It’s been a little more than a year since the #MeToo hashtag went viral, with women all over the world sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault. The stories were as shocking as the statistics: In the United States, one in five women will be raped in their lifetimes, and one in three women have experienced some form of sexual violence, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
The discussion has upended Hollywood moguls, toppled the heads of major corporations and has even affected Baltimore’s Jewish community, where the membership of Temple Oheb Shalom will vote Sunday on whether to carry out the board’s decision to terminate Rabbi Steven Fink’s contract following accusations of sexual impropriety.
But horrific stories are not the main subjects of this week’s cover story package. This week, the JT focuses on the Jewish side of #MeToo. Rather than recounting the upheaval at Oheb or recall rabbinical indiscretions, we present stories about what Judaism has to say about the movement, what Jewish men can and are doing, a sexual assault awareness program and what the female clergy at Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia have to say about #MeToo.
As you’ll read in Susan C. Ingram’s story about Beth Shalom, times have changed since Rabbi Susan Grossman was among the first class of women to be admitted to the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1984, but issues still abound for female rabbis (although she noted that all is apparently well at Beth Shalom). Cantor Rebecca Apt, decades the junior of Grossman, had different experiences, although she reported that a male cantorial student told her that she’ll have a shorter career “because women’s voices don’t last as long.” She corrected her colleague.
Connor Graham writes about what Jewish men can do — and what Jewish men and organizations are doing — to be proactive. Locally and nationally, these conversations are happening, and advocates say the #MeToo movement is making young boys more open to having conversations about consent and sexual assault.
Susan also spoke to rabbis from across the community about what Judaism has to say about #MeToo. On our website, we also feature a program named after a sexual assault survivor who died from a rare cancer. Her family is fundraising and hopes to expand the program that carries out Erin Levitas’ goal of spreading awareness and education.