Sexual Harassment in the Jewish Communal World
The following post was submitted by a senior Jewish professional, who asked it be published anonymously.
As a Jewish professional, I wasn’t surprised to read the results of the recent “Survey on Sexual Harassment in the Jewish Communal World,” presented by the folks who bring us the Hizdamnuyot (Hebrew for “opportunities”) listserv for jobs (mostly at nonprofits and mostly in the Jewish community).
In their email sharing the results, Martin Kaminer (Hizdamnuyot) and Naomi Eisenberger (social psychologist, UCLA) shared that the results “were both eye-opening and unsurprising.”
As I read through the responses, and those responses specifically from female executive directors, too many rang true to my experience as a colleague and professional, as well as volunteer in the Jewish community. I have not personally experienced direct sexual harassment (likely a result of being male), but I brought my colleagues’ experiences to the attention of my board and lay leaders, to our boss, to lay-HR committees… all for naught. Too often our leadership ignores harassment, does not take complaints seriously, and opts to keep repeat offenders on staff or on boards instead of watching out for the well-being of the rest of the staff. Within the last several months I have brought multiple complaints of harassment to my board from my staff (one staff sexually harassing several others), and it went exactly where you’d expect: nowhere. It was easier for them to ignore it and claim it wasn’t harassment. You understand why I’m writing this anonymously now…
And it’s not just staff. Too often donors are able to get away with touching, looks, squeezes because they write checks — while employees feel less and less supported and have to go back and continue making those asks, often off-site and alone.
When that harassed staff finally quits, will their next job be in the Jewish community? Will they want to volunteer for another community organization where that person is involved?
We’re doing great disservice by not addressing the issue.
With the results of the survey in mind, and noting that “only a tiny portion of respondents indicated their organizations offer any training related to harassment, though the EEOC considers it essential,” Martin and Naomi are offering workshops, something tangible:
We’re offering a pilot workshop twice this spring intended to reduce occurrence and raise awareness of sexual harassment in the Jewish Communal World. Each is limited to 25 participants. If this issue is important to you and you want to do something about it, please come. Many of you noted this has been a problem for as long as you’ve been in the field. If you want that to change, this is how it starts.
- What to do if you are a target, witness or confidante to harassment,
- How to guide your organization toward being harassment free,
- Third-party harassment (harassment by a donor, prospective donor, board member, lay leader, volunteer or participant) and
- How leadership indifference and the high legal standard for harassment can create an environment where everyday sexism thrives, complaints are impeded and bad behavior persists.