By Alex Fleksher
When Rochel Goldbaum comes to town, with talks titled “An Honest Conversation about Marital Intimacy” and “Reclaiming Intimacy,” she packs a room. Women of all ages and all hashkafic stripes come to hear her insights, Torah knowledge, and practical wisdom. I’ve heard Rochel speak in Cleveland three times, and afterward I’ve heard all of the following responses, in various iterations:
- “I wish I heard this talk 15 years ago.”
- “I never learned this when I was a kallah.”
- “This is so refreshing.”
- “Are the men learning this in chosson classes?”
This week on Deep Meaningful Conversations, Rivki and I have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Rochel about her trailblazing work. Rochel is not only the education director of MyGiftofMikvah.org and an international speaker, she is also at the forefront of kallah class education, training and supporting kallah teachers to address the needs and realities of kallahs in 2022.
Kallah classes have changed over the past number of years. There has been a communal recognition that the classes need to cover more ground, from intimacy education to relationship-building skills. Long gone are the days when kallah classes were just about niddah and mikvah. When Rochel teaches kallahs, she gives 10 classes at 2-3 hours a piece, and she’s available for consultation during marriage as well. She trains her kallah teachers to do the same.
Frum women have many feelings about their kallah classes. Kallah classes are traditionally where engaged women learn about the laws of family purity. When it comes to premarital education about intimacy, the amount of information shared in a kallah class is going to depend on numerous factors: when a woman took the classes, who her teacher was, and the community she comes from. So while some women feel that their kallah teacher did a thorough job of preparing them for marital intimacy, others feel that the topic was hardly addressed. Conflict resolution skills? Common marriage pitfalls? Marriage education was reserved for classes after one actually got married.
At Rochel’s most recent talk in Cleveland, one woman raised her hand and said she had felt cheated that she never learned these haskafic concepts. Rochel assured her that the kallah teacher has likely changed with the times. Due to the increase in professional development and continued training – as well as an imperative to address contemporary needs – there has been a significant increase in both awareness and reformation.
Regarding what the men are learning, Rochel trains her kallah teachers to communicate with chosson teachers and work together to streamline the messaging. She acknowledges that there has also been an increase in shalom bayis talks in many yeshivas, emphasizing the importance of emotional intimacy and relationship building skills. But as Rochel notes, the women are often at the forefront of change, as we see throughout Jewish history.
So what to do for the woman, of any age, who feels disappointed with the kallah class education she received? It’s never too late. There are so many resources available for someone who wants to learn more deeply about the Torah outlook on marital and emotional intimacy. Check out MyGiftofMikvah.org, attend kallah refresher classes in your town or online, or speak to a rebbetzin or mentor you respect. Keep in mind that teachers teach what they know. Holding space for both disappointment in and compassion for those who may have done a less-than stellar job in preparing us for marriage is important. At the same time, feel gratitude for the awareness, changes and improved education in the area of kallah classes for more recent kallahs – and those yet to come.
To hear more about this topic, listen to the most recent episode of Deep Meaningful Conversations with Alex Fleksher and Rivki Silver titled “Kallah Classes 2.0 with Rochel Goldbaum”, available on all podcast platforms as well as the Meaningful Minute App.
Mrs. Alex Fleksher is an educator, speaker, op-ed columnist for Mishpacha Magazine, co-host of Deep Meaningful Conversations, and creative director of the Faces of Orthodoxy social media account. She holds a Masters degree in secondary Jewish education from Azrieli Graduate School and an undergraduate degree in English/Communications from Stern College for Women. Alex is an active member of her local Cleveland community and a dynamic teacher with a passion for community activism. She’s a former chair of the Shabbos Project Cleveland, a founding board member of Chaviva High School for Girls and a co-founder of The Chizuk Retreat Cleveland.