Responding to a petition, new leader of major Jewish coalition condemns sexual misconduct but stops short of policy barring harassers


(JTA) — The incoming head of a major Jewish leadership alliance said sexual harassers should be barred from leading Jewish organizations.

But Dianne Lob, the incoming chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, did not pledge to exclude them from her coalition.

Lob made the statement in response to a letter signed last month by more than 250 Jewish leaders calling on her umbrella group, which represents many of America’s largest Jewish organizations, to bar any leader who has committed sexual harassment or assault.

In response, Lob wrote that she agreed with the letter’s values and “will take your questions under further advisement,” but said it was up to individual organizations to set policy regarding sexual harassment. 

“We believe that people who are known to have committed sexual harassment and sexual assault should not serve in leadership positions in the Jewish community,” Lob wrote. “It is incumbent upon our member organizations to have their own sexual harassment policies and procedures for enforcement that comply with federal, state and local laws, and suggest that you may want to contact these organizations directly as well.”

Lob did not outline any steps the Presidents Conference would take to exclude those who have committed sexual misconduct. Neither she nor the initial letter set out criteria for what would constitute sexual harassment or assault.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency emailed Lob for further comment and has not received a response. Lob was elected recently as the Presidents Conference chair in a tumultuous process.

The letter requesting the ban was written by the Committee on Ethics in Jewish Leadership, a group founded by four Jewish academics. The group aims to promote “the values of accountability, transparency, democracy and fairness in American Jewish organizations and institutions.”

“We are gratified to learn that Ms. Lob shares our conviction that people known to have committed sexual harassment, abuse, or assault should not serve in leadership positions in the Jewish community,” the group said in a statement responding to Lob’s statement. “It is equally important that such a policy govern the Conference of Presidents itself and that abusers not be permitted to take part in Conference meetings or decision making.”

Since the #MeToo movement gained momentum in 2017, a range of Jewish public figures have been accused of sexual harassment or assault. Public figures in the Jewish community, such as journalists Leon Wieseltier and Ari Shavit, and sociologist Steven M. Cohen, have faced accusations of sexual assault or inappropriate conduct and been ousted from their positions. None of the leaders of the Presidents Conference member organizations have been disciplined for sexual misconduct.

The organization has faced drama in other areas this year. A group of conservative members unsuccessfully tried to block Lob’s election because she is the former chair of HIAS, a Jewish group that aids immigrants and refugees that they charged was too far to the left. This week, the leader of that push, Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein, faced calls for his group to be expelled from the Presidents Conference in part because of tweets he wrote vilifying the Black Lives Matter movement.

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