps adults safe.” That’s the explanation Rabbi Melissa Simon hears parents give kids about the bowl of colorful condoms in the front office of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the West Village gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender shul where she’s a rabbinical intern. And at “Faith in Latex,” a panel on religion and rubbers hosted by Fifth Avenue’s Museum of Sex last week, that sentiment provided a cogent catchphrase for one of the evening’s themes — that the imperative to protect a life can supersede biblical strictures against contraception.

“It’s like a commandment to use a condom,” Simon told the audience of about 50 who packed a small exhibit room at the Museum of Sex that displayed wall texts discussing the “Porn Industry,” “Sex Acts” and “Sexploitation.” Simon added that she became a rabbi partly “because the Reform movement was able to recognize sexuality and sexual identity.”

During the panel discussion, Simon found allies in a Buddhist monk and a Pentecostalist minister. The former, Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Abbott of Village Zendo, a Zen temple in New York, cited the first of her faith’s 10 precepts, “I will not endanger others or myself,” as a basis for advocating condom use.

The Pentecostalist, the Rev. Brenda Starks-Ross, associate pastor of Brooklyn’s Trinity Pentecostal House of Prayer, stood up to preach that “when it comes to people’s lives, we’ve got to deviate” from doctrinaire interpretations of scripture. “The same faith that can move a mountain can help you move a penis and put a condom on it,” she said.

A Catholic priest, the Rev. Gilbert Martinez, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan, (“In a word: No,” he opened his homily on the subject) and an Episcopal minister, the Rev. Earl Kooperhamp of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Harlem, rounded out the panel, which was moderated by Columbia University medical ethicist Joel Roselin. “I think it’s safe to say that many religions struggle with physical expression of spiritual love, as well as the purposes of sexual relations,” Roselin told the Forward in an e-mail. “It’s also safe to say that individual religions are not monolithic and can have different views even within a religious community.”

Simon, the rabbinical intern, expressed a similar view. “We’re seeing the dawn of a new age of people talking about this,” she told the audience. “It’s a lot less taboo.”

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.