February 8, 2007
Premarital counseling gets short shrift in Jewish L.A.
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"Our preference is to facilitate the conversation early," she said. "The movement is toward prevention, and a little conversation ahead of time can address things that people are reluctant to do."
Los Angeles' only other known program for unmarried couples was The Aleph Bet of Marriage, presented through the Union for Reform Judaism. However, the program hasn't been offered in area Reform congregations for several years.
On the flip side, the Jewish community does make a plethora of programs available for couples who are or who have already been married.
The UJ offers "Success in Your Second Marriage" and "Challenge of Growth," a class for couples who have been married between two to 15 years.
Jewish Marriage Encounter (JME), a program based on Catholic Marriage Encounter, hosts weekend getaways that take couples away from the distractions and tensions of everyday life to concentrate on communicating with one another. The program, which was founded in 1972, is open to couples married for two years or more, including non-Jewish and interfaith couples.
For newlywed Jewish and interfaith couples and gay/lesbian couples, the Brandeis Bardin Institute (BBI) offers the free Institute for Newly Married Couples. The biannual weekend program is geared toward couples married within the past 18 months.
Although the majority of the couples at the BBI are in their 20s and 30s, couples of all ages attend the weekend.
"We want couples to come and explore the role they want Judaism to play," said Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, director of Brandeis Collegiate Institute and Adult Programs.
BBI keeps the number of attendees low -- 30 couples -- to encourage the bonding found in the UJ's program.
"We want to help them form their own Jewish community. We keep the number low and they walk away with new friends," she said.
The weekend -- which includes discussions, relaxation and hikes -- is "very important to the community," Hahn Tapper said. "It can be hard for newly married couples to find their place. We make it as accessible as possible."
BBI also recently introduced a "check-up" weekend for couples married between two to five years that offers workshops on relationships and communication skills.
While there are no immediate solutions to changing negative attitudes toward premarital counseling or the Jewish community's lack of premarital programming, the Board of Rabbi's Diamond would like to see congregations begin outreach programs to voluntarily address premarital issues within the context of the synagogue.
"Rabbis and congregations are intimately involved with members lives," he said. "A congregation is a group of people that care about one another. When we lose that focus, we lose the essence of what it means to be a caring community."
The Board of Rabbis is planning to bring back a two-year professional skills series, titled "Lilmod Ve-La'asot," or "To Learn and to Do," featuring monthly seminars aimed at helping younger rabbis train with other rabbis and mental health professionals in pastoral issues -- among them, premarital counseling.
"We don't need to meddle, but we need to be there," Diamond said. "Too often we react when we need to be proactive."
Rabbi Deitsch points out that similar advice also works for couples who sometimes need a reminder about the real meaning behind the wedding: creating a new life together where it's not about "you" or "me" -- it's about "us."
"You can't ask someone to give up something of themselves for you," said Deitsch, who is planning a new workshop on the spiritual aspects of relationships. "You can ask someone to give up something of themselves for the relationship."
For more information on the University of Judaism's Making Marriage Work - The Basic Seminar" call (310) 440-1566 or visit dce.uj.edu and click on "Making Marriage Work."
For more information on Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, call (323) 761-8800 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Rabbi Karen Deitsch's workshop, e-mail email@example.com.
For more information on the Union of Reform Judaism's "The Aleph Bet of Marriage" program, contact a Reform congregation near you or visit urj.org/jfc/premarital.
For more information on Brandeis-Bardin's Newly Married Weekends, call (805) 582-4450 or visit thebbi.org.
For more information on Jewish Marriage Encounter and its Feb. 17 seminar, call (818) 225-0099 or (800) 887-7544 or visit www.jewishmarriage.org.
For more information on ATID Couple's Havurah, contact Stacey Zackin, ATID director at (310) 481-3244, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sinaitemple.org.
For more information on Chabad West Coast, call 1-800-242-2239 or visit www.chabad.com.
For more information on Aish L.A. classes, call (310) 278-8672, e-mail LA@Aish.com or visit www.aishla.com
The Jewish Weddings Board on the Wedding Planning Web site The Knot is not on the pulldown menu yet, but it can be found at talk.theknot.com/boards/ShowForum.aspx?ForumID=399
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