(JTA) — #MeToo. #GamAni. The stories are numerous and painful. They span decades and reach every corner of the Jewish community. Enough is enough. The time is now for us to finally and fully address sexual harassment in Jewish institutional life.
When it comes to sexual harassment, Jewish teachings are unequivocal: We are obligated to put an end to the behavior for the sake of the victim, the perpetrator and the community as a whole. Despite our moral code, however, sexual misconduct in the Jewish community too often goes unaddressed. As Hollywood, media and government offices grapple with their ethical challenges, it is clear we need a reckoning of our own.
When the Good People Fund surveyed Jewish professionals in 2017, it found that sexual harassment is perceived by respondents to be tolerated in Jewish organizations. Female CEOs, fundraisers and rabbis frequently report problems in their interactions with donors and lay leaders. Female employees report feeling some level of harassment is inevitable, and most believe — and some have left the field as a result — that their organizations are ineffective at preventing or addressing it.
Indeed, the recent Leading Edge study found that only two-thirds of employees of Jewish organizations report that they are aware of their organization’s sexual harassment policies, and only about one-third know what to do or where to go if they experience harassment.
The time is now to end this reality. The time is now to move from talk to action. The time is now for us to commit to acting individually and collectively to build safer, more respectful and equitable places to work. We must come together across political, denominational and gender lines to address the power dynamics and structural inequalities that allow harassment and abuse to take root. We must raise the bar of fairness and equality in our workplaces, institutions and the spaces in between.
To succeed, we need to advance cultural and practical change. We at the Schusterman Foundation are joining with other foundations and organizations to explore how we can help create systemic change in Jewish communal life on both fronts.