WRN Responds To Release of HUC-JIR Report

The Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) extends our deepest gratitude to everyone who shared a story of sexual misconduct, assault, abuse, and any form of harassment or discrimination based on gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, and/or disability with the investigative team working with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). It is only because you shared your stories that the Board of Trustees of HUC-JIR could release today’s report.

To the survivors, thank you for your willingness to revisit painful and traumatic experiences in order to ensure that the institution you trusted becomes a place of safety and respect. Your pain should not have been required to meet this goal, and we are grateful for your courage. We see you. We are you. No one should have ever experienced sexual misconduct, other forms of harassment, or bias. The students, employees, and faculty of HUC-JIR should have been protected by the institution we trusted. Whether or not you have told your story, we honor your strength.

 

By engaging a respected third-party investigative body and undertaking a serious and wide-ranging investigation into sexual misconduct and discrimination past and present, HUC-JIR has acted with integrity and has helped set a standard for other legacy organizations within and outside of the Jewish world. WRN lauds HUC-JIR for undertaking this process to comprehensively document harm caused to HUC-JIR’s students, faculty, and employees, and for releasing those findings publicly. The work of repair is long and this investigation, with its lengthy and detailed report and recommendation, is a notable and important step in that on-going process.

 

The community is still reading and processing the report, but it is clear that many have known what the report reveals. For too long, power has been wielded to silence and undermine; HUC-JIR has been a place where people were made to feel unsafe speaking up, because they were unsure whether they would be believed and they did not trust that appropriate action would be taken. They feared and experienced retaliation. These failures are particularly egregious for an institution that trains members of our Jewish community to lead sacred communities.

What was taken from the survivors can never be fully restored. We believe the work HUC-JIR has done and will continue to deepen and expand represents an important step toward ensuring that the school will be a place of safety and respect.

WRN urges HUC-JIR, as well as all of our Reform movement partners, to commit to undertaking the next phase of teshuva: restoration and repair, by working with experts and inviting input from survivors. This can start by implementing the many recommendations in the report.

WRN continues to offer this vision for a safe Reform Movement:

WRN’s Vision for a Safe Reform Movement

We believe our community can and must be one of safety and respect. At the outset of these investigations, WRN released the following vision for a safe Reform movement. As this process of truth-telling, restoration and repair moves forward, we look forward to our Reform movement partners committing to and continuing their work toward fulfilling the following:

 

Commit to a full, independent review of past complaints brought to the institution to ensure justice was appropriately carried out and, where needed, rectify unresolved complaints. For example, where applicable, this should include examining past settlements and releasing survivors from silencing contracts, like non-disclosure agreements.

 

Following receipt and review of any investigative findings, commit to the highest level of transparency that is legally available by publicly naming the types of abuse that are discovered and the extent of the problems uncovered.

 

Commit to holding those found to be predators and enablers accountable by either creating or reinforcing a clear system of professional and religious accountability.

 

Commit to ensuring that both individual members and institutions as a whole will engage in a survivor-centered, trauma-informed teshuva (repentance and repair) process.

 

Commit to providing clear information about how survivors can access any available supports and resources for healing. If such resources are not currently available from the institution, undertake a review to determine what new resources and support could feasibly be offered by the institution.

 

Commit to a full safety and respect climate survey to evaluate institutional culture and put into place the policies, standards, and processes to ensure safety for all, including the on-going promotion of a feedback-rich and retaliation-free environment to support a safe and respectful culture.