July 15, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 15, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

JOFA, YCT Cut Ties With Therapist; Issue Apologies

After an April 11 essay by Bat Sheva Marcus titled “A New Victorianism,” was published in Tablet Magazine, public statements from organizations and individuals began circulating online, primarily because in the essay Marcus presented herself as a victim who had been wrongly accused of sexual harrassment by an unnamed former executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), where she served in a lay leadership role. However, in the essay, Marcus admitted to speaking frankly and without restriction in work settings about sex, stating that she had on multiple occasions sent sex toys, unsolicited, to work colleagues.

After the essay’s publication, not one but two executive directors of the organization came forward with charges of sexual harassment against Marcus, both noting that their complaints were the direct reason for their dismissals. Both reported they had signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as a condition of their separations from JOFA, preventing them from warning others about their discomfort in the work environment. Both women made similar accusations about Marcus as a person in a position of power in their workplace who made intrusive and unwelcome sexual comments, who repeatedly tried to engage them in personal conversations about sex.

NDAs appear to have been the linchpin that released the flurry of public statements, including the Tablet article by Marcus herself, as an attempt to speak in advance of any subsequent statement from those released from NDAs. According to both former executive directors, Asher Lovy of Za’akah—an organization that primarily fights child sexual abuse in the Orthodox community—had been pressuring JOFA to release employees from NDAs in order comply with the updated April 5 guidelines provided by SRE Network, a standards-making group that seeks to create safe, respectful and equitable work environments for Jewish organizations.

Marcus, who has been known as “Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus,” is a sex therapist and co-founder and clinical director of Maze Women’s Health, which according to its website is the “largest independent sexual health center in the country.” She was a founder of JOFA in 1998 and its fourth president. Her master’s of public health and PhD were acquired from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, a San Francisco-based private, unaccredited, for-profit graduate school that closed in 2018 after losing its license to operate under California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, a anti-fraud, anti-diploma-mill division of its Department of Consumer Affairs, which began fining the institution in 2016 for violations. Until last week, Marcus was also a member of the board of directors of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) and a co-host of its podcast, “The Joy of Text,” with Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Dov Linzer.

In a lengthy statement issued on April 13, JOFA’s fifth president, Pam Scheininger, stated her version of the events, noting that several months after the incidents were reported to her in 2018, a law firm JOFA hired to investigate concluded that the treatment was inappropriate but did not rise to the level of harassment. Marcus at that time left the board and active involvement with the organization. Scheininger stated that the board only heard reports of Marcus’s alleged harassment of an earlier executive director after Marcus had separated from JOFA. Scheininger added that JOFA released all former employees from non-disclosure agreements in recent days.

“It has taken many years for the board leadership of JOFA to finally, publicly acknowledge that my direct supervisor acted inappropriately toward me when I was executive director between 2014 and 2018,” wrote Sharon Weiss-Greenberg on Scribd, an online publishing platform, noting that Scheininger’s statement this week included that which the NDA prevented her from saying earlier on: “Marcus should not have done what she did, and their delay in their response to her behavior was ‘unacceptable.’”

On the public newsletter platform Substack, the other executive director who had been fired after reporting harassment, Elana Sztokman, published an article enumerating the events that led to her dismissal, noting that Marcus’s talk and gifts were not welcome or appropriate in a work environment.

In a statement posted to Facebook on April 21, Steve Laufer, chairman of the YCT board of directors, stated that the organization had accepted Marcus’s resignation from its board. “We acknowledge the pain that recent events have brought to many people in our community. YCT continues to stand strongly with our efforts to create safe and equitable spaces for women and for all people. We, as an institution, are using this as an opportunity to revisit our policies and practices and to assure that we are operating under the most current and best practices.”

Rabbi Dov Linzer announced in a separate message to YCT musmachim that he had ended his podcast with Marcus and that the rabbinical school had removed the recordings from their website. In recent days, Scheininger released a public video apology on behalf of JOFA to the victims, which was met with mixed reactions from the victims and others.

By Jewish Link Staff

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles