RNS asked some of the country’s top faith leaders, scholars and activists to consider what changes the religion landscape will see in 2018. Find all their predictions here.
Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: A Jewish #MeToo will lead to #PayMeRight
(RNS) — I predict the coming of #MeTooJew. I predict that accusations and stories of sexual harassment will embroil Jewish institutions, organizations, seminaries, and synagogues. Women—and, yes, men—will come forward with stories of abuse, reaching to the highest levels of Jewish communal leadership. I predict that we will see resignations of prominent Jewish communal executives.
I predict, further, that this new wave of accusations will prompt a larger conversation in the Jewish community — a conversation that we might hope will migrate into the larger culture. We need to discuss the blurred lines between sexual harassment, which has a legal definition, and men doing what men have been doing since, well, Adam. Men — and not only men — sometimes act like jerks. This is even and especially true in situations in which there has been no coercion, power plays, and sexual quid pro quos. Ultimately, the war against the yetzer ha-ra, the unholy inclination, is a failed war.
So, too, America needs a more expansive meditation on the meaning of confession and forgiveness. What does it mean for someone to confess their failings? What does it mean to do teshuva, or repentance? What is the statute of limitations for such failings? What are the ethical and communal implications of accusing those who are no longer alive and cannot defend themselves? Short of legal repercussions, what are the proper penalties for such moral failings?
I submit that Judaism has a rich textual tradition that could nourish such reflections.
Finally, the #MeTooJew movement will prompt Jewish women in executive positions, including the rabbinate, to start a new movement — #PayMeRight. They will be responding to the fact that Jewish women have been paid lower than their male peers who hold the same kinds of positions. I could even see, and welcome, protest demonstrations at the 2018 General Assembly, as well as at national meetings of every Jewish organization.
Because it is one thing for American Jewish leaders to bemoan the horrendous treatment of women at the Kotel in Jerusalem. Far better for us to change the behaviors towards women in the board rooms and executive suites of American Judaism.
(Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin writes the award-winning column, “Martini Judaism,” at RNS. He also serves as the senior rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Services.)