American Conference of Cantors Reflects on #MeToo Movement
Chicago, IL (March 19, 2018) – The American Conference of Cantors (ACC) welcomed Rabbi Mary L. Zamore, Executive Director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network and Co-leader the Reform Pay Equity Initiative, to its Executive Board meeting on March 12, 2018, in Chicago.
Zamore addressed the #MeToo movement’s implications for the larger Jewish community.
“In light of the ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct the time has come for the ACC to declare this behavior will not be tolerated in any shape or form. The dignity of every person must be honored,” said ACC President Steven Weiss at the Hilton Rosemont Hotel where the Executive Board meeting took place.
For now, Zamore recommends internalizing the magnitude of this movement.
“Twenty-five weeks ago when Jodi Kantor and others started breaking stories about Harvey Weinstein in the New York Times, the #MeToo awakening began. But societal and institutional change will not happen overnight and we do not necessarily need to figure out how to fix this right now. Instead, now is the time to listen and to internalize what has been going on and how collectively we have allowed this to happen.”
She also recommends giving space to women to share their stories.
“Knowing that many women are going through a lot of upheaval as the scabs are pulled off since many women have pushed these memories very far down, this is a very painful moment and it is crucial that we as society give them permission to talk about what happened to them whether it was 35 years ago or five years ago,” she said.
At the same time, Zamore cautioned against “pink washing” everything, such as having everyone sign a pledge alleging to their feminism because that does not create effective systemic change.
Clergy, in particular, have the obligation to respond to this moment by considering the unique make-up of congregational life.
“There are specific interactions in synagogues and hierarchies that exist within synagogues and power dynamic among people who are Jewish professionals. We need to think about these dynamics,” said Zamore.
Specifically within congregations there is a unique kind of power dynamic. “Ultimately, the congregants are our bosses,” said Zamore.
For her part, Zamore has been outspoken in terms of tasking Jewish institutions communities with taking responsibility for their actions. “My op-ed [Forward] focuses on institutional teshuva and how each of our organizations need to take a deep look inside and ask ourselves what have we done for the last 46 years since women have been ordained? We need to look at our own organizations and histories and only from there can we move forward,” she said.
Zamore then linked #MeToo to the gender pay gap, which is an issue on the forefront of the ACC’s agenda.
“The Gender Pay Equity initiative ¬¬– which aims to narrow the wage gap for all female employees of the Reform Movement – is part of the #MeToo awakening,” she said. “There has been a change in the fabric of our society and all of these issues have become intertwined. This is a complicated, multi-faceted problem and we have to be willing to look at all of it and chip away at it, including the financial dimension. Whenever you are talking about people who are not safe in our community or who are not given the opportunity to flourish in our society it’s the same issue.”
“My hope is that when we do deep dives into one, we help and inform the other,” Zamore added.
About the ACC:
Founded in 1953, the American Conference of Cantors is a thriving professional organization that currently represents over 500 Reform cantors in North America and around the world.