Jofa Letter to the Community July 12, 2023
Jofa Shared the Following Letter to the Community
on July 12, 2023
on July 12, 2023
Dear Jofa community,
For nearly three decades, Jofa’s work expanding the rights of women in the Orthodox community and beyond has had a profound impact. The need for our work is as urgent now as it has ever been. We also understand that part of our value is modeling the behaviors and actions that we expect of others. In the spring of 2022, two former executive directors raised concerns that Jofa had not responded appropriately to sexual or gender-based harassment that reportedly occurred during their periods of employment. One raised concerns about an incident in 2012, which Jofa learned of in 2018. The second raised concerns about comments made between 2016 and 2018, which were fully investigated in 2018 and found not to be harassment.
In May 2022, in consultation with SRE (Safety Respect Equity) Network, we announced publicly that we would conduct a comprehensive external review of the concerns raised by our former executive directors. We are writing to share that the external review has determined that “Jofa’s responses to [the former executive directors’] reports were aligned with legal requirements and effective practices in place at the time, but that there was more Jofa could have done in each instance to communicate care and concern for the impacted individuals.” Since 2018, we have strengthened our policies and our training, and we are committed to doing better in the future. SRE Network has reviewed the report, and reactivated Jofa as a SRE Network member. Read the full report here.
It is clear to us that our mission and our values required the introspective process of an external review. It enabled us to engage in a process of cheshbon nefesh: discernment, reflection, correction, and improvement. To ensure the integrity of the review, Jofa engaged Cozen O’Connor, a firm with an attorney group dedicated to helping organizations prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based harassment. Cozen O’Connor had no previous connection to Jofa, nor to any of the individuals involved, and Cozen O’Connor’s report is wholly its own work product. Jofa did not direct the findings or the outcomes.
As detailed in the report, Jofa’s responses to the incidents raised by our two former executive directors, while imperfect, were aligned with legal requirements and contemporary practices. We are also heartened that Cozen O’Connor found no other issues of potential concern and that Jofa is operating with an improved culture. Finally, the report notes that while appropriate for its time, in hindsight, Jofa’s response could have been better. We acknowledge that our attention to our former executive directors’ well-being did not comport with the culture that we seek for our staff and organization, and for that we are sorry.
The Jofa board has endorsed the report and already begun to enact its recommendations. As noted, following the 2018 concerns, we established an anti-harassment policy and training for our board and staff, and in 2019, we joined SRE Network to better our governance and workplace culture. We have continued to improve our culture at Jofa by waiving non-disclosure agreements for all former employees and committing to no longer use them with employees moving forward.
Jofa is committed to walking the path necessary to provide a positive culture, climate and tone within the organization. We reaffirm the board’s responsibility to ensure that its members act in accordance with their fiduciary duties to promote a productive, safe and respectful work environment for Jofa’s staff. We are committed to remaining a positive and formidable force for feminism and to continuing to partner with you to create a more vibrant and equitable Orthodox community.
Dr. Mindy Feldman Hecht, Board President
Daphne Lazar Price, Executive Director