Following Bat Sheva Marcus Allegations, Orthodox Feminist Group Will Face External Review

(JTA) – A struggling Orthodox feminist group has commissioned an external review of its “workplace and board culture,” weeks after several former employees have shared harassment allegations against a prominent sex therapist who was the former chairman of the group’s board of directors.

The Orthodox Jewish Feminist Alliance said Wednesday it had hired an outside firm to investigate its culture, as well as leadership responses to “concerns raised by former JOFA employees.” It will be the second independent investigation commissioned by the organization into allegations against Bat Sheva Marcus, following a previous one in 2018.

Two former executive directors had previously said they felt harassed by Marcus, the group’s co-founder and former board chairman who is also a well-known sex therapist with many Orthodox patients. They said JOFA’s practice of having former employees sign non-disclosure agreements hampered their ability to talk about their experiences sooner.

“Over the past few weeks, a number of individuals formerly affiliated with JOFA have raised concerns about sexual harassment, retaliation and our work environment, reads a joint statement signed by the Board Chair. administration of JOFA, Pam Scheininger, new president Mindy Feldman Hecht and executive director Daphne Lazar. Price. “These discussions sparked renewed introspection for all of us at JOFA.”

The heads of the organization did not name Marcus directly, but noted that there had been “very real criticism of the actions taken by our former chairman of the board and the way in which we, as as an organization, have reacted to these actions”.

Marcus has not been associated with JOFA since 2018, when she was asked to leave following the first independent investigation into her behavior; both investigations stemmed at least in part from complaints by the same former employee.

The new review will be conducted by Cozen O’Connor’s Institutional Response Group, which specializes in investigating allegations of institutional sex and gender-based discrimination. Make sure Independence, JOFA chose a subcommittee of three board members who were not implicated in any of the allegations to “facilitate” Cozen O’Connor’s work.

The latest assessment of the group was motivated by an essay that Marcus wrote in Tablet detailing the charges against her. Almost immediately, JOFA has released all former employees from their nondisclosure agreements. Mark too resigned from the board of a liberal Orthodox seminary in New York due to pressure from his former students. And a handful of people affiliated with JOFA have said they will withdraw from their involvement with the group.

Meanwhile, Elana Sztokman, one of the group’s former executive directors who made allegations against Marcus, is preparing to publish a new book, “When Rabbis Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexuality.” . Abuse in Jewish culture.

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