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We are Here for You: A Clergy Letter about Sexual Violence

The rabbis and cantor of Congregation Or Ami sent this letter to our adult congregants, our 9th-12th graders, recent high school graduates (18-22 year olds), and our faculty. We also sent a note to parents of 7th-12th graders with suggestions on conversations with their children. (See the note below the letter.)


To Our Or Ami Family:

We write you today because, as your Or Ami rabbis and cantor, we recognize that this could be a difficult time for those who have faced or know about an incident of sexual assault, rape, inappropriate touching, groping, or other such behaviors.

The value of Henaynu (being there for each other) has always been central to Congregation Or Ami. Or Ami is a caring community. We have been taught through the Shema and Cantor Doug’s prayer Listen to be a listening presence: listening to God and listening to each other.

As such, looking beyond politics, we write you with a simple message:

If you ever are the victim of sexual assault, rape, inappropriate touching, groping, or other such behaviors, we are here for you. We will listen. We will not challenge or doubt you. We will continue to be here for you as you work through it. We will listen, support, help you think, and if you want, assist you in getting help.

Our world is facing #metoo (victims coming forward and speaking their truth), #WhyIDidntReport (understanding why so many people do not report their assaults) and #IBelieveYou (recognizing that we need to start believing victims).

We know that sexual assault, rape, harassment, inappropriate touching, and groping are far too common and impact so many people of all genders and all ages. We know that the survivors, who often carry unwarranted shame, suffer in silence. And we know that those who do come forward to share their experiences are forced to relive the horror.

We also know that for too many in our world, the idea of consent – that you have the right to set boundaries about your body, your possessions, and your actions, and that others need to respect those boundaries – can seem confusing.

We welcome any and all related conversations, questions, and concerns. We are here to listen, to help if you want, and to talk through whatever emotions or thoughts you are experiencing.

May you never need us for these conversations but if you do, remember always that we are here.

Warmly,

Rabbi Paul Kipnes    Cantor Doug Cotler    Rabbi Julia Weisz


Additional Note for Or Ami Congregants:

As a caring community, we, your rabbis and cantor of Or Ami, want you to know that we are always here to listen, support, and if you ask, help. Given a new national survey that reports that 81% of women and 43% of men said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault over their lifetimes, it is even more important that you know that for this too, we are here for you. Beyond politics, this is our response to the Divine command to Listen. Please feel free to call, text or drop by any of us if you want to talk.

 

Note to Parents of 7th-12th Graders

Since 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult, we encourage you to find comfortable ways to broach the subject with your teens and pre-teens.

We sent our clergy letter below to all of our 9th-12th graders. You might ask them if they received or read it. You might read it through with them. You might reiterate that they can talk to you about anything, but for things – including #metoo issues – that they do not feel they can tell dad/mom or other adults, know that Rabbi Paul, Rabbi Julia, and Cantor Doug are always there to listen, support, and if you ask, help.

We did not send it to our 7th-8th graders, but we encourage you to read it with them or discuss the overall lesson: that for everything – including #metoo issues – that they do not feel they can tell dad/mom or other adults, know that Rabbi Paul, Rabbi Julia and Cantor Doug are always there to listen, support, and if you ask, help.

As always, please feel free to text, call, or drop by any of us if you want to talk.

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