Hebrew Union College, the American seminary for Reform Judaism, released an independently commissioned report detailing sex bias at the college, including sexual harassment, since the 1970s.
“The most prevalent comment we heard was of a ‘good old boys’ mindset across all of HUC’s campuses,” the report said. “Additionally, women credibly reported being subjected to direct gender discrimination, ranging from comments disparaging women in the rabbinate generally, to a woman being told she was ‘too high strung to be a rabbi,’ to female students and faculty being treated negatively because they chose to focus on feminism in their scholarship … Both faculty and students described instances of male faculty and administrators commenting on women’s appearances and/or weight while not making similar comments about men’s appearances or weight. In addition to gender bias, we received numerous allegations of sexual harassment, ranging in severity from forcible sexual touching to off-color jokes and comments about breasts and penis size. While the more serious allegations concern conduct occurring before 2000, we also heard about more recent harassment and boundary-crossing behavior.”
The report also noted that “a smaller but still significant number of witnesses experienced or witnessed alleged discrimination based on LGBTQ+ status. While the most blatant and egregious allegations date from years ago, the issue reportedly remains today.”
Sue Neuman Hochberg, chair of the college’s Board of Governors, released a statement that said, “We must ensure too that our values are communicated clearly and firmly, that we are vigilant in providing and protecting an environment of tolerance and respect, and that all members of our community have avenues to address any concerns without fear of consequence. This will not be easy. We know we cannot hide behind only improving policies and procedures, nor do we seek to do so. We commit to you that we will go further, restoring the sense of spiritual leadership that must—and will—infuse all our actions.”