Women’s advocacy group looks to men as allies, not enemies, in the Jewish workplace

Philanthropist Michael Steinhardt
File photo

Male employees of Jewish organizations who have watched the #MeToo movement unfold and think they get it are the target of a pilot program Jewish Women International plans to launch in September.

“Men as Allies: Leading Equitable Workplaces” will address the men who want to do right but aren’t always sure how, said Meredith Jacobs, JWI’s chief operating officer.

“In the #MeToo era and following scandals involving leaders of Jewish organizations like [philanthropist Michael] Steinhardt, JWI started looking at the Jewish workplace,” she said.

“There are men in the community who see themselves as allies [of women] but don’t know what to do. They say, ‘I can’t hug you anymore,’ or don’t want to be in the room alone with a woman,” but are otherwise at a loss, she said.


Rabbi Richard Hirsch, a member of JWI’s clergy task force, will lead separate discussions for male staff, male lay leaders and male donors to Jewish organizations. Hirsch will cover Jewish masculinity, conceptions of leadership, and implementing of organizational policies in the post-#MeToo workplace, according to Jacobs.

“Ending sexual harassment and building equitable Jewish workplaces is something we can only do with men — men working in our organizations, and men in positions of power and leadership in organizations,” said Lori Weinstein, JWI’s chief executive officer.

The pilot is funded by The Safety Respect Equity Coalition.

JWI plans to kick off a second pilot program on Sept. 17 at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. The Jewish Communal Leadership Project will aim to equip women to compete for top positions at Jewish institutions.

Jewish women who are leaders in their fields will offer “master classes” for women at senior staff levels in Jewish organizations. For instructors, JWI will draw from its 180 “Women to Watch.”

“We’re not saying there shouldn’t be any male leaders, by any means, but that there should be more women,” said Jacobs. “I think it will trickle down to the entire Jewish community and how we look at equity in the Jewish workplace.”

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