Each person nominated had to possess three qualities to be a sexy rabbi:
- Smarts: They could school us in a battle of wits
- Action: Whether through Jewish outreach or social justice activism
- Badassery: Unique and not afraid to speak their mind or live life their own way
In addition to being a “hot hip-hop dancer,” Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin founded the Moishe Kavod House in Boston, a community of Jews in their 20s and 30s dedicated to tikkun olam (repairing the world), as well as Project Democracy, a national youth voting organization. She is the co-editor of “Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice,” and created a mikveh ritual for survivors of sexual violence, which is currently used at Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh. Margie is a faith-based community organizer with the PICO interfaith network, where she works with clergy to organize their congregations to work on economic justice issues across race, class and faith lines. As rabbi of Congregation Sha’arei Shalom in Ashland, Margie has encouraged teens to create dance-based midrash to be performed during services.
I went directly to Margie herself for some debriefing:
How do you feel about being a part of this list?
I feel somewhat sheepish telling people, but mostly honored. I like that this competition defines sexiness in a positive and feminist way. Smarts, action and “badassery” are qualities I definitely aspire to. If it were about who looks best in a bikini or some snazzy High Holiday suit, I would feel less comfortable, because that would define sexiness in physical terms and likely rely on conventional standards that tend to make many people feel bad about themselves.
As a rabbi, what do you think are your sexiest qualities?
I’m really passionate, and I think that is sexy. I believe that things can be better than they are, and I get inspired and energized to manifest good ideas, whether taking the lead myself or supporting other people in their potential.
I am present in my body, and love to dance. I think it is possible these days, especially in the Jewish community, to forget that we have bodies. We can forget that our bodies have the potential not only to move our heads from place to place, but also to express emotion, cultivate joy and pleasure, and help us feel more alive. My weekly dance practice is one of the primary ways that I pray and connect with God.
I believe in intimacy and connection. Though I am monogamous and reserve sexual intimacy for my adorable husband, Jeremy, I am openhearted and self-aware enough to be in deep relationship with friends, community members and congregants, and colleagues. I try hard to listen, be present and be open to feedback.
In what ways are sex and sexuality a part of your rabbinic work?
When I am working with teens and young adults, I try to normalize conversations about sex and help people think through sex and sexuality in an empowered way.
At Moishe Kavod House, I participate in a monthly Rosh Chodesh (new moon) gathering. Over time, people started discussing sexual experiences, particularly sharing painful experiences of sexual violence. I felt the stories I was hearing were not isolated incidents, but reflective of a larger void in our community, a lack of space to talk about sex. And that is a big part of why I teamed up with you to start a sex-ed program at Moishe Kavod.
A few weeks ago, a fifth-grader in my congregation work asked me if God was a boy or a girl. I said I think God has some aspects we might consider feminine and other parts we might consider masculine. I explained: “All of us have parts that people used to think of as masculine and feminine. Like I’m a woman, and I’m a rabbi, which only men used to do.” Then the kids all jumped in, talking about gender and the importance of letting people be themselves.
With the seventh- and eighth-graders, I talk more explicitly about sex, development and peer pressure. I’ve shared how, when I was young, everyone thought that everyone else was very sexual, and actually we all felt insecure and embarrassed. The students and I talked about how to figure out what you really want, and what the other person really wants, and also figure out how to talk about it in a way that feels fun, safe and positive.
What’s your sage rabbinic advice for Jewish young adults today?
Sometimes people can become focused on a goal, like having an orgasm or giving their partner one. Sex becomes like a card game, where there is only one way to win. I like the idea that sex should be more like a jam session, where partners are creating a piece of art that has never existed before. In addition to making sex less pressured and more fun, it also increases the possibility of creating an authentic connection, or in the Jewish theologian Martin Buber’s terms, an “I-thou” moment.
The People’s Choice categories will be open for voting until Thursday, January 16, and the top candidates will be gifted free Jewrotica swag and invited for exclusive interviews to be featured on Jewrotica.org. Go vote for Margie!
*Photo by Gelfand Piper Photography