Resolution Against Sexual Harassment and/or Assault

Posted on: Monday March 15, 2021

Whereas the Torah teaches us that we are all created בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים (betzelem elohim, “in the image of God”), and thus it follows that Rabbi Eliezer said (Pirkei Avot 2:10), “יְהִי כְבוֹד חֲבֵרְךָ חָבִיב עָלֶיךָ כְּשֶׁלָּךְ” (“Let your fellow's honor be as dear to you as your own”) and (Bereshit Rabbah 24:7) "דַּע לְמִי אַתָּה מְבַזֶּה בִּדְמוּת אֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה אֹתוֹ” (“Know whom you put to shame, for in the likeness of God is s/he made”); 

Whereas Hillel in chapter one (1:14) of Pirkei Avot teaches:

אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתַי

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?”--it is time for all of us to take decisive action for ourselves, for our colleagues, and for all members of our communities who have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted;

Whereas when an individual is harassed or assaulted, this not only affects that person, but also that individual’s family, friends, and the community as a whole. When such an individual leaves the community, or is silenced, we lose their light, love, and passion for Judaism in our community. This holds true when any member of our community - our rabbis, cantors, educators, professionals, congregants - and students, campers, counselors, has been harassed or assaulted;

Whereas sexual harassment and assault damage the trust, safety, security, and sanctity of our communities;

Whereas the United Nations defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behavior of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another, when such conduct interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. While typically involving a pattern of behavior, it can take the form of a single incident.” Sexual harassment regarding both the victim and the perpetrator transcends gender identification/definition and traditional power hierarchies. Sexual harassment and assault manipulate power and transgress boundaries;

Whereas in 2019 the Rabbinical Assembly founded the #MeToo Task Force to suggest policies, procedures, and strategies for ensuring that our RA protects its members from sexual and gender-based harassment, educates its members and their constituent organizations about best practices in creating safe and respectful workplace cultures, and lives up to the values of כְּבוֹד הַבְּרִיּוֹת (k'vod ha-b'riyyot, respect for all of God’s creations). Transformed into the Gender and Power Committee, this diverse array of colleagues is tasked with diving deeply into a listening campaign and research and with suggesting concrete action steps which can be taken in the near future;

Whereas in 2017 the Rabbinical Assembly, partnered with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Women's League for Conservative Judaism, Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, North American Association of Synagogue Executives, Cantors Assembly, Masorti Foundation, Schechter Institutes, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, the Ramah Camping Movement, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Jewish Educators Assembly to issue a joint statement against sexual harassment and abuse;

Therefore be it resolved the Rabbinical Assembly work, in word and in deed, to eradicate all forms of sexual harassment and assault from our movement including that committed against rabbis and that committed by rabbis, providing a strong rabbinic voice against harassment and assault;

Be it further resolved that we support the Rabbinical Assembly’s continuing work of the Gender and Power Committee, formed in 2019, to implement, in collaboration with the Rabbinical Assembly’s Va’ad HaKavod, cultural shifts towards accountability with regard to instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and systemic gender inequity in the communities and institutions served by members of the Rabbinical Assembly;

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly support survivors who speak up and hope that those who have remained silent know that they have our compassion as well as a growing system of support made available through the Rabbinical Assembly and actively offered to our members; 

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly condemn Do Not Disparage clauses and Non-Disclosure Agreements that hide the abuses of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender inequity in our communities and instituitons;

Be it further resolved that we stand by and advocate for practices, cultures, and legal processes that eliminate any retribution survivors and their advocates may face, and, as such, the Rabbinical Assembly condemns any such retribution, including but not limited to being wrongly accused of spreading false rumors or having false rumors spread about them, being wrongly accused of harassment by their harasser, and/or loss of advancement or employment;

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly support and work towards the ratification and implementation of all appropriate legislation protecting against harassment and assault in every country and jurisdiction. For example, the Rabbinical Assembly calls for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in the United States, which expired in 2019, and Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace Act. Internationally, we support the ratification and following of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) by all countries;

Be it further resolved that just as every year we engage in חֶשְׁבּוֹן הַנֶּפֶשׁ (heshbon hanefesh, “examining our past”) in order to become better versions of ourselves, so too, we call upon our Rabbinical Assembly to continue and intensify this work through the Executive Council, Gender and Power Committee and the Va’ad Hakavod, as well as rabbinic leaders, as the heads of organizations and institutions, to examine past practices of their respective institutions in order to ensure a safer and more honest future;

Be it further resolved that we pledge to create and to nurture safer sacred communities through background checks, education and training, known policies and best practices, and implementation of procedures as well as celebrating those leaders (and funders who pledge to only give to institutions with clear safety measures) within our communities who work to create safer communities;

Be it further resolved that we call on our rabbis in diverse educational settings (pulpit, schools, camp, youth groups, and other organizations) to teach our future leaders about the importance of treating everyone בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים (in the image of God)--with respect and dignity; and

Finally, be it resolved that--as we collectively respond “שָׁמַעְתִּי” (shamati, “I hear”) and “הִנְנִי” (hineni, “I am here”--‘I will work to create change’) to every “גַּם אֲנִי” (gam ani, “me too”), testifying to the pain of sexual harassment and assault within our communities--we not only look forward to but will each actively work towards the day when all of our communities will be free of sexual harassment and assault.