WRJ's Commitment to Ethical Accountability

Why We Have a New Ethics and Compliance Chair
September 1, 2023Betsey Hurwitz-Schwab

As most of you are (hopefully) aware, in the past few years URJ and some of its Movement Partners have conducted extensive investigations into reports of sexual misconduct and abuse that occurred in their spaces. Ethics accountability is a priority throughout the Reform Movement. 

URJ has formed an Ethics Accountability task force to oversee the work of fostering a culture of accountability in all URJ spaces. This includes: retaining an Ombuds; safety and reporting policies; procedures and protocols; staff and lay leader training; and restorative processes for victims/survivors.

As a URJ affiliate, WRJ realized it was imperative upon the organization that WRJ should have its own policy on ethics and harassment. A WRJ ad hoc committee was formed to write and implement a Harassment Policy. As part of that policy, the committee determined that someone needed to be “in charge” of compliance and related issues with the policy and the broader area of ethics. In addition, people will need to be trained on the specifics of the policies.

WRJ already has “WRJ Says Stop”, and “I Wear Teal Because…,” initiatives to combat sexual harassment and assault. We have the Brit Kehillah and the Brit Avodah and they are great general statements to let us know how we should act. But in this day and age, those initiatives are not sufficient by themselves.

Ethics in non-profit spaces includes maintaining confidentiality, making sure there are no conflicts of interest in financial dealings, and maintaining an environment that is safe, equitable and inclusive for all. To that end, we must make sure that everyone understands what ethical behavior and treatment are, what you can and can’t do when interacting with others in a public space and what the organization’s expectations are.

This is where the Ethics and Compliance Chair comes in. The position will be responsible for ensuring WRJ’s workforce is trained and understands its policies. The Chair will keep policies up-to-date with current language and knowledge and will be a resource for anyone in WRJ who wants to file a report, or has a question about specific behaviors or an occurrence. The Chair will additionally interface with URJ leadership to make sure WRJ is in line and compliant.  

So why was I, a relatively new member of WRJ, selected for the position of Ethics and Compliance Chair? This role requires a particular set of skills and experience. My academic background and work experience have given me an understanding of the issues facing organizations in the areas of ethics and compliance. I have an MSW and have worked in the field of abuse and neglect with non-profits dealing with victims.  I have also been the VP of Human Resources for a global apparel company where I developed all the HR policies and procedures for the company. My background gives me a unique perspective to help lead WRJ in this new position.

We will all be learning more about this area together. I look forward to helping to make WRJ a safe and welcoming environment for all and one which we will all be proud to be a part. I welcome questions, thoughts, and suggestions and can be reached at ethics@wrj.org. 

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That Still, Small, Heroic Voice

Every year, I receive one or two calls from people who want to “run something by me.” They know that I spent many years as an ethics and compliance professional, and they want to get my opinion as to how to handle something they have observed or been asked about. It’s often a concern about a leader abusing the power of their position, generally involving relationships and behaviors between volunteers, congregants, clergy, or staff. Sometimes, it’s within a congregation, and sometimes it’s within one of our movement’s organizations. From my perspective, every person who makes one of these calls is a hero. They are upstanders, people who have listened or observed and recognized that something seems wrong, and they are not willing to just sit by and do nothing even when they are not personally involved.