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JOFA’s Bat Sheva Marcus accused of sexual harassment – The Forward

Updated April 13, 9:15 p.m ET with statements from Sharon Weiss-Greenberg.

Multiple claims of harassment have emerged towards a pioneering determine of ladies’s empowerment from former workers of the group she helped discovered.

Bat Sheva Marcus, a famend intercourse therapist who was the president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, was accused in scathing Facebook posts this week by a former government director of the group who stated Marcus bullied her, made sexually inappropriate feedback and, unsolicited, as soon as gave her a intercourse toy.

Marcus “is an abusive person who bullies, demeans, and demoralizes staff, especially women, and inserts herself into people’s sex lives without consent,” wrote Elana Sztokman, who ran the group in 2012 and 2013. “She is not charming. She is not smart. She is not a gift to women.”

‘Orthodox sex guru’ accused of harassment

Sztokman, who stated the feminist alliance fired her for reporting the misconduct, is the second former government director of the group to accuse Marcus of harassment. The first, Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, was acknowledged by Marcus herself on Monday in an essay revealed by Tablet.

In an announcement issued on Wednesday, JOFA president Pam Scheininger acknowledged that the group “did not act as quickly as we should have” following the allegations whereas including that an unbiased investigation had decided that Marcus’s conduct was inappropriate however didn’t rise to the extent of harassment.

“In transitioning from a small informal organization to the organization that we are today, we have hit some bumps along the way,” Scheininger wrote. “This one was unacceptable.”

It is unclear what prompted the Tablet essay, however the timing could also be associated to a latest push by Zaakah, a corporation that fights sexual abuse within the Orthodox neighborhood, for JOFA to launch its former workers from nondisclosure agreements. Sztokman stated the group’s lawyer had launched her on Monday from an NDA she signed the day after she was fired in 2013.

The allegations towards Marcus, 60, and the group strike on the core of the feminist motion inside Orthodox Judaism, which advocates for a extra inclusive interpretation of Jewish regulation because it applies to girls. Founded in 1998, JOFA has been an influential supporter of feminine clergy inside Orthodox shuls, instructing girls the right way to chant from the Torah and internet hosting well-attended occasions on points regarding girls in Orthodox Jewish observe.

At the middle of it, till her departure in 2018, was Marcus, whose frankness about sexuality was as soon as portrayed within the New York Times as a fearless effort to destigmatize it.

Sztokman got here ahead after Marcus forged herself within the Tablet essay because the sufferer of false allegations, which she stated had compelled her resignation from JOFA.

In the essay, Marcus stated she’d been bewildered and horrified on the accusations from a former government director she had often clashed with. She stated the director mischaracterized pleasant banter as one thing extra insidious.

“Chatting about courses I was teaching therapists at a sex club or the latest models of a vibrator suggested to me by a manufacturer may seem like odd and inappropriate topics for a professional and lay leader to discuss,” Marcus wrote. But the director “always encouraged me to talk; she seemed amused and curious to hear about my work and supportive and comfortable with the quirkiness of my career choice.”

When that director reported the habits for making her uncomfortable, Marcus stated, it cut up the group’s board, which employed a lawyer to analyze and in the end negotiated a settlement with the complainant that included a payout and a nondisclosure settlement.

That worker, described by Marcus as a “young, talented woman” the group employed “a few years ago,” is Weiss-Greenberg, who served as JOFA’s government director from 2014 to 2018.

Weiss-Greenberg declined to remark Tuesday, saying she was nonetheless sure by a nondisclosure settlement.

On Wednesday, she posted a assertion to her Facebook web page by which she stated Scheininger, then a member of the JOFA board, had acknowledged that Marcus’s habits’s constituted abuse when she reported it in June 2017, however advised her, “If you can put up with one more year of abuse, we can work together.”

‘The last person I wanted in the bedroom with me, so to speak, was a member of my Board.’

Sztokman, an American-Israeli sociologist and writer who instantly preceded Weiss-Greenberg at JOFA, publicly recounted her expertise working underneath Marcus a couple of hours after the essay’s publication. She stated the issues started at their first one-on-one assembly when Marcus launched into an interrogation of her intercourse life over lunch.

“She drew her own conclusions while I choked on my food,” Sztokman wrote, “and then decided on her own that what I needed was a vibrator, so she sent me one.”

In the Tablet essay, titled “A New Victorianism,” Marcus stated she had as soon as bought vibrators for a couple of senior board members who expressed curiosity.

Sztokman, although, stated on Facebook that she “definitely did not want it and had not asked for it.”

“Not because I’m anti-vibrators,” she defined. “But because the last person I wanted in the bedroom with me, so to speak, was a member of my Board.”


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Sztokman, who now runs a feminist publishing firm known as Lioness Books and Media, additionally stated that Marcus forbade her from mentioning her award-winning e book on gender schooling and instructed her to take away ‘Dr.’ from her signature.

She tagged Weiss-Greenberg within the submit, which garnered tons of of reactions and dozens of feedback.

Sztokman stated on Tuesday night that she described Marcus’s habits to Blu Greenberg, a co-founder and board member of the feminist alliance whose scholarship has made her an icon of Orthodox feminism. Sztokman stated Greenberg inspired her, principally, to “stay quiet and suck it up.”

“She encouraged me to ‘reconcile’ with Bat Sheva, as if this were some kind of property dispute,” Sztokman wrote in an e-mail. “She said that I would suffer terribly in my career if I didn’t. She also said, you know Bat Sheva is a leader and I’m a leader and we need to be able to ‘get along’ for the sake of the movement.”

Sztokman stated she nonetheless raised her complaints in an e-mail to the board, and that Judy Heicklen, a previous president of the group, fired her that afternoon.

Neither Blu Greenberg nor Heicklen responded to requests for remark emailed Tuesday night. But Scheininger, the JOFA president, wrote within the assertion that Sztokman — who she stated had been terminated quite a few years earlier “due to a variety of concerns” of the board — had by no means reported sexual harassment to the board throughout her time there.

“Any claims of sexual harassment were made well after she left JOFA and were never made directly to the JOFA leadership,” Scheininger wrote.

In an e-mail to the Forward after this text was revealed, she added, “The Tablet article was published without our knowledge or endorsement, and JOFA does not support its content in either substance or tone.” She additionally stated JOFA had launched Weiss-Greenberg from the NDA.

Later Wednesday, Weiss-Greenberg got here ahead together with her allegations however centered primarily on the group’s response somewhat than the abuse itself.

“While the details may satisfy the hunger of the public for lurid details, I wish to remind everyone that such lurid details would be about me: inappropriate comments about my body; inappropriate sexual comments made towards me,” she wrote.

Marcus, whose frank strategy to intercourse led to frequent comparisons to Dr. Ruth Westheimer, spoke extensively, revealed books and was celebrated in a 2015 New York Times profile as “The Orthodox Sex Guru.” A 2021 Forward interview with Marcus inspired readers to go to her Instagram for movies in regards to the challenges of getting intercourse whereas breastfeeding, the causes of ache throughout intercourse and the important gadgets to incorporate in a “sex basket.”

After leaving JOFA, she remained a presence on this planet of Open Orthodoxy, a progressive Orthodox motion whose hallmark is the promotion of gender equality. She serves on the board of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a seminary in Riverdale based because the mental middle of Open Orthodoxy, and co-hosts a podcast about sexuality in Judaism with its chief, Rabbi Dov Linzer, who didn’t reply to a number of interview requests.

Maze Women’s Sexual Health, a remedy middle in New York the place Marcus is medical director, additionally didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The Safety Respect Equity Network, a nonprofit that fights sexual harassment and gender discrimination within the Jewish world, eliminated JOFA from an up to date checklist of member organizations it posted on Monday.

Shana Aaronson, director of Magen for Jewish Communities, a corporation that combats sexual abuse, known as the Tablet article a “slap in the face” to feminists, intercourse educators and therapists and Marcus’s accusers.

“Feminists did not fight a bloody and thankless war against misogyny, chauvinism and gender-based discrimination in order to earn us women the right to have our body parts commented on at work in the name of ‘women’s empowerment,’” Aaronson wrote on Facebook. “We don’t need a ‘world with less sexual shame’ to talk about sex in the workplace. No thank you.”

Correction: An earlier model of the story misstated the years Marcus served as board president. She served on JOFA’s board for 20 years, however was president from 2015 to 2018.

‘Orthodox sex guru’ accused of harassment

‘Orthodox sex guru’ accused of harassment

‘Orthodox sex guru’ accused of harassment




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