The Hasidic Dr. Ruth

This article was first published as “Coffee, tea…or intimacy?: Orthodox expert serves up advice on sex, marriage in Berkeley talk” in JWeekly.

Sarah Karmely

Sarah Karmely is a highly sought out expert on relationships between men and women, but you won’t find her shmoozing with Oprah or blogging in the Huffington Post. Instead, Karmely usually shares her wisdom about marital harmony with groups of religious Jewish women, like the one that turned out in Berkeley a week before Mother’s Day.

Although nonobservant Jews also seek her advice, Karmely’s primary audiences are Orthodox groups (usually all female) as well as individuals and couples who come to her for private counseling. She is herself Hassidic, having transitioned around 30 years ago from a traditional Sephardic lifestyle after experiencing what she believed was a miracle performed by the late Lubavitcher rebbe.

“She’s a Hassidic cross between Sophia Loren and Dr. Ruth,” said Miriam Ferris, program coordinator for Chabad of the East Bay, which sponsored the May 6 program, titled “The Mystique of Love,” at a private home in the Berkeley hills. Approximately 50 single and married women, ranging from their 20s to their 60s, attended the afternoon tea and talk.

Afterward, a smaller group of married women in their 20s and 30s enjoyed a more private discussion with Karmely about the mikvah, or ritual bath, and the Jewish laws of family purity.

In an interview, Karmely, 62, summed up her general thoughts on a happy marriage: If the husband-wife relationship “is good in the bedroom, it’s good in the living room,” she said.

Click here to read more.

© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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