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Every since my experiences at Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate, I have had a fondness for synagogue pews. Synagogue in Havana Cuba.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Synagogue pews in historic synagogue in Rosh Pina, Israel.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Synagogue pews in Italian synagogue in Jerusalem.
photo by Rhonda Spivak


With many thanks to Dr. Richard Boroditsky for triggering some rather humorous memories

by Rhonda Spivak, January 26, 2011

Richard Boroditsky recently spoke at a CJA women’s event “Sex in the City” in which he gave  an overview of sexuality “from the womb to the tomb” at a fundraiser to benefit Jewish Child and Family Services.
He spoke about sex education that is currently given at schools. It was an excellent presentation, which I will write about in our next issue. But, the presentation got me thinking about what kind of sex education I got at Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate when I attended the school from 1977-1982. I was so immersed in my memories that these next few paragraphs just seemed to write themselves.
The truth is, that as a graduate of Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate in 1982, I can honestly say that I don’t think we got any formal sex education whatsoever. The closest thing to it that I can recall is when our history teacher Linda Conner, who at the time was in her first year of teaching, referred to Napoleon Bonaparte as a “shmuck.” And it’s possible that we would have talked about masturbation in Sheldon Oberman’s class, but only to the extent of “mental masturbation.” I do also remember writing my name as S. Hormone when I handed in my Tanach tests to Rabbi Altein, knowing that when he returned the tests in class he would never read mine out. And there were rumours that some form of sex education was going on in the library at the old JWC building on Matheson when librarian Mrs. Low wasn’t around, but I myself was never an eye-witness. There are many of my peers from the class of 1983, one year younger than I, who will well remember what I am referring to.
Actually, now that I am thinking about it, the truth is that I had my first sexual experience in the Talmud Torah Beth Jacob Shul, an orthodox synagogue which was attached to the school. If memory serves me correct, the incident occurred after a prayer service - possiby Rosh Hodesh, that takes place at the beginning of each month and which has become a service women celebrate. I have a vivid memory of it.  I was necking with a male classmate under the first pew of the women’s section of the shul. We saw someone’s big feet approaching the pew, and the next thing I knew our gym teacher Doug Dyck bent down and stuck his large round head under the pew. We were caught. He stood there waiting with his arms folded as we got up awkwardly from the floor. As we walked back to school down the long hallway, I remember explaining to Mr. Dyck, who wasn’t Jewish, that I had done nothing culpable—after all, from a halachic point of view, I was on the women’s side of the shul.  It was my boyfriend who had violated the rules, by not staying on his side of the shul. He was a trespasser. And besides, I emphasized that at all times we were facing east toward Jerusalem as required by Jewish law.
Doug Dyck smiled at me. He never took us to the principal’s office, and he never said a word about it afterward.  Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate gave me fond memories associated with synagogue attendance. Who could ask for more?
But as an aside, even had Doug Dyck wanted to take us to the principal’s office, I don’t think there would have been much use in doing so. The principal at the time was an Israeli. He was known for giving out “bad slips” as a disciplinary tactic. If you did something wrong, you would get sent to the office and he would issue a note that was to be taken home to your parents.
The problem was that he had a very thick Israeli accent and when he said the word “bad,” it sounded like “bed.” When he phoned to tell parents to explain that their child was getting a “bed slip,” it sounded like he was a salesman for a bedding company, and no one knew what to make of him. As students, we used to joke that getting a “bed slip” meant that you could leave school early to go home to bed.
The long and the short of it is that there was no formal sex education. But I have enjoyed reminiscing so much, that I hope other JWC alumni will write the Winnipeg Jewish Review with their memories of sex education at JWC. Contact me at [email protected]
As for my article about Richard Boroditsky’s talk—it’s coming soon. Pun intended.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.