WRN Responds To Release of URJ Report
The Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) is deeply grateful to every person who shared their experience of abuse, misconduct, harassment, and sexual assault with the Debevoise and Plimpton legal team as part of their investigation on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and to everyone who has shared their story with any of the investigative processes with our Reform Movement partners, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Revisiting painful and traumatic events should not be necessary to ensure an environment of safety and respect for all; the survivors who reported have gone above and beyond anything that could be expected of them. We also recognize that not everyone who experienced misconduct is able to share their story. Surviving is an act of strength. Whether or not you reported your experience, WRN’s commitment remains with you. We see you, and we will honor your courage by continuing to work to ensure that your needs remain at the center of our collective concern.
The URJ’s report sets a high bar for integrity in investigating sexual misconduct in religious institutions and represents another significant step toward institutional accountability in our Reform Movement. WRN lauds the release of this historic and candid report as well as the many steps the URJ has taken to increase safety and respect throughout our Movement, including at NFTY programming and summer camps. We commend the URJ leadership for committing to quickly implementing all recommendations in the report and to undertaking a serious process of teshuvah and repair.
Taken together with the reports from the CCAR and HUC-JIR, it is clear that the institutions that should have been our sacred places – our spiritual, communal, social, educational, and professional homes – have failed many in profound ways. Institutions and the cultures built around them have silenced those who have survived misconduct, adding the secondary trauma of being ignored or disbelieved. We hope that these three investigations and resulting reports represent a true and lasting commitment to systemic change and supporting survivors.
WRN applauds the URJ, CCAR, and HUC-JIR for committing to increased coordination on ethics issues. We urge every congregation to adopt a robust ethics process, and we encourage congregations to make use of the resources developed by the URJ and others. Every person in the Reform Movement has a responsibility to change the culture that has allowed this pattern of abusive behavior.
Healing will take time, but action must be swift. These next weeks and months are critical. How our Movement responds to the information revealed through these investigations will determine who we are and who we will be. The Women’s Rabbinic Network remains committed to supporting survivors and to working together with our Movement partners in the process of reckoning and repair.