A top official in the Jewish camping world has resigned over charges of sexual harassment made by a Bay Area woman in a recent essay published by J.
As reported today by the New York Jewish Week, Leonard Robinson “resigned under pressure” on April 12 as executive director of NJY Camps, the New Jersey-based umbrella group for five residential Jewish camps in the surrounding area. He had served in that position since 1993, after working at four JCCs around the country.
The essay published in J. on March 22, “My sexual harasser is still a leader in the Jewish community,” was a detailed account by San Francisco philanthropic adviser Debbie Findling about how 30 years ago, when she had just graduated college, her supervisor at a JCC in Southern California sexually harassed her, making inappropriate overtures that included an invitation to have sex with him and his wife. Findling reported the behavior to her superiors and was moved to a different JCC, with assurances that her harasser “felt remorse” and was seeking therapy. Instead, she watched for years as he moved from one JCC to another across the country, rising in the Jewish nonprofit world.
Her father, who was an attorney, urged her to bring a lawsuit, but she declined: “I was afraid of being labeled ‘one of those women’ — an agitator — and concerned that if I went public I wouldn’t get another job in the Jewish community.”
Findling declined to name the man in her essay, although she recently revealed it to the Jewish Week, which also published her essay last month. She has also now named the JCC where they both worked — the West Valley JCC in Woodland Hills, which has since closed.
In announcing Robinson’s resignation today to the NJY Camps board, president Peter Horowitz noted that the allegations involved harassment that took place long before Robinson’s arrival at his present post, but because they are “deeply disturbing and antithetical to the community we have created,” he was being immediately replaced with an investigation to follow, the Jewish Week reported.
Today, Findling told J., “I hope that publishing my essay will give other women the courage to speak up. But more importantly, I hope it will create change in the Jewish community so the burden won’t be upon the victim of sexual harassment to speak up — there won’t be any more harassment, so there will be no need to speak up.”
According to its website, NJY Camps is the largest Jewish camp complex in the world, serving more than 7,400 participants, including 5,500 young people. It is part of the JCC movement and is an affiliate of the Foundation for Jewish Camp.