Sacred Respectful Community Progress Report

In November 2021, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion released the findings of the independent investigation into sexual misconduct, harassment, and bias at the College-Institute conducted by the law firm Morgan Lewis. HUC-JIR has committed to taking action steps based on the recommendations in the Morgan Lewis report as well as prior recommendations issued by the Presidential Taskforce on Safe and Respectful Environments. This Progress Report provides an overview of that work and will be updated on a quarterly basis.

HUC-JIR Action Plan
to Strengthen a Sacred and Respectful Community
Institutional Teshuvah: Taking Responsibility for and Healing from Our Past
Action ItemProgress
Build a meaningful teshuvah process to understand survivor experiences and hold ourselves accountable.
  • Nov. 2021 – HUC-JIR publicly released the Morgan Lewis report.
  • May 2022 – HUC-JIR formed a Teshuvah Working Group under the leadership of Rabbi Laura Novak Winer and Rachel Margolis, RJE.
  • Summer 2022 – The Teshuvah Working Group convened learning sessions with Dr. Guila Benchimol and Rabbi Rochelle Robins for HUC-JIR, CCAR and URJ board and ethics process members to develop a shared framework for Reform Movement Teshuvah work.
  • The Teshuvah Working Group is developing recommended approaches for listening forums with survivors, as well as opportunities for survivors to document their stories, to be shared with HUC-JIR’s leadership in early 2023.
Design rituals moments of healing.
  • The Teshuvah Working Group is developing recommended approaches to optional reaffirmation of ordination and other ritual moments of healing, to be shared with HUC-JIR’s leadership in early 2023.
Remove endowed chairs, statues, and other public recognitions that memorialize or honor wrongdoers.
  • Principles and Procedures for Renaming Buildings and Other Features at HUC-JIR were adopted in June 2022.
  • HUC-JIR’s Board Chair and President have empaneled a Renaming Committee to issue recommendations on named features to the Board.
  • In the interim, certain statues and portraits have been temporarily relocated and some faculty with named professorships have ceased using those titles
Setting Jewish Ethical Expectations for All Who Enter Our Sacred Space
Action ItemProgress
Review and revise policies and procedures consistent with the findings of the Presidential Task Force on Safe and Respectful Environments and the Morgan Lewis report.
  • Fall 2020 – Reviewed and updated HR policies impacting faculty, staff, and students following a Board-led review of policies and policy changes. Initiated a process to align faculty, staff, and student handbooks to reflect revised policies.
  • Spring 2021 – Implemented updated Name Change policy which allows for legal or preferred names throughout all internal systems and on diplomas and ordination documents.
  • June 2022 – Created webpage for non-academic policies to promote and reinforce communal standards of behavior for students, staff and faculty.
  • June 2022 – Created Sacred and Respectful Community webpage to clarify incident reporting protocols and share ethics and DEI content in a centralized location.
Set forth clear expectations regarding behavior and hold people accountable when they do not comply.
  • The Offices of Human Resources and Student Support have clarified and updated behavioral expectations for all community members and codified incremental disciplinary processes for those who do not comply.
Build more transparency into the system so community members feel comfortable coming forward.
  • "Incident reporting protocols are clearly outlined on the HUC-JIR website and are reinforced with all students, staff, and faculty."
  • Additional transparency measures will be developed through HUC’s ongoing DEI work.
Consider modifying the smichot process.
  • A proposal for modified process for signing ordination certificates is currently in development.
  • It will be reviewed by faculty and enacted before May 2023 ordination.
Develop a centralized record retention system.
  • Record retention protocols and processes are being reviewed and will be revised and implemented as appropriate in 2023.
  • Centralizing record retention is an ongoing process taking place alongside upgrades to HUC-JIR’s databases.
Consider implementing a student discipline panel or an escrow system.
  • The Director of Student Support role was created in 2020 to oversee student affairs, including disciplinary matters.
  • Under the new Director, the Office of Student Support is responsible for addressing documented matters of student misconduct and recommending disciplinary actions when warranted.
  • The Student Support Help Desk was created for reporting concerns and potential policy violations.
  • HUC-JIR implemented new case management software in 2020 to streamline investigations of misconduct.
Appoint an ombuds.
  • HUC-JIR instituted a system of third-party anonymous incident reporting in Summer 2020.
  • In Summer 2023, HUC-JIR will transition to a new external report capture provider with an anonymous hotline for receiving reports and complaints.
  • Appointing an ombuds to help community members navigate reporting pathways is currently being explored in conjunction with the Teshuvah Working Group.
Enhancing a Sacred Space: Fostering a Culture of Shared Accountability and Support
Action ItemProgress
Conduct a culture assessment.
  • September 2019 – HUC-JIR announced the Presidential Taskforce on Safe and Respectful Environments. Their report was released in February 2021.
  • February 2021 – HUC-JIR engaged DEI consultant Dr. Taj Smith for a preliminary Cultural Climate Assessment per the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Safe and Respectful Environments.
  • May 2022 – SEES (Strategic Ethical Expert Solutions), a consulting firm specializing in diversity, equity and inclusion, was engaged for an 18-month process to design and embed best practices for cultural change at HUC-JIR.
  • SEES is currently completing a robust cultural assessment based on interviews and focus groups with staff, faculty and students as a foundational element of their work with the College-Institute.
Conduct training on creating a culture of respect.
  • Fall 2020 – Title VII and Sexual Harassment Training conducted for Board of Governors and HUC’s academic and administrative leadership.
  • March 2021 – DEI training for faculty conducted by Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael from Keshet.
  • June 2021 – Two-day faculty in-service training with Dr. Taj Smith focused on building syllabi, course materials, and classroom environments with a focus on equity and inclusion.
  • Spring 2023 – SEES will be developing and implementing trainings for students, staff, and faculty to support a culture of respect at HUC-JIR.
Consider making trained mental health services available at each campus.
  • Each campus has mental health referral resources available to students.
    • LA students have access to the USC Mental Health Center.
    • Cincinnati students obtain referrals to local mental health resources and support for services through the Dean’s Office.
    • Jerusalem and New York students have access to on-call counselors for short-term mental health support.
Promote a culture of diversity and inclusion
  • September 2021 – Secured a generous gift to establish the Berkman Scholarship to Support Diversity at HUC-JIR, the Berkman Fellowship to Promote Equity and Inclusivity at HUC-JIR, and the Berkman Student Support Programming Fund.
  • Ongoing – HUC-JIR is continuing its efforts to strengthen a culture of diversity and inclusion in partnership with DEI consultants, SEES.

As of December 28, 2022