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February 06, 2004 - Image 66

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ABUSE

from page 51

"I would hope that because we have
become so aware that the potential for
abuse exists in any relationship, that we,
as community, both
Jewish and secular, are
now better able to see
it and control it.
"It is always unfor-
tunate when work-
place relationships
become abusive. We
know that synagogues
are not immune to
Klein
the kind of physical,
emotional and even
sexual abuse we see in the larger society.
Over the past 20 years, we have all
become more sensitive to these issues and
less likely to tolerate such behavior.
Unfortunate also are the incidents of
people with power, Jewish or not, who
take advantage of men and women, boys
and girls, inflicting themselves upon
them."

New Policy

However serious, reports of sexual harass-
ment and abuse have remained limited
and haven't approached the proportions
of the Catholic Church's clergy abuse
scandals, which have generated hundreds

of charges nationally and sparked multi-
million-dollar lawsuits by victims.
Since the church scandals surfaced,
Rabbi Epstein said he has worried that
the Jewish community "had taken a self-
righ teous position that at least it's not
us.
United Synagogue's new standards not
only take aim at inappropriate sexual
acts, but also cover a range of behavior
that went unchallenged decades ago. The
rules are meant to govern relations
between congregants and rabbis, cantors,
educators, synagogue
professionals and lay
leaders.
Behavior such as
"leering, catcalls or
touching;" "insulting
or obscene comments
or gestures" and the
display of sexually
suggestive pictures all
would be banned.
The policy also bans the telling of sex-
iml jokes, negative stereotyping and the
use of epithets or slurs — as well as hos-
tility directed against a person based on
race, religion, color, disability, national
origin, marital status or sexual orienta-
tion.

The rules also are meant to help rab-
bis and other clergy avoid situations
where they could be open to charges of
harassment or abuse. For example, rabbis
and others are cautioned to conduct
some business that once remained private
in public places, never to meet alone
with a child or teenager and never to
touch them.
"We're concerned about false accusa-
tions," said Rabbi Moshe Adelman, who
chairs the United Synagogue commission
on congregational standards, which
helped draft the new guidelines.
The rabbis hope synagogues eventual-
ly will adapt the new standards in some
form.
"Most synagogues have a clean slate,"
Rabbi Adelman said.
"Thankfully, I have not seen this
problem locally in Detroit," said Rabbi
Reuven Spolter of the Orthodox Young
Israel of Oak Park. "Nonetheless, every
rabbi and Jew, from across the religious
spectrum, needs to confront and address
sexual harassment in a serious way, to
ensure that should a problem arise, we
can deal with it sensitively."
Rabbi Adelman said, "My feeling is
this ought to be read, studied and adopt-
ed so that we can protect" synagogue

staff and congregants.
Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice
president of the Conservative move-
ment's Rabbinical Assembly lauded the
United Synagogue policy and said an
R.A. ethics committee was drafting a
similar policy. Rabbi Meyers said the
group had resisted issuing such a state-
ment for some time, but was bowing to
increasing pressure to follow other Jewish
groups.
The hesitation came, Rabbi Meyers
said, because R.A. members should be
familiar with proper conduct as governed
by Jewish law and texts.
"Our code of ethics is the Shulchan
Aruch, "a compendium of Jewish law, he
said. ❑

JN Staff Writer Shelli Liebman Dorfman
contributed to this report.

To view the complete United
Synagogue of Conservative
Judaism Model Guidelines for
Congregational Policy Against
Harassment, access the Web site
at: wvvw.uscj.org/
Gu idelines_for_Polic 1 3 12.html

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