Editor‘s note: eJP has a long history of not circulating public statements made by organizations on any subject. Today’s New York Times article, and the self-serving response by the Steinhardt Foundation, has caused us to revisit our policy. We welcome additional statements from any funder organization.
A long-time pro emailed me tonight, “The alleged statements and acts, even if true, can no way be compared to the good he has done for the Jewish People. It is people like you who don’t understand this.” This mentality is pervasive; and therin lies the bigger problem.
The SafetyRespectEquity Coalition stands with the brave women who came forward to share their stories of sexual harassment by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt as part of this morning’s article in The New York Times. We recognize the risk they took in speaking out. In doing so, and often to their detriment, they have made our Jewish community safer. Survivors should not be left with the responsibility to keep our community safe. It is our collective responsibility to do the work necessary so they don’t have to. The more we can do to elevate these stories and the women in them, the more likely it is we can begin to engage in the important conversations and culture change work necessary to make it so that no person has to experience harassment as part of their job.
As organizations committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and equitable Jewish Community, we must take seriously the complaints about sexual harassment or victimization that are disclosed and establish practices to ensure they are thoroughly and immediately investigated. No individual’s power or wealth should put them above the physical and emotional safety of women. The Jewish community has work to do to address these open secrets and do the work to repair relationships with those they have harmed by looking away.
As members of The SafetyRespectEquity Coalition, the Leichtag Foundation is committed to addressing sexual harassment and victimization in the Jewish community. We admire and support the courageous women who have demonstrated leadership and great strength by sharing their stories of sexual harassment by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, detailed in today’s New York Times article.
Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim when we celebrate the power of one person-one woman-to make a difference. These brave women have truly made a difference. This issue is broader than just one article or perpetrator. It is a systemic problem and, as such, the responsibility to address and prevent it should not fall upon victims and survivors, but rather on communal leaders and funders like us. We are guided by Jewish tradition which calls on us to not stand idly by and tolerate the status quo of injustice, and in fact to call it out with loud voices and strong remediation and good action.
Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah stands with and supports all those who have been subjected to harassment and degradation by Michael Steinhardt. On this holiday of Purim, today’s news is a sad reminder that the story of women like Esther and Vashti, who faced harrowing choices when deciding how to respond to those who threatened their basic human dignity, is not simply a historical relic.
Many of the organizations we support in our philanthropic work are champions of human rights and social justice who fight discrimination and raise awareness about its harmful and dehumanizing impact. We applaud Sheila Katz, who leads Hillel International’s MitzVote program (a project we’ve been honored to fund) for her courage and strength – along with the other women featured in today’s New York Times article – in coming forward to expose this unacceptable behavior, and to catalyze an ever more just, inclusive, and respectful Jewish community and civil society.