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

Published in eJewish Philanthropy

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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