A Working Strategy for SRE; From Faith-Based Organisation JAT

JAT - Jewish Action and Training for sexual health, is the only charity actively working to promote sexual health in the Jewish community. It is not affiliated to any particular level of the faith and works with the whole Jewish community in Britain, from the orthodox to the unaffiliated. JAT's activities relating to sex and relationships education (SRE) include an outreach programme to schools and leadership and participant training in the Jewish youth movements.

The work of JAT is rooted in understanding of Jewish values and texts. For example, the value Shalom Bayit (Respecting the Family Unit) is explained by JAT in relation to education about sex and relationships:

"The Jewish family unit is where many types of education happen, in Middot (manners and values) as well as in religion and academics. We believe that the best way for the children, young adults and future adults and parents to be kept safe in terms of sexual health, is for the subject of sex and relationships to be as normal in the family life as any of the other subjects that we may educate our children about". Extract from JAT web-site.

Outreach SRE programme in schools
JAT works with Jewish schools to develop bespoke SRE workshops. The workshops are designed following consultation with the Head Teacher, Rabbi or Head of Jewish Studies or named PSHE education co-ordinator at the school. The key curriculum areas that JAT focuses on are:

  • Years 5 & 6: A 5-part Transitions programme: Life cycle, reproduction, physical, social and emotional changes at puberty, hygiene, building self-esteem, respecting gender, support networks.
  • Year 7: Physical & emotional changes at puberty; building positive body image in relation to body changes
  • Year 8: Personal boundaries - what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and how does a young person learn to assert themselves and accept other people's varying views and boundaries
  • Year 9: Myths and facts about sex and relationships - Jewish ethics and teachings are also considered as a stimulus to group discussion around being able to make informed and safe decisions
  • Year 10-13: Sexual health (to include HIV awareness and World AIDS Day - building knowledge and challenging prejudice) Inform about sexual health and address any confusion - discuss abstinence/delay/contraception/teenage pregnancy and further develop assertiveness skills to avoid unwanted situations.

 

Trained JAT staff or volunteers are then identified to deliver the programme. Pupils are usually split into single gender groups and matched with a same-sex facilitator.  JAT staff attend parents' evenings at some of the schools they work with so that they can talk to parents about planned programmes. When requested JAT can run programmes to help parents gather the knowledge needed to answer their children's questions

JAT provides Jewish Assemblies in Mainstream Schools as part of an initiative organised by UJIA, a Jewish charity that supports young people and education in the UK and Israel. . These assemblies are either delivered to the whole school or to a group of Jewish students.  

Training within Jewish youth movements
There are 10 Jewish youth movements in the UK and thousands of young people take part in their activities every year. Youth movements have a key function in terms of socialization for Jewish young people.  JAT runs training programmes for madrichim (Jewish youth leaders). This is a 'Training the Trainer' programme, and has increased the capacity of madrichim to not only support the general and sexual health needs of those attending activities but also in some cases deliver JAT sessions on specific SRE topics. Depending on the age of the participants these could include puberty and body images, relationships and boundaries and STIs (the sessions would again reflect the needs of the organisation, its level of religious affiliation and the individual needs of the participants. JAT also contributes to Cheder (Sunday School sessions) enabling young Jewish people to receive a bespoke approach to SRE. Through engaging with out-of school clubs and activities JAT is able to address the SRE needs of Jewish young people who attend both Jewish and mainstream schools.

Programme evaluation and development
At the end of each workshop, JAT asks all participants to complete anonymous evaluation forms. Teachers, youth leaders/workers in attendance and JAT personnel leading the sessions also complete evaluation forms. All this information is used to inform the Education and Training Manager and helps develop future trainings. Feedback is given to the individual/agency commissioning the training and to funders. In response to feedback JAT have redesigned their website and have created a function for young people to email JAT with anonymous questions.

JAT has recently begun work with Jewish organisations which house and/or educate young people with learning and physical disabilities in order to provide much needed training for the staff and carers in delivering SRE. This isolated cohort may receive little input at present and by creating sessions in partnership with the young people and their carers JAT aims to empower and inform this vulnerable group of learners.

Promoting wider dialogue and engagement
JAT aims to raise awareness; about sexual health within the Jewish community and about Jewish culture and religion for the wider community. To this end, JAT's Director recently ran two sessions at the 'Limmud' conference entitled: 'Relationships and Sex - Why are they different for Jews' and 'How to answer your children's embarrassing questions' (Limmud is an organization hosting innovative Jewish educational events on a broad range of themes). The Chief Rabbi supports JAT's public profile and is one of their patrons. JAT is also part of a Multi-faith Forum which recently held an event to explore issues of common interest relating to SRE, sexual health and young people.  

Key features

  • JAT's work is philosophically rooted in Jewish values and text
  • Building a trusting relationship with schools takes time and is key to the ongoing year-by-year development of JAT's school outreach work
  • JAT has engaged in open dialogue between schools, parents, children and young people and has made sure that evaluation informs future programme development
  • By working with existing cultural and faith structures and institutions such as youth movements and Sunday schools JAT has helped a wide range of adults working with Jewish young people to address SRE confidently, competently and appropriately.


For further information contact
Email: admin@jat-uk.org and visit JAT.