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With the men and women in the audience separated by barriers in a Jerusalem wedding hall, the Sephardi chief rabbi and two former chief rabbis, along with other rabbinical arbiters and senior doctors, will on Wednesday discuss homosexuality, cross-dressing, impotence and other sensitive subjects that are taboo in the haredi community.
The venue is the annual conference of the Puah Institute for Fertility and Medicine in Accordance with Halacha, which this year is dealing with the topic of "Men's Health: Childhood, Adolescence and Adulthood."
The conference, which will run in the Bayit Vegan quarters of Nof Yerushalayim from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and may be attended only by ticket holders, is expected to draw some 1,000 participants.
Rabbi Menachem Burstein, the head of the institute, will discuss Judaism's view of homosexuality, as will Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel. Former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu will discuss "The Halachic Definition of Cross-Dressing," while Supreme Rabbinical Court member Rabbi Shlomo Daichovsky will rule whether it is "permitted to hit children."
Smoking, male fertility after cancer, teaching moral responsibility in adolescents and new ways of contraception will also be discussed at the unusual conference.
The Puah Institute, which advises couples on issues of fertility and other issues and trains rabbis and in vitro fertilization supervisors, always holds its annual conference a few days before the Torah portion of Exodus is read in synagogues, as the biblical midwives Shifra and Puah who delivered Israelite babies in Egypt are mentioned.