I first met Ayo Oppenheimer, the founder and creator of Jewrotica.org at the first TribeFest in Las Vegas. We’d been in touch via email earlier about some of the projects she was involved with and she was in Las Vegas doing what any good serial Jewish innovator does – shmoozing, presenting, bouncing ideas around etc. I suggested she get involved with ROI, an international community of Jewish social entrepreneurs, and sure enough, we met again in Jerusalem this past summer at annual the ROI summit where she had been accepted as a participant. That’s when she pitched me on her idea for Jewrotica – a Web site focussing on the intersection of Judaism and erotica.
Ayo outlined the reasons why she was interested in such a project – and you can read about it in her own words in Megan Sass’s interview over at Heeb. Her reasons were certainly compelling, but why did I get involved? Soon after, while the summit was still going on, laptop in hand, I helped design her logo, helped register the domain name and eventually built and contributed to the Web site. But again, why?
I can tell you I certainly wasn’t interested in anything profane or puerile. I didn’t want to read stories that were the equivalent of Penthouse Letters with a Menorah thrown in. I wasn’t interested in facile imagery of say, nude women wearing Teffilin, like Leonard Nimoy’s Shekhina Project. What I was interested in was the innate eroticism of Judaism. Clearly when you see Haredim walking around Jerusalem or Williamsburg, the first thing that comes to mind is decidedly not “Oooh! Sexy!” Or maybe it is, who am I to judge? In the secular realm, Woody Allen doesn’t usually set hearts aflutter. Neither does Ron Jeremy, and he’s a porn star!
Despite all that, the fact remains that Judaism, divorced from foreign notions regarding sexuality picked up from living in exile among Christians, is sexy. Christians believe that sex is a sin, but Judaism views sex as an obligation and a holy act. Our holy books are full of love stories, both allegorical and literal – from Adam and Eve, our forefathers and mothers, King Solomon and the Shunamit, Samson and Delilah and on and on. And those are just the obvious stories – well, less obvious if you rely on the artscroll translation of the Song of Songs for instance… but sensuality permeates many aspects of Judaism and Jewrotica is, for me, a place where these ideas can be explored further and discussed.
I’m still not sure what really lies at the intersection of Judaism and erotica. But with the help of Ayo Oppenheimer, a great core team and a growing group of contributors, I look forward to the discussion. Please do not hesitate to join in.