Safe, Respectful, Equitable: Launching a New Partnership for Jewish Communal Life

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

As the #MeToo movement has grown and spread across industries and sectors, it has laid bare an inescapable truth: the Jewish community is subject to the same kinds of issues, inequities and power dynamics that exist in other communities.

Over the past few months, a group of leaders from several Jewish organizations have been discussing how we can ensure the Jewish community lives up to the highest ethical aspirations of our tradition.

Together, we are launching a new communal partnership.

The purpose of the partnership is to ensure that safe, respectful and equitable workplaces and communal spaces become universal in Jewish life and that sexual harassment and misconduct, as well as gender and sexual orientation discrimination, and their related abuses of power, are no longer tolerated in the Jewish community.

Such a large, complex challenge demands a collaborative response, one that mobilizes a coalition of stakeholders who share this vision. So, while we are launching the partnership with an initial group of representatives from more than 25 organizations, we hope it is the start of a much broader effort that will involve people and organizations of all sizes, denominations and locations.

Indeed, we hope to engage those who are affected by this problem, as well as those who want to ensure that the Jewish community lives up to the ideal that we are all created in the divine image and equally deserving of dignity and respect. To that end, the partnership will include people of all genders and sexual orientations. It will include professionals and volunteers, board members and community members. It will include young and old, religious and secular, and the diverse racial and ethnic mosaic that makes up today’s Jewish community.

We have spent the past few months working with dozens of people and experts to plan a collective impact initiative to advance the partnership vision. Our initial conversations have highlighted the need to create widespread change in individual organizations while also working to shift culture broadly. We will begin by focusing our efforts on these and other areas that may arise:

  • Commitment and standards, including a pledge, to address ethical workplace and communal space behavior;
  • Awareness and education to support organizational and culture change throughout the community;
  • Policies and procedures to prevent and respond effectively to sexual harassment, gender bias, sexual orientation discrimination and their related abuses of power; and
  • Training and support to help organizations create cultures of fairness and civility.

Organizations and their leadership must hold themselves and each other accountable for enacting the changes we need to see. We must begin addressing the structural inequalities and power dynamics that have allowed harassment and abuse to take root. We must live up to the values within Jewish tradition that call upon us to raise our voices and lead where our community and society have fallen short.

In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out a pledge, working groups, resources and opportunities for more people to get involved with this important initiative. We hope you will consider joining us. (Join our email list to receive updates.)

Together, we can create a Jewish community that is safe, respectful and equitable for all.

Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, The Wexner Foundation
Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
Robert Bank, American Jewish World Service
Guila Benchimol, Jumpstart Labs
Elizabeth Berman, BBYO
Jamie Allen Black, Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York
Gali Cooks, Leading Edge
Barbara Dobkin, Dobkin Family Foundation
Lisa Eisen, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
Barry Finestone, Jim Joseph Foundation
Jeremy Fingerman, Foundation for Jewish Camp
Martin Kaminer, Kaminer Family Foundation
Nancy Kaufman and Jody Rabhan, National Council of Jewish Women
Idit Klein, Keshet
Mimi Kravetz and Sheila Katz, Hillel International
Rachel Levin, Righteous Persons Foundation
Sharon Masling
Yavilah McCoy, Dimensions Educational Consulting
Rachel Garbow Monroe, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Stefanie Rhodes and Jenna Weinberg, Slingshot
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, Avodah
Tilly Shames, University of Michigan Hillel
Jerry Silverman, The Jewish Federations of North America
Andrés Spokoiny, Jewish Funders Network
Charlene Seidle, Leichtag Foundation
Lori Weinstein, Jewish Women International
Rabbi Mary Zamore, Women’s Rabbinic Network