Tag : #MeToo

November 5, 2019 by

Child Molestation: How Lilith Reported the Story

My reporting on the multiple allegations of sexual abuse leveled against pediatrician Stuart Copperman (in the New York Times and Lilith in 2001, and more recently in 2018) has been particularly wrenching, because the alleged abuse happened to these girls when they were pre-adolescents—some as young as 10, none older than 14. 

I always had to tread very, very carefully with my sources, who had found one another through a Facebook group set up after the Harvey Weinstein story broke. All of them are now women who reported being sexually abused by their trusted doctor as children or teenagers decades ago, and say that since then they’ve suffered manifold effects. Aside from having endured this betrayal, some of them who report having told their parents at the time had to face the additional trauma of not being believed.

I felt very protective of these women, but at the same time I couldn’t let my feelings interfere with my professional duties. My job was not to act as their therapist, but as a journalist; that is, to tell their respective stories with integrity. Every conversation with them was fraught with their anxiety, and many of them did not want to go on the record. They wanted to tell their stories to me, but did not necessarily want a larger public to know. This was often frustrating for me, because sources that are anonymous, by their very nature, weaken a story’s impact. But I had to respect the boundaries my sources had set. One of the most difficult things I had to do for this story was to ask the pediatrician himself to comment on my sources’ allegations. Former Lilith editor, Sarah Blustain reminded me: “He’s part of the story.”

How difficult, time-consuming, risky, and emotionally draining it is to write these stories—and also, how crucial it is for our democracy that they be written! There are of course limitations to using journalism to expose this particular kind of misconduct. Other paths to change include taking legal action, if that path hasn’t been blocked by statute-of-limitation restrictions. Or, if the alleged perpetrator is still likely to harm others, using back channels to send out a warning.

Journalism is often the first step towards bringing sexual abuse out into the open. But it is only the first step; and so far, the law has been a somewhat unreliable protector. The Harvey Weinstein case is about to go on trial as I write this, but other charges—for example, against actor Kevin Spacey—have been dropped.

The fact is that current laws, in New York and everywhere, mean that sexual abuse cases remain difficult, if impossible, to prove. And while I do believe that this cultural shift regarding sexual abuse will continue, I also expect, and fear, backlash to it. Which makes it all the more urgent that journalists, and the organizations that support them, continue to report on this timely subject.

Something else added a layer of difficulty to reporting #MeToo stories like this one: I tried to get personal liability insurance for this story, but it was then simply not available to freelancers—not even from writers’ organizations. For me, as for many investigative journalists, writing such a story involved some personal risk.

The combination of Trump’s election and the #Metoo movement energized women: record numbers of female lawmakers were elected to Congress in the midterms, and the New York State legislature, long a bastion of old white Republican men, is now Democratic. In January 2018—a few months after my story ran in Lilith—Albany passed the Child Victims Act, which provides a one-year window for victims of child sexual abuse to sue, regardless of how long ago the abuse happened. New York’s new law gave some cause for optimism to the women who were my sources for the Lilith story. Alice Sparberg Alexiou is an award-winning journalist whose most recent book is Devil’s Mile: The Rich, Gritty History of the Bowery.

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November 5, 2019 by

#MeToo in the Media

The hashtag #MeToo has spurred people of goodwill to circulate a powerful injunction: “Believe Women.” It’s a course correction for ages-old legal and journalistic systems in which claims of sexual harassment and assault routinely fell apart facing an impossible burden of proof. 

But in the era of “Believe Women,” how do we differentiate who or what to believe? And when we read accounts in the press, how do we know which are valid? The idea of “Trust, but verify” seems pretty old-school. But still, as a feminist and editor who sometimes handles these kinds of difficult stories, I find that’s what it boils down to. #MeToo taught journalists—and the world—to move toward the trust. But without the verify? Well, then you have a disaster like Rolling Stone’s. (Remember? A concocted tale of gang rape on campus where the primary source turned out to have duped the reporter, leading to a string of lawsuits against the reporter and the magazine.)

For journalists, putting together a legitimate (and lawsuit-proof ) #MeToo claim is a complex process. You start with a woman who has been hurt, and then disbelieved or dismissed in an unequal power dynamic. But that’s just the beginning. Doing our job well means finding enough credible witnesses, documentary corroboration, and patterns of behavior that that we get to a more stable understanding of what happened than he-said/ she-said.

And for readers of #MeToo journalism who are trying to assess what they read, it probably helps to understand the guidelines behind the headlines:

Why focus on alleged perpetrators who are public figures? The distinction of public vs. private is a critical one for how journalists cover #MeToo allegations. A president (to be purely hypothetical) is obviously fair game. Same goes for the head of a media company, a TV personality, etc. But what about a reporter who is known to the public mostly just as a byline, if known at all? Is he or she a “public figure,” or a private one for whom journalists are required to erect a higher standard of privacy? Focusing on a public figure is more likely to ensure that the public interest is being served.

What about first-person accounts? Every first-person account should be substantiated with additional reporting. Of course #MeToo was launched not only with Weinstein-type coverage, but with unmediated Twitter, and I’m the last to argue for an elite gatekeeper to allow people to tell their own stories. The point is that journalism, when done right, can help—by marshaling tools and leverage that an individual may not have. Every little bit is useful: police complaints, court documents, diaries—anything that captures the events in some detail.

Is it fair to cover a single woman, a single incident? Many horrible assaults have happened to just one woman, just one time. But the power of #MeToo journalism came in a formula exemplified by New York magazine’s 2015 cover story about Bill Cosby; the cover that week showed 35 women who alleged that Cosby had sexually abused, assaulted or harassed them. That story was a journalistic work of art. It established the pattern that could not be denied, despite weak forensic evidence, long-expired statutes of limitations, and a massive power structure intent on suppressing that information. Of course it shouldn’t take 35 women to prove wrongdoing against a single powerful and admired man. But this approach has proven potent in accusations of rabbinic sexual abuse, where journalists’ ability to convene multiple voices has been a critical factor in the face of a community intent on silencing them. 

Is “anonymous” okay? Who could fault someone for not wanting her private business in the press? And yet…for readers, a named, on-the-record accusation carries weight. She’s putting her name on the line; if she’s lying, her name will be mud. When granting anonymity, journalists need to establish (and tell readers) that there’s a good reason for doing so, for example, “for fear of retaliation” or “because she is still traumatized by the event.”

What about non-workplace allegations? I’m going to go out on a limb to say that the focus of #MeToo journalism for the most part belongs on the workplace and public figures. That’s because accountability in these stories rests not only with the wrongdoer but also with the structures that allowed him or her to continue with impunity. Think about Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, former CBS CEO Les Moonves, and on and on. Their stories were not only about assault or trafficking or workplace violations, horrible as those all are. They were also about office assistants and high-ranking executives and prosecutors and HR departments standing shoulder to shoulder to shield the accused, often for years. Readers of a journalistic #MeToo story should look not only at what it says about the powerful man, but also at how the reporting digs into the power structures around him.

Is “no comment” okay? This is maybe the most subtle but important reality check I engage in with every story. I advise the reporters I work with never to wait to the very end to seek comment from the person about whom they have an accusation. The so-called target (the alleged perpetrator) is also a potential source: he knows what happened too, and he needs to be given very fair opportunities to respond to the claims, as does every person and institution accused of protecting him. On this front, a reader should look for evidence that the reporter submitted detailed and open-minded questions that might shed the events in a different light, questions, such as “What is your understanding of what happened that night?” or “Can you walk me through your policies for handling a complaint?” Readers should be on the lookout to see if reporters made that effort—even if they got no answer. “A spokesperson refused to comment” tells a reader a lot less than “A spokesperson refused to answer questions about whether Institution X had a system in place for dealing with claims of sexual harassment.”

Thinking about all this invariably leads me back to a story Lilith published 20 years ago. A powerful rabbi. A community standing shoulder to shoulder to protect him. And women’s voices that kept emerging with long-ago claims. It was really hard, tracking down enough voices to feel sure; dealing with requests for anonymity; looking for contemporaneous evidence that anyone else knew what was going on; trying (and failing) to reach the deceased rabbi’s family for comment. There wasn’t a #MeToo movement yet. But it was a #MeToo story, reporting that established the pattern of abuse that for years before the story broke no one woman had been able to prove.

Sarah Blustain is deputy editor at the non-profit Type Investigations; she is a former senior editor at Lilith and author, in 1998, of Lilith’s article “Shlomo Carlebach’s Shadow Side.”

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November 5, 2019 by

The Hazards of Working in the Jewish Community

Sarah Seltzer asks Hannah Dreyfus how she exposed inappropriate behaviors by powerful men.

Sarah Seltzer: When we began to see the #MeToo onslaught, did you have any idea what was coming in the Jewish community?

Hannah Dreyfus: After the Weinstein story, it flitted across my mind: “Hah, I bet the Jewish community has its share.” I had friends employed at Jewish nonprofits, and I’m aware of their structure: often men as the top executives and women filling the ranks. Donors and boards interconnected with one another. All the factors that lead to potential abuses; people who are at the bottom of this power system are dispensable. The Jewish community is tightly knit and loyal and deeply connected—all wonderful things—but it makes unearthing and facing problems difficult. I had done a large investigative story into cases of alleged child sexual abuse in Baltimore and that gave me the credentials I needed to report on #MeToo. I didn’t seek the stories. They found me.

S.S.: In the last two years, every feminist journalist I know has been overwhelmed by more tips in her inbox than she could possibly follow through on. What can you tell readers about the rigorous process to verify what actually makes it into print?

H.D.: Any story that you see, whether it be the New York Times or the Jewish Week, is the tip of a huge iceberg that we will never see. There are so many sources who don’t want to speak, or who do speak and then decide they don’t want their stories told. The people who are most harmed are the least likely to come forward.

S.S.: Have you gotten pushback with the idea that a Jewish figure’s abuse is an internal community problem and not something that needs to be exposed like dirty laundry?

H.D.: I think that’s the reason that a lot of Jewish communities have a problem with journalism in general; because of its perceived potential to exacerbate the external forces of antisemitism. There is always the potential for antisemitism, but that does not relieve our responsibility.

S.S.: The mission of fostering “Jewish continuity” is loaded and problematic, because it uses a “greater good” to swallow up individual pain. So what can journalism do that workplace investigations or lawsuits cannot?

H.D.: Anybody who is speaking to a journalist has been failed by many people. Journalism is that final check on power. I think: I’m glad to be available to do this story, but I wish I didn’t have to. I wish that somebody had taken these complaints seriously before they escalated. I wish that small boundary-crossing patterns had been paid attention to so that stories didn’t have anything to do with rape. I wish that somebody who was on the chain of command had decided not to say “Oh, I know that guy, it’s just the way he acts, and he’s got his heart in the right place.” Those are the small incremental failures that lead someone eventually to a very drastic and almost self-sacrificial step of speaking out in public.

S.S.: People often don’t understand what victims go through before, during and after speaking out.

H.D: Women who are further along in their careers and who are established and prominent, who—you might think— would have less at stake by speaking out, are less likely to speak to me. I’m finding an increased willingness to speak in women in their 20s and 30s. In older generations there is an entrenched feeling that this is a shameful incident that is somehow their fault. In younger women there’s a slightly shifting attitude. “This is not my fault, I don’t deserve to be treated this way, and I will speak out, because this is not something that I need to accept.”

S.S.: Have you felt supported as a journalist at a small paper, somewhat on your own, doing this work?

H.D.: I am very proud of my publication for trusting me and for taking on incredible risk as a community newspaper. And I think it will have placed the Jewish Week firmly on the right side of history. The decision to publish these stories was a brave decision. And the people who are most at risk are, once again, young women in our community who are not highly compensated, who get entry-level positions at organizations doing fundraising, and a career path forward that relies on being seen as a cooperative, loyal, agreeable, likable employee. I have faced intimidation personally and had moments when I came home and said “What was I thinking when I decided to do this?” And the only thing that keeps me going in those moments is a feeling of responsibility to the survivors.

S.S.: We talked recently at Lilith about collateral damage. When planning is dominated by prominent male influencers who are later exposed as outright misogynists, it’s not just the victims who suffer personally and directly from this behavior. The community suffers too.

H.D.: I’ve spoken to so many women who have started off going into Jewish nonprofit work who want to do good for the community, and then when they get into the first fundraising meeting and someone makes a pass at them they’re confused. And then when they go to the first conference where they’re supposed to be exchanging ideas and somebody makes a comment about their dress—and I’m giving you examples of the things that aren’t even egregious—they feel betrayed. People leave the Jewish community because they didn’t bargain for that; they didn’t know that they had to sacrifice their dignity in the process. That’s the tremendous loss for the community. Conferences [to discuss workplace equity and safety] are good, summits are good. Still, if you have skeletons in the closet that you haven’t looked at, all the talk in the world is not enough. I challenge people to think about something you are not facing, or you are downplaying, or that you might know about, even if it doesn’t directly affect you. And see if there’s anything you can do. I’m supposed to be a backstop. In a functioning system, in a system that’s really being reliable to its constituents, I wouldn’t have a job.

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November 5, 2019 by

#MeToo Right Now

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 4.10.35 PM

It has been two years since the Harvey Weinstein abuse-and-misogyny story broke the floodgates: since then, the reprehensible behavior of one powerful man after another has been exposed in newspapers, magazines, and TV reporting revealing everything from improper behavior at work to sexual assault and even abuse of minors. This cascade of stories changing our culture has been brought to you mostly by the brave and dogged work of reporters and their sources. Two new books by New York Times reporters demonstrate the care and persistence that go into what has been called “slow journalism.” She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, unearths details of the Weinstein case. And The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly follows clues the government ignored.

Reporter Hannah Dreyfus, at New York’s Jewish Week newspaper, has consistently exposed the sexual misconduct of men prominent in the Jewish community. In 2018, Dreyfus uncovered a pattern of harassment by New Jersey Y Camps founder Len Robinson. Then, extensive #MeToo reporting on the sexual harassment of a more junior academic, Keren McGinity, by Steven M. Cohen, influential sociologist shaping community planning in American Jewish life. Then, reporting on inappropriate behaviors of mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, whose anxiety about Jewish “continuity” led to Birthright Israel and its emphasis on pairing up young single Jews. This August, her report appeared about a Title IX investigation at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Lilith’s digital editor, Sarah M. Seltzer, first connected with Dreyfus after reporting on #MeToo allegations on Birthright trips. All these stories are part of a continuum. In Lilith, this includes Sarah Blustain’s groundbreaking 1998 report on the sexual misconduct and predations of the late rabbi and singer Shlomo Carlebach and, more recently, Alice Sparberg Alexiou’s coverage of Long Island pediatrician Stuart Copperman’s alleged sexual abuse of his pre-adolescent girl patients.

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The Lilith Blog

August 20, 2019 by

Talking Back to The Red Tent in the #MeToo Era

I assign Anita Diamant’s novel The Red Tent in my Women in the Hebrew Bible course because it helps students learn about the concept of midrash and highlights just how little the biblical text itself centers women’s experiences and relationships. Plus, it’s a fun read! But times have changed in the 22 years since Diamant reimagined the tale of Dinah’s rape (or perhaps, since Biblical Hebrew lacks a word for rape, her “sexual humbling”) in Genesis 34 as a love story. Our societal understanding of rape, rape culture, and consent has evolved, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement calling powerful men to account for sexual harassment and sexual assault. Thus, when I ask students to respond in writing to The Red Tent, one question is, “Is Diamant’s midrash a feminist one? Can the redefinition of (possible) sexual assault as consensual sex be a feminist enterprise?”(Consider the following from Diamant’s website: ‘I could never reconcile the story of Genesis 34 with a rape, because the prince does not behave like a rapist. After the prince is said to have ‘forced’ her (a determination made by her brothers, not by Dinah), he falls in love with her, asks his father to get Jacob’s permission to marry her, and then agrees to the extraordinary demand that he and all the men of his community submit to circumcision.’) Students may respond to their chosen questions in essay format or in another medium, such as poetry or visual art.

When I taught the course in Fall 2018, two students coincidentally chose to write poems addressed to Diamant from Dinah. I was struck by how different their viewpoints were. One student, Muktha Nair, referenced class discussions about whether we can consider what happened to Dinah “rape.” That debate will never be resolved, Nair suggested. In a note accompanying her poem, she wrote, “Would a little girl want her name to be limited to the debates under literary scrutiny among biblical scholars and the clergy? Wouldn’t she much prefer to flourish and become immortal through folktales and mystical stories of being the knowing woman, the skilled midwife, a lover?… And that’s where I concluded that Diamant wasn’t doing a disservice to Dinah! By giving her a form, thoughts, a voice, a life, Diamant is ensuring that Dinah’s name lives through the eras to come. All we can give to Dinah is a lasting place in the thoughts of humanity—not as an object of debate, but as a Woman.” In her poem, Nair, writing as Dinah, thanks Diamant for giving her new life.

The other student, Sara Milic, wrote a poem comparing Diamant’s treatment of Dinah to a second rape. In the note accompanying her poem, Milic wrote, “This poem gives Dinah the opportunity to finally speak and to tell the truth herself. This also gives Dinah the opportunity to address how she might possibly feel about Diamant changing her story of rape into one of love. I felt a poem would be able to match the drama of the actual situation both in Dinah’s rape and in Diamant’s silencing of Dinah’s rape. I’m paralleling Dinah’s rape to Diamant silencing her by making similarities in both attacks (foreign prince, covering mouth, silencing, etc).” Milic’s poem has Diamant taking from Dinah what isn’t hers: Dinah’s story.

When I read these two poems, one right after the other, I immediately thought of seeking to publish them in Lilith. These two college students struggling with questions of sexual assault and female agency in a 2,500-year-old text and a 1990s bestseller have produced powerful poetry.

Caryn Tamber-Rosenau is instructional assistant professor of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies at the University of Houston. She is the author of Women in Drag: Gender and Performance in the Hebrew Bible and Early Jewish Literature (Gorgias Press, 2018). She is a former Lilith intern.

_____________________________________________________________________________ 

By Muktha Nair

To my daughter

Through whose words,

my soul lives on.

Some say I was raped,

But the world is yet to know the truth,

One that cannot be avenged, in my name.

But you, my Anita,

You have given me voice.

No longer just a forgotten name

Among words,

Written by men who know not.

You, as a fellow woman,

Have fulfilled the secret womanly vow,

By ensuring utterance of my name

giving a life to my name,

Thoughts to my name,

A voice to my name.

Giving me a place in the hearts of all;

Realizing the debacles of debates

Only wither away at the little felicity

Left for me.

Now my name

will be remembered,

In love,

In pain,

At birth

At death.

Not as a cursed whore;

But as a knowing Woman.

 

 

A Note to Anita by Sara Milic

I am being stripped of my story

You’re covering my mouth

I can’t breathe, I’m panicking

You were supposed to be the knight on the white horse,

The foreign prince coming to save me

You tricked me with your stories of sweet bread

And nights of cuddling in the tent

I trusted you, my sister, to let my soul go free

To unleash me from this burden I’ve been carrying

To tell my truth, to expose my aggressor

Anita, I’m crying – can’t you hear me?

Tell them he raped me, Anita

Are you listening?

You changed my story

I know it’s hard to read

My sister, I wish I could forget it

You’ve taken from me, just as he did,

My voice and my sense of self

Will there ever be justice for me,

Or for the sisters before me?

Will the sisters after me be believed?

Anita, will you be the savior of the silenced?

Or will you lay your hand over their mouth,

And take from them what isn’t yours to keep?

Don’t tell them he loved me,

Don’t lie and say I loved him

Please, don’t tell them I was happy

When will my rape end?

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July 9, 2019 by

“I’ll be your dissertation advisor if I can give you baths.”

In 1966, Marilyn Webb asked a distinguished male professor to serve on her dissertation committee at the University of Chicago. He said yes, if he could go to her apartment and give her baths.

So, as was recounted at a March 2019 conference on “Jewish Feminisms/American Visions: Perspectives from 50 Years of Activism,” she asked another professor, an expert in “moral development.” He held her against a wall, and “began slobbering all over my face. He told me it was quid pro quo.” Webb left the Ph.D. program. 

Encouraged by #MeToo, as a 75th birthday present to herself she wrote to the president of the university, described the abuse, and asked that the long-ago injustice be corrected.

This spring the University of Chicago awarded her the Ph.D.

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April 11, 2019 by

Can Leviticus’ Purity Laws Help Us Understand #MeToo?

The poet Galit Hasan-Rokem wrote the following poem entitled “This Child Inside Me”: 

This child inside me
Sorts my existence into elements:
Blood and urine
Calcium and iron.
In my sleep I am a quarry
Where rare treasures are suddenly found.        

Blood and urine, calcium and iron. The fluid and elements that, in part, make up the physical constitution of a human body. This is, in part, the focus of our Torah portion earlier this month, called Parashat Tazria—which is always a confounding one for the bar or bat mitzvah student. The particular section of the Torah that we read at this time of year addresses issues of ritual purity. Some of those considerations include menstruation and childbirth. This part of the Torah is, indeed, a bar or bat mitzvah student’s worst nightmare. Every year, one or two innocent and unknowing soon-to-be 13 year old finds themselves forced to find relevant meaning in rules concerning nocturnal seminal emissions and afterbirth. Meanwhile their more fortunate classmates with simchas that land in the fall are assigned Noah’s ark and the Garden of Eden.

Leviticus builds character. 

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April 2, 2019 by

Halakhah and the Challenge of #MeToo: The World Split Open

How do we go about repairing halakhic systems and communities that embody some of the most destructive halakhic attitudes? I would propose a four-step process:

STEP 1 Listening: Just as God hears the Tza’akah, or outcry, of the oppressed, the ignored, the disvalued, God’s halakhah and those who receive it must begin to hear the anguished narratives of those who cry out — even when its traditional ground rules predispose it to discount their testimony. True listening acknowledges the full personhood of those who tell their stories.

STEP 2 Re-categorizing: This process requires reevaluating problems and injuries known to the tradition and including the perspectives of those who were injured. As for injuries of the tradition was oblivious or that have only recently become possible, such as cyber-stalking or cyber harassment, we will have to search for or invent categories that properly acknowledge and describe them.

STEP 3 Finding remedies and urging accountability: Obviously, some remedies and some forms of accountability are the responsibility of the secular justice system, but both the re-making and enforcement of ethics codes and the identification and amelioration of gender discrimination in Jewish institutions are very much our business. The Reform movement has been doing major research on pay inequity for reasons of gender. The whole of the previous issue of The Reform Jewish Quarterly deals with this research and its implications. Policy changes will follow. Jewish institutions of all kinds need to assume accountability for gender discrimination and aggression by members, staff, or population served. One remedial option is restorative justice programs, which focus on the rehabilitation of offenders through face-to-face encounters with victims and representatives of the community. When an offender recognizes whom he has hurt and how, specifically and pursues te’shuvah with the injured parties, the reconciliation that follows is healing for all the participants. Research seems to indicate that offenders who complete such a program are significantly less likely to repeat the offense.

STEP 4 Re-educating committed Jews to practice gender justice: This project will take centuries. It would be countercultural; that is it would resist and critique cultural assumptions, images, narratives, and values. We would have to begin with early childhood education and go on resisting through all the stages of maturation. Currently, Jewish institutions of learning have a secular legal mandate to educate faculty, staff, and boards about responsibilities under Title IX legislation. That opportunity could be used to teach also Jewish texts, language, and law about our constantly evolving obligations to respect human dignity, to treat everyone justly, and to be vigilant about deception/ona’ah, and the grave infraction of ona’at d’varim, wounding with words. Jewish philanthropic organizations must educate themselves as well. Ugly and notorious cases of sexual harassment have to cease. Synagogues can also teach their boards, their members, and their students to respect each other’s boundaries and those of the staff.

Perhaps there will come a time when we honor people for their learning, their compassion, their generosity, but do not privilege any gender or sexual orientation and do not reject any. I doubt I’ll be here to see the day when sexual harassment and discrimination and disparagement on the basis of gender cease to be routine, the day that women’s stories inform Jewish law and texts as men’s do, the day injustice melts away like smoke, but I will work and hope for it the rest of my life — the day the world splits open.

RACHEL ADLER is a feminist theologian and ethicist. This piece is from the conclusion to her lecture on “#MeToo and Jewish Law,” this year’s Robbins Collection Annual Lecture in Jewish Law, Thought and Identity in February.

 

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January 10, 2019 by

Harassed at Work? At School? At Synagogue? •

Jewish institutions and all who work, learn or worship in them can shape cultures of safety, respect and fairness. This is the mission of B’Kavod (“with respect,” in Hebrew), a new project offering training and policy development as well as report- ing and helpline services. Their three-month program “Building Safe Respectful Jewish Organizations” helps schools, synagogues, and organizations prevent sexual harass- ment by donors, bosses, teachers, or co-workers. They provide a Facebook group and webinars on preventing donor harassment, a #MeToo location for rabbis, articles about harassment in fundraising and at Jewish organizations, a self-assessment tool, and guidelines for reporting incidents. A guide to “Going Public with Your Experi- ence of Harassment” will be useful in both Jewish and general settings. The Good People Fund and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York have partnered in funding this project. BeKavod.org

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November 12, 2018 by

#MeToo and the Women of the Bible

Esther Denouncing Haman, by Ernest Normand (1888)

Esther Denouncing Haman, by Ernest Normand (1888)

Women telling intimate truths in the public sphere. Women raising their voices to demand they be treated fairly. Women challenging the leaders of the land to listen compassionately to their stories. We think of this as a contemporary phenomenon: the #metoo movement culminating most recently in allegations of sexual misconduct against our new Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

But in truth, women have been speaking up for a long time. Millennia, at least. We need to look no further than the stories of the Hebrew Bible.

Granted, this all-time bestseller reflects the values of its time; you can hardly turn a page without tripping over what we now call sexism, among other isms. However, the Bible also contains a number of stories of women speaking up for themselves and each other.

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