Jewish Feminists, History, and the HUC Report

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Earlier this week, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion released the results of an independent investigation into allegations of abuse. The report details not only specific instances of misogynist, racist, heterosexist, and sexually exploitative behavior, but an institutional culture that offered succor and protection to those who exploited their positions of power. As the report indicates, this behavior—and the enabling of its perpetrators—has a long history in the Reform movement, even as the movement also broke ground in opening Jewish ritual roles and leadership to women.

We can postulate that for each of the 170 interviewees who courageously and generously disclosed their experiences, there were others who were unable or unwilling to come forward. It is all too rare for such institutional reckonings to take place, much less to be shared publicly.  There is still far, far more to be unearthed about harassment and assault within Jewish institutions, regardless of denomination.

Jewish feminists have been fighting against sexual exploitation for many decades, from the time a century ago that striking garment workers protested bosses’ demands of sexual favors through Susan Brownmiller's 1975 analysis of rape as an act of violence against women through the outpouring of #metoo stories in the last decade. The HUC report is a product of this unrelenting work, as well as an urgent call to today's activists for gender, racial, and sexual equality to continue their fight.

The vast majority of women and gender minorities experience gendered harassment or violence in their lives, typically before we’re out of high school (or even middle school). Homophobic and racist abuse, too, pervade America’s society and institutions, Jewish and otherwise. The work continues. May our history of resistance, and the courage and resilience of generations of Jewish feminists, strengthen us for the next stage of this struggle.




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Staff, JWA. "Jewish Feminists, History, and the HUC Report." 12 November 2021. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 30, 2023) <>.

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