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


A number of claims of harassment have emerged towards a pioneering determine of ladies’s empowerment from former staff 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 Fb posts this week by a former government director of the group who mentioned 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.”

Sztokman, who mentioned 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 published by Tablet.

In a press release launched 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 impartial investigation had decided that Marcus’s conduct “was inappropriate but did not rise to the level 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’s unclear what prompted the Pill essay, however the timing could also be associated to a latest push by Zaakah, a corporation that fights sexual abuse within the Orthodox group, for JOFA to launch its former staff from nondisclosure agreements. Sztokman mentioned 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 ladies. Based in 1998, JOFA has been an influential supporter of feminine clergy inside Orthodox shuls, instructing ladies easy methods to chant from the Torah and internet hosting well-attended occasions on points referring to ladies in Orthodox Jewish follow.

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

‘Orthodox sex guru’ accused of harassment

Sztokman got here ahead after Marcus cast herself within the Pill essay because the sufferer of false allegations, which she mentioned had pressured her resignation from JOFA.

Within the essay, Marcus mentioned she’d been bewildered and horrified on the accusations from a former government director she had often clashed with. She mentioned 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. However 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 conduct for making her uncomfortable, Marcus mentioned, it cut up the group’s board, which employed a lawyer to analyze and finally 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 mentioned she was unable to remark as a result of she remains to be certain by a nondisclosure settlement.

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

However Sztokman, an American-Israeli sociologist and creator who instantly preceded Weiss-Greenberg at JOFA, publicly recounted her expertise working underneath Marcus a number of hours after the essay’s publication. She mentioned 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.”

Within the Pill essay, titled “A New Victorianism,” Marcus mentioned she had as soon as bought vibrators for a number of senior board members who expressed curiosity.

Sztokman, although, said 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 mentioned that Marcus forbade her from mentioning her award-winning e book on gender training and instructed her to take away ‘Dr.’ from her signature.

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

Sztokman mentioned on Tuesday night that she described Marcus’s conduct to Blu Greenberg, a co-founder and board member of the feminist alliance whose scholarship has made her an icon of Orthodox feminism. Sztokman mentioned Greenberg inspired her, in essence, 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 electronic 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 mentioned she nonetheless raised her complaints in a board assembly, and that Judy Heicklen, a previous president of the group, fired her on the spot.

Neither Greenberg nor Heicklen responded to requests for remark emailed Tuesday night. However Scheininger, the JOFA president, wrote within the assertion that Sztokman — who “had been terminated a number of years earlier due to a variety of concerns on the part 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 electronic mail to the Forward after this text was printed, 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 mentioned JOFA had launched Weiss-Greenberg from the NDA.

Marcus, whose frank approach to sex led to frequent comparisons to Dr. Ruth Westheimer, spoke extensively, printed books and was celebrated in a 2015 New York Instances 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 objects to incorporate in a “sex basket.”

After leaving JOFA, she remained a presence on the earth 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 heart 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 Girls’s Sexual Well being, a therapy heart in New York the place Marcus is medical director, additionally didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The Security Respect Fairness Community, a nonprofit that fights sexual harassment and gender discrimination within the Jewish world, removed 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 Pill 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 Fb. “We don’t need a ‘world with less sexual shame’ to talk about sex in the workplace. No thank you.”

‘Orthodox sex guru’ accused of harassment

‘Orthodox sex guru’ accused of harassment




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