September 26, 2018

Dr. Ruth Spices Up Youth Summit

Amar’e Stoudemire and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Photo by Deborah Danan.

It’s mid-May at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit and the Tel Aviv weather is as unpredictable as the conference lineup. The morning opened with oversized hail that rocked the city and an equally stirring speech by pint-sized spitfire and sex therapist Ruth Westheimer.

In perhaps the strangest-ever confab panel, Westheimer, known as “Dr. Ruth,” doled out sex advice to startup co-founders.

“I promise you good sex for the rest of your life if you can adhere to my [advice],” she quipped.

The world-famous sex therapist yielded the floor to world-famous sex symbol Bar Refaeli, who spoke about her entrepreneurship and, in particular, her partnership with sunglasses chain Carolina Lemke. To Refaeli, being a pretty face isn’t enough to make it these days. The model and actress looks to Kim Kardashian as a role model who has managed to stay current in a fast-paced world.

“Kim Kardashian is the most successful businesswoman that I can appreciate,” Refaeli said, adding that the reality TV star is “super smart.”

“She got famous from a sex tape and managed to become a mega-millionaire,” Refaeli noted.

But, she said, “I never want to become Kim Kardashian,” since that level of fame “is too much for me.”

In a comic moment, 6-foot-10 former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire posed with 4-foot-7 Westheimer.

The summit also assembled a roster of major names from the venture capital world to mentor the participants.

Stoudemire, who said he might return to Israel next year to resume playing for Hapoel Jerusalem, a club in which he is part owner, told the Journal that he hoped to convert to Judaism, saying it’s on the “the top of my list of things” to do.

This is the first year the summit is global, with entrepreneurs from 38 countries taking part. It is the third year 30 Under 30 is being held in Israel, which according to Forbes’ Chief Content Officer Randall Lane, is the most fitting host country for a conference of this kind.

“We’ve got young entrepreneurs from across the entire world meeting here, in the crossroads to the entire world,” Lane said.

“[Israel] is a place where all worlds come together, so there’s a symbolism there,” he added.

The 700-person event is unique because the only unifying theme is entrepreneurship among millennials. The advantage to that, Lane said, is that participants aren’t in competition with one another. The cross-pollination means that you’ll have boutique doughnut store owners collaborating with developers of a meditation app.

“It’s a conference of people who are doers,” Lane said.

The summit also assembled a roster of major names from the venture capital world to mentor the participants, ranging from Midas List honoree David Fialkow of General Catalyst to Jerusalem Venture Partners founder Erel Margalit.

But it isn’t all work and no play. Festivities included a beach party in Tel Aviv, a bar crawl in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, and an all-night music festival in a Bedouin tent in the desert with a performance by Kevin Olusola from a cappella sensation Pentatonix.

Olusola, whose band was one of the recipients of the 30 Under 30 award, was on his first visit to the country.

“It’s amazing to see what’s going on with the tech/startup world in Israel, and to meet such a diverse crowd of intellectuals who are trying to change the world with their creative capital,” he told the Journal.

Of course, the conflict is never far from anyone’s mind in this part of the world. On the last day of the summit, participants will visit the first Palestinian planned town and tech hub of Rawabi, where local problem-solving startups will compete for investment. According to Lane, the idea is to demonstrate that entrepreneurship is the ultimate bridge-building tool.

“There’s a reason a lot a great ideas come from people in their 20s,” Lane said.

“Young entrepreneurs are the ones who are going to solve the problems, not politicians,” he added.

Sex Secrets of the Mystical Texts

In the Jewish marriage ceremony, sexual satisfaction is part of the contract. Under the wedding canopy, a groom promises his bride that he will provide her with comfortable standards of food, shelter and sexual gratification. The holiest men are required to marry. Celibacy is not a virtue; orgasms are.

Judaism is intensely sexual. The medieval rabbi Ramban, or Nachmanides, taught in Igeret Hakodesh (The Holy Letter): “When sexual intercourse is done for the sake of heaven, there is nothing so holy and pure. God did not create anything that is ugly or shameful. If the sexual organs are said to be shameful, how can it be said that the Creator fashioned something blemished?”

Adds the Zohar, the main Jewish mystical text: “The Divine presence rests on the marital bed when both male and female are united in love and holiness. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the bedroom in each home was considered as an aspect of the once glorious and sanctified Holy of Holies.”

How is a young religious couple to know how to go about having good sex? There’s a story in the Talmud about a rabbi (known simply as Rav) who was having sex with his wife on Friday night after a very good Shabbat meal, when he suddenly had a strange feeling that there was a third person in the room. He got up, looked behind the curtain, in the closet, under the bed, and lo and behold, there was his favorite student, Rabbi Kahana, hiding under the bedsprings. Rav said, “Is this proper behavior, for a yeshiva boy to be under the rabbi’s bed while the rabbi performs the mitzvah of intercourse?”

The yeshiva boy answered: “Rabbi, what you are doing is a mitzvah from the Torah, and I must learn from you!”

What is interesting here is Judaism’s braiding of sexual openness and sexual modesty. The yeshiva boy convinces the rabbi that his audacity is legitimate because knowing how to perform intercourse is a legitimate part of his religious and spiritual education. Nevertheless, the boy understands that he must hide. This dialectic is ongoing, not only within the tradition but within each of us who seeks to balance our need for modesty and privacy with our need for sexual education.

Sex, in and of itself, has never been a sin for Jews, nor has it been something not to discuss. Within Sinai’s conventional boundaries, it is a mitzvah, or religious commandment. And what is a mitzvah except a blessing, or a guide on how our lives can be more heavenly?

In the Jewish tradition, sex is very much in the eye of the beholder, in the mind where a healthy approach to sex made good sex possible for Jews in the most trying of circumstances and situations.

As the Talmud teaches us in tractate Sanhedrin: If a man and a woman are truly lovers, they can make their bed on the edge of the sword; if their love goes bad, the best bed in the world is not big enough.

Reprinted from “Heavenly Sex: Sexuality in the Jewish Tradition,” by Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer and Jonathan Mark, 1995, New York University Press, then reprinted with permission in Jewish Family & Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values for Today’s Parents and Children (Golden, 1997) by Yosef I. Abramowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman.