New York, New York, March 21, 2019 - In response to recent allegations of sexual harassment by Jewish philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) issued the following statement:
We are appalled and disheartened by the allegations of sexual harassment by Michael Steinhardt detailed in today’s New York Times article, yet sadly we are not surprised. It is no secret that the Jewish community is not immune from such behavior and even our most generous leaders are not above reproach. In this #MeToo moment, we must redouble our efforts to address sexual harassment and gender bias in an assertive and forthright manner when such matters come to light.
The growing intolerance for inappropriate and unethical behavior within our community provides an opportunity to engage in difficult conversations and take a hard look at our existing ethics procedures and practices. The result must be stronger policies and diligent enforcement in order to create a more just workplace in which women can succeed and thrive without fear, intimidation, or harassment. Our Jewish mandate of kavod habriyot, respect for every human being, demands nothing less.
WRJ and others in the Reform Movement are committed to fostering a healthy workplace for all. The Reform Pay Equity Initiative facilitated by WRJ and the Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) is working to address implicit bias and the gender wage gap within Reform institutions. In line with best practices, WRJ’s parent organization, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), has strengthened its ethics policies and requires sexual harassment training for employees and Board members. Similarly, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Task Force on the Experience of Women in the Rabbinate is working to document and address challenges faced by clergy. Yet, more can be done to assure that these efforts continue and extend to every congregation and institution within the Reform Movement and beyond.
As always, WRJ stands with the victims of sexual assault and harassment. We pledge to continue our work to secure a safe and respectful work environment for all who labor within our Jewish community.
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), founded in 1913, is the women’s affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America. WRJ represents tens of thousands of women in hundreds of women’s groups, strengthening the voice of women worldwide and empowering them to create caring communities, nurture congregations, cultivate personal and spiritual growth, and advocate for and promote progressive Jewish values.