“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
This teaching from the Talmud captures the motive behind the #MeToo movement that is impacting our country, our world and our close-knit community of Jewish Baltimore.
#GamAni (Hebrew for #MeToo) has taken on a meaning of its own in the Jewish communal world, impacting the nation’s Jewish federations, nonprofits and, yes, our spiritual leaders and houses of worship.
There is no way to sugarcoat it — it is really difficult stuff. It is difficult to accept that someone trusted would betray that trust. It is difficult to watch a congregation go through a time of challenge and transition. It is difficult to have an abrupt and hurtful goodbye with leaders we have known for years, sometimes decades. But most of all, it is difficult to be the one to come forward and to say #MeToo.
Earlier this year, I was triggered by a story of my abuser’s continued inappropriate behavior, and my decade-old story came spilling out from a place deep within. It was a story that I had been too ashamed and too afraid to share.
But as the Talmud teaches, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” I couldn’t abandon the next child or woman who may be vulnerable and subjected to my experience or worse.
So I reported. I said “GamAni.” I said “enough is enough.”
For a split second after I reported, I felt relieved. But that relief quickly turned into feeling the wrath of being victim-shamed.
“Of all the women that, in my opinion would not be a credible accuser, she would be at the top of my list.” “While she seems to be in a healthy marriage now, she was promiscuous as a teen.” “You’re ruining your daughter like your mother ruined you. You’re disgusting and you’ll get what’s coming to you for what you’ve done.” These quotes represent a small sample of what I have experienced since reporting.
I knew it would be a draining and scary time in my life, but what I didn’t expect was how cruel members of my own community would become. And until you’ve lived it, it is impossible to appreciate the grief and pain that comes with reporting. It is this backlash that silences victims and leaves abusers in positions of power.
This close-knit community is our world, and we are not free to “abandon our world’s grief.” It is up to us to hold our leaders to high ethical standards, to create safe congregations and organizations and to support victims when they say #MeToo.
As a community we must “do justly, now” and we must not abandon our mission of working to repair the world — even if, for now, we focus on our little world of Jewish Baltimore.
At the writer’s urging, the JT is choosing to protect her identity.