Jewish Ethics and #MeToo: Crowdsourced Responsa for This Moment


Source: Reconstructing Judaism

The #MeToo movement has unleashed an outpouring of personal stories of sexual assault, sexual violence and institutional abuses of power within the Jewish community and throughout the world. While there is nothing new about power abuses—they are sadly braided into the core texts of Jewish tradition—it is a new and hopeful development that such a grave and entrenched problem is at long last commanding communal attention. For the first time, there is broad, collective interest in changing the structures and cultures that encourage and protect harmful behavior. Communal leaders are standing with victims and survivors in ways that are unprecedented.

This moment of change confronts us with a wide array of ethical questions: What does victim-centered justice look like? When is it appropriate to name names? How do those who have done wrong make restitution? How do institutions that have protected perpetrators make amends? Here, we curate ethical deliberations on these questions that have been written by victims, scholars, leaders, rabbis, journalists and community members. We call them “Crowdsourced Responsa” a new form of Jewish ethical wisdom.

Historically, when Jews encountered new situations that presented ethical dilemmas, they would turn to rabbis for guidance, sending questions that trusted authorities would answer by letter. These collections of Jewish questions and rabbinic answers are known as Responsa. The writing of Responsa continues to this day, in traditional and liberal streams of Judaism.

We believe this #MeToo moment calls for a new and different form of ethical guidance—one that re-imagines the nature of authority and expertise. The questions and responses gathered below express a wisdom that emerges from communal conversation and from lived experience.

Crowdsourced Responsa is a growing, shifting archive of sources from across the Internet that we see as responding to Jewish ethical questions in the era of #MeToo.

Updated: Oct. 07, 2018