WRJ says STOP

What is WRJ says STOP?

WRJ says STOP addresses discrimination that many of us have experienced or witnessed. From microaggressions to direct harassment to assault, our lived experience confirms that the synagogue is not necessarily a haven. Committee and board meetings are not automatically places of respect where our voices are heard, and we both feel and are equal. Shabbat services and onegs are not free from interactions that leave us feeling violated - physically or emotionally. Perpetrators can be fellow congregants, lay leaders, staff, or clergy. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are the ones inflicting harm on others,  intentionally or not. Intent matters, yes. Impact matters as well. 

It is natural to initially encounter defensiveness when broaching this topic with ourselves and others. We sometimes minimize or don’t talk about our experiences because we don’t want to seem needy or weak or be perceived as a “victim” on the one hand or “over-sensitive” on the other. We may minimize, fail to give space to, or not listen to the experiences of others. We might not know how to help or the “right” way to process, investigate, and support the other person named fairly. People from different generations might not label the same behavior with the name “harassment,” “assault,” or “microaggression.” While the status quo was different, the impact of the harm remains. 

And so, we start with gratitude: thank you for reviewing and using the WRJ says STOP Initiative resources and being a part of this journey. Thank you for sharing your experiences and listening to those of others. Thank you for doing this work in partnership across all parts of congregational and communal life as we work to shift the status quo further in the direction of true equality, safety, and respect. 

WRJ says STOP: An Initiative Against Sexual Harassment and Assault, its associated guides, materials, and webinars, and the “I Wear Teal Because...” campaign helps us meet that responsibility. The WRJ says STOP Initiative includes tools and education to start or expand these conversations with an emphasis on the role and responsibility of all congregation members and leaders, as well as our clergy, administrators, educators, and staff, to work together to intentionally shape and maintain our congregational and communal culture and environment. The materials work together with the efforts already underway at the URJ and other Reform Movement partners and affiliates. Materials will be adapted over time as new policies and tools are created. The WRJ says STOP materials are also designed and curated to be adapted to your work, volunteer, and communal lives.  

Let’s get started. 

A Brief History of WRJ says STOP

We are nearing the fifth anniversary of #MeToo going viral worldwide on October 15, 2017. Closer to home, WRJ launches WRJ says STOP: An Initiative Against Sexual Harassment and Assault in 2022 against the backdrop of recently concluded investigations into reports of egregious cases of sexual harassment, abuse, and misconduct in three of the Reform Movement’s institutions - the umbrella Union for Reform Judaism, our rabbinic organization Central Conference for American Rabbis, and our seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Insitute of Religion. As the URJ embarks on a program of Ethics Accountability, the entire Movement is engaging in intentional programs of t’shuvah (repentance), training, updated codes of ethics and conduct, and new reporting and response structures. We all bear the responsibility to bring these tools and education into our local communities and, most importantly, to be a part of ensuring that our communities, synagogues, and institutions live out our ethics and values with cultures of compassion and environments of safety for all.

  

WRJ 2022 Statement and Response

We are all part of the solution, in partnership with each other. In 2022, WRJ Executive Director Rabbi Marla Feldman reminded us, “We must not abdicate our responsibility to provide a spiritual home where everyone is safe, valued, heard, and treated with dignity and respect.” WRJ’s March 2022 statement  expanded this charge into action, noting, “By educating ourselves to be informed advocates and empowered changemakers, we can help shape and preserve safer environments in our synagogues.” 

With that statement, WRJ called on its members and ALL community members to connect with congregational leadership and advocate for updating and properly implementing ethics policies that conform with best practices. We are committed to supporting and educating our members and others in these endeavors. To change and strengthen our communal culture, we must all work together.

In response, WRJ has developed four webinars, an adjunct social media campaign, and numerous resources to build safe and transparent communities. 

For more information about this initiative, contact the WRJ Advocacy Team at advocacy@wrj.org.