SRE COALITION STATEMENT

Coalition Statement: March 21, 2019

SRE Coalition Statement on Michael Steinhardt

The SafetyRespectEquity Coalition stands with the brave women who came forward to share their stories of sexual harassment by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt as part of this morning’s article in the New York Times. We recognize the risk they took in speaking out. In doing so, and often to their detriment, they have made our Jewish community safer. Survivors should not be left with the responsibility to keep our community safe. It is our collective responsibility to do the work necessary so they don’t have to. The more we can do to elevate these stories and the women in them, the more likely it is we can begin to engage in the important conversations and culture change work necessary to make it so that no person has to experience harassment as part of their job.

As organizations committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and equitable Jewish Community, we must take seriously the complaints about sexual harassment or victimization that are disclosed and establish practices to ensure they are thoroughly and immediately investigated. No individual’s power or wealth should put them above the physical and emotional safety of women. The Jewish community has work to do to address these open secrets and do the work to repair relationships with those they have harmed by looking away.

 


Public Statements by Coalition Partners 

American Jewish World Service

The use of power and wealth to harass and abuse women is abhorrent and violates our deepest Jewish values. We must work much harder to build a safer, more equitable world for all women and girls around the world. AJWS is a proud member of the Safety Respect Equity Coalition, working to build a more safe, respectful and equitable Jewish world. To the women who have faced abuse and harassment: We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you.

 

B’Kavod / Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York / Good People Fund

The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York and The Good People Fund stand with and support the courageous women who have come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt in yesterday’s New York Times article.

More than a year ago, we began agitating within the professional Jewish community for more accountability and a change in culture that breeds the sort of damage and trauma described in this fine piece of reportage.All too often, we have met an inertia and indifference by structures and institutions that for reasons of denial or willful blindness allow a status quo fueled by power dynamics and philanthropic dollars to prevail.

It is time for this reality to collapse, to be replaced in Jewish spaces by forces of fairness, safety and respect. While exposés such as this may advance that, we are aware that tomorrow’s discussion will be about something else entirely.

Our two organizations have jointly created B’Kavod, the Hebrew phrase meaning “with respect,” to generate the long-term cultural change needed to eventually end the bombshell headlines that get our attention, but don’t usually move the needle all that much without the intense grassroots work in which all of us must be engaged.

 

Hadassah

The #jewishcommunity cannot tolerate the #harassment of #women in any form.

#Hadassah stands with @SheilaKatz1 and the other brave women and men speaking up. You don’t want to miss this powerful piece @nytimes by @sharonNYT and @Hannah_Dreyfus.

 

Jewish Women’s Archive

“Institutions in the Jewish world have long known about his behavior, and they have looked the other way.” We will not.

JWA stands with all the brave women who have come forward at great personal risk to tell their stories. As a Jewish feminist organization and proud member of the Safety Respect Equity Coalition, we say: We believe you and we are with you. #MeToo

 

Jewish Women International

“Sadly, today’s New York Times’ article detailing multiple accusations of sexual harassment by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt is not surprising. Let us begin with the simple statement that we believe the women. There is a common thread throughout – a pattern exposed that speaks to the veracity of the recollections of the women, all of whom experienced Steinhardt’s harassing actions at different times. Those who would say these were just words, that he never physically touched the women, do not understand the dynamics of power. Those who brush off his words as jokes, or excuse his words as a reflection of his zeal for Jewish continuity, is to demean the personal and professional value of all women working in the Jewish community. To say he is a harmless 80-year-old man is to ignore not only his decades’ long behavior but the power of his example to future generations of Jewish men and donors. To give excuse to an older generation is to ignore that young men are watching and learning.

We applaud the women who gave voice to his pattern of sexual harassment. As a Jewish organization working on the issues of sexual misconduct and abuse, we know how much more challenging these issues are when they involve donors – but we can no longer allow funding to purchase silence.”

-Lori Weinstein, JWI CEO

 

Keshet

Keshet stands with our good friend Sheila Katz and all the courageous women who speak out in this important piece. We are proud to be members of the Safety Respect Equity Coalition, working for a Jewish world where abuse of power is never tolerated. As queer Jews, we know both the vulnerability and the power of telling the truths of our lives.

To women and people of all genders who experience sexual harassment and assault, we say: we see you, we believe you, and we will always stand by you.

 

Leichtag Foundation

As members of The SafetyRespectEquity Coalition, the Leichtag Foundation is committed to addressing sexual harassment and victimization in the Jewish community. We admire and support the courageous women who have demonstrated leadership and great strength by sharing their stories of sexual harassment by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, detailed in today’s New York Timesarticle. Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim when we celebrate the power of one person-one woman-to make a difference. These brave women have truly made a difference. This issue is broader than  just one article or perpetrator. It is a systemic problem and, as such, the responsibility to address and prevent it should not fall upon victims and survivors, but rather on communal leaders and funders like us. We are guided by Jewish tradition which calls on us to not stand idly by and tolerate the status quo of injustice, and in fact to call it out with loud voices and strong remediation and good action. The SafetyRespectEquity Coalition statement can be found here.

 

Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah

Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, Chair, and Aaron Dorfman, President, of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, a member of SafetyRespectEquity (a Jewish coalition to address sexual harassment and gender discrimination), issued the following statement today in response to allegations of decades of sexual harassment perpetrated by philanthropist and billionaire, Michael Steinhardt:

“Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah stands with and supports all those who have been subjected to harassment and degradation by Michael Steinhardt. On this holiday of Purim, today’s news is a sad reminder that the story of women like Esther and Vashti, who faced harrowing choices when deciding how to respond to those who threatened their basic human dignity, is not simply a historical relic.

Many of the organizations we support in our philanthropic work are champions of human rights and social justice who fight discrimination and raise awareness about its harmful and dehumanizing impact. We applaud Sheila Katz, who leads Hillel International’s MitzVote program (a project we’ve been honored to fund) for her courage and strength—along with the other women featured in today’s New York Times article—in coming forward to expose this unacceptable behavior, and to catalyze an ever more just, inclusive, and respectful Jewish community and civil society.”

 

Men of Reform Judaism

Men of Reform Judaism is that place where intellect, vision, matter, and spirit meet. It is this place because our members recognize their obligation to our Jewish heritage and values.

Our Jewish heritage and values are precisely why we must speak out, and condemn as abhorrent, the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse as reported by The New York Times. We must all work towards greater protection in the workplace so women can succeed and thrive without fear, worry about reprisal, or harassment.

There can be no tolerance, in schools, the workplace, or on the streets we walk of sexual harassment.

Every woman, man, or gender non-binary person is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.

 

Moving Traditions

Today on Purim, Moving Traditions applauds the brave women who honor Vashti and Esther by speaking up powerfully in articles published today in the New York Times and EJewish Philanthropy, which raise important issues about how the Jewish community must better support women, advance gender equity, and hold Jewish philanthropists accountable for abusive and sexist behavior.

We want to speak to teens who may be affected by the reports of abuse by both a founder of Birthright founder and an owner of a major sports team. Although there are leaders behaving disgracefully, we are living in a time of changing norms where this behavior is no longer tolerated. We are heartened that teens now have new role models of Jewish leaders in women like Sheila Katz, Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Deborah Mohile Goldberg, and Barbara Dobkin who should be known for all the good they do for the Jewish community—in addition to their bravery in speaking up and working for justice.

 

 NFTY

NFTY Stands with the Women

Yesterday, a New York Times article was released called, “Michael Steinhardt, a Leader in Jewish Philanthropy, Is Accused of a Pattern of Sexual Harassment.” As members of the Reform Jewish community, fiercely committed to the fight against sexual violence, this news is jarring. The women quoted in this article are our teachers and our leaders, our friends and our community members. Unequivocally, we believe them, we stand by them, and we recommit ourselves to our sexual violence prevention work.

At NFTY Mechina in 2017, the NFTY General Board unanimously voted for a resolution to affirm our movement’s commitment to sexual violence prevention. The passage of this resolution sparked a campaign for justice across our nineteen regions: our newly-formed Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force revised the text in our Brit Kehilah (code of conduct) to include specific language about consent; graduating seniors signed pledges at their last events, promising to uphold the values of consent and respect that they had during their time in NFTY; this past April, members of our task force led our first Sexual Violence Prevention campaign, culminating in a month of sharing resources for NFTYites to use in order to take action on sexual violence prevention. In a video released as a part of this campaign, NFTYites explained why they fight against sexual violence, and each recited the same line: “Not in my movement.”

Not in our movement. Not in our faith.

We do all of this work with an explicit goal that every teen who ever engages with the Reform Movement will leave understanding that consent and respect are inherent Jewish values.

To take action on this issue, become involved with the Sexual Violence Prevention campaign this upcoming April. Look out for informative blog posts, shareable graphics, and sample programs to use in your own communities. Or for teens looking for other ways to engage with the range of issues that can lead to a culture that tolerates and even promotes harassment, we have joined with Moving Traditions to offer the Kol Koleinu feminist fellowship open to all genders where learning and action on these issues is deepened and practiced in a supportive community.

We refuse to allow sexual violence to go ignored or swept under the rug and commit to holding ourselves and our peers accountable. Sexual violence and harassment are contrary to everything that NFTY and the Reform Movement stand for and will not be accepted or ignored in our Jewish community. 

 

Union for Reform Judaism

New York, NY; March 21, 2019 – Statement of URJ Chair Daryl Messinger and URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs:

“We read today’s story in The New York Times about Michael Steinhardt with concern and outrage. We applaud the courage of the women who have come forward to describe their experiences. We believe them, sympathize with them, and support them.

The behavior described in the story is reprehensible and has no place in the Jewish community or any other.

For too long, people (almost always women) have been subjected by others (almost always men) in positions of power and influence to the kinds of words and actions outlined in this story. It has had deep emotional, professional, and financial consequences, among others, for those who have been targeted.

This moment of reckoning in our culture is long overdue. We remain committed to doing all we can to ensure a safe, secure, and supportive workplace in which every individual is accorded the respect and dignity they deserve.”

 

Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

Sexual harassment, sexism, gender discrimination and related abuses of power cannot be tolerated in our communities. We stand with the brave women who are coming forward to share their stories and remain deeply committed to supporting safe, respectful and equitable Jewish workplaces and communal spaces.

 

 Wexner Foundation

We support safe and respectful Jewish spaces and gender equality especially in our Jewish community. On #Purim and every day, we stand with courageous women including our alumnae Sheila Katz, Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi and all others who bravely speak out.

 

Women of Reform Judaism

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.