After years of silence around sexual harassment, the #MeToo movement has brought the issue into focus in the Jewish community. In response, a number of Bay Area Jewish women in leadership positions — including executive directors, rabbis and educators — have come together to bring practical help to their community.
“I think the Jewish community took the moment to say, ‘We need to be sure to keep our house in order,’” said Fran Sepler, a veteran sexual harassment investigator and workplace trainer who is coming to San Francisco to help local organizations do just that.
For four days beginning May 13, a series of workshops and trainings will address everything from creating policies for respect from how to figure out if a hug or a handshake is appropriate. Each day will be led by Sepler, who has been doing these kinds of trainings for more than 30 years.
“I consider this sort of four-day community event as much more than a training,” she added. “It’s really an opportunity for the community to come together and begin a dialogue.”
The program has been organized by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation with a host committee featuring some 50 women of stature in the Bay Area community. The steering committee includes Debbie Findling, Marci Glazer, Abby Porth, Stephanie Rapp, Dana Sheanin, Joy Sisisky, Amy Tobin and Naomi Tucker.
The trainings and conversations are designed for different people. For example, the opening event is for CEOs, executive directors, board chairs and senior staff, but there are also events for clergy, development professionals, volunteers, board members and even two open to the entire community. Some of the training fulfills state requirements for sexual harassment prevention.
Sepler said that kind of “something for everyone” set-up is a great opportunity, especially for smaller organizations that don’t necessarily have the money to pay for professional trainings. “The community is chipping in and saying, ‘Here’s an expert.’”
Moreover, she added, the #MeToo era offers an opportunity for a motivated community to make real, positive change.
“This is a time to take this fervent reaction to sexual harassment and go back to this fundamental piece: that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect,” she said.
The title of the event is “We Commit: Coming Together to Ensure Safety and Respect in Jewish Communal Organizations,” and it will kick off at Fisher Hall at the JCC of San Francisco on Monday, May 13.
From 7 to 8:30 p.m. that evening, there will be a session open to the Jewish community titled “We Too.” Attendees will “hear the voices of experts, our own leadership and those affected by harassment, abuse, or bullying in our workplaces,” according to the flyer. “Join us to learn, share our ideas and brainstorm commitments for change.”
Another session open to the public is titled “In the Era of #MeToo, What’s a Donor to Do?” The flyer explains: “What are the appropriate ways of interacting when you give? Do I shake a hand or give a hug?” It will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15 at the JCCSF.
There will also be sessions at Menorah Park in San Francisco, and the final day’s 45-minute, one-on-one consultations with Sepler are by invitation only. Everything is free, but registration is required for some sessions and workshops. For more details, visit jewishfed.org/news/events.