Separating the Sexes

Separating the Sexes



This might be a blunt question but I have never heard a good enough answer that explains why ultra-orthodox Jewish boys and girls can’t speak to each other. Other religious people are allowed to go to mix schools and are still orthodox. So is this an ultra-orthodox made thing? And if someone doesn’t keep to this way does that make them less orthodox? If it is wrong how could rabbis allow people to go to mixed schoools?? I am really confused.

Although I have heard the same answers many times I am not satisfied because I still am not able to understand it myself.

An answer would be appreciated


[teenage girl – name redacted]


Dear [name redacted],

Before I address the issue you raise, I would like to preface it with a thought. Often, questions have intellectual answers that are rational and reasonable, but if we are asking a question emotionally, then what really needs to be addressed are our feelings, and they may not be satisfied by the intellectual answer.

So, let me ask you something first: are you asking this question theoretically, because you just want to know, or do you ask because you have an interest in speaking to a particular boy, or to boys in general?

You see, the way G-d created us, it is perfectly natural and healthy for boys and girls to be attracted to each other. There is nothing wrong with that. However, precisely because of this attraction, the Torah way has been to encourage separate education of boys and girls, and a minimum contact to allow for each individual boy and girl to concentrate fully on their education and personal growth, until the time when he or she is ready to begin dating and appreciating romance.

Look, the fact is — and let’s be blunt about it — in co-ed schools a big part of life is the boys pursuing the girls and vice versa. In today’s open society this often leads to more than just pursuit, and unfortunately  you do not need to take my word for it.

I have friends who tell me how difficult it is for them to find an appropriate spouse because they were introduced to dating too early, before they were mature enough to appreciate what a relationship really is. Even if your relationship is just friendly, a friendship with a boy — even a casual one — can escalate very easily without either of you even realizing it, and become something altogether different that neither of you ever intended. And not necessarily because of you. It could be that the boy has feelings toward you possibly without even realizing it, and it can happen simply as a result of human nature.

As I said, this is an answer for the mind. The fact that we know something in our mind doesn’t mean that it is easy for our feelings to accept. That is why we believe in the Torah that is time tested over the generations as the healthiest approach to education and to the personal growth and development — including sexual development. The fact that some yeshivas are co-ed is their issue and I do not need to justify them. I believe that those schools are the way they are as a result of being influenced by secular culture, because from the beginning of time that was never how yeshivas were run.

On a personal note, I want to add that I don’t know how you got my e-mail address, but everything is divine providence. I do not know who you are but I still feel for you and am sensitive to your question and feelings and I am honored by your confidence in writing to me. You may not have anyone with whom to discuss an issue like this, but I would personally encourage you to do your best to find a wise person you can trust and discuss this issue (and any other you may have) with them in person. If you can’t find such a person, feel free to write to me and I will try to be of any help I can, but it is important for your own good to have a personal friend that can be there with you working through any questions you may have.

Be well, and do not hesitate to write again,

Simon Jacobson


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