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HomeCampus LifeReport Details Decades of Abuse at Reform Rabbinical College

Report Details Decades of Abuse at Reform Rabbinical College

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An explosive new report found decades of sexual harassment, gender bias, and other forms of misconduct at Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC).

The 37-page report called out the “old boys’ club” mindset that harmed generations of Reform rabbis and professionals and promoted a “culture of favoritism” towards male students at HUC.

The investigation began after harassment allegations surfaced this year against deceased philosophy professor Dr. Michael Cook. HUC then commissioned Pennsylvania-based law firm Morgan Lewis to “review all allegations of misconduct, regardless of whether they already had been reported.” 

Morgan Lewis interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses of alleged misconduct while reviewing the school’s handbook and relevant policies. The investigation brought to light stark gender bias and abuse of power by administration at HUC.

Findings

The detailed report found six faculty members — four of whom are dead — were perpetrators of sexual violence at HUC.

Former students reported that faculty members forcibly kissed and groped students, shared inappropriate information with them, and made sexual innuendos. More recent students said professors tried to spend time alone with students and asked them overly personal questions that made them feel uncomfortable.”

Witnesses also reported how some of these perpetrators were well-known “womanizers.” Former female students recalled Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk — one of the six accused — placing their hands on his penis or forcibly kissing them. “I was warned by other female students not to go to his office and to avoid being alone with him, whether it was a hallway or elevator,” Women’s Rabbinic Network leader Mary Zamore said.

“We received numerous allegations of sexual harassment, ranging in severity from forcible sexual touching to off-color jokes and comments about breasts and penis size. Numerous students told us that they did not report sexual harassment to faculty or the administration because they feared retaliation,” the report said.

‘Distressing and Heartbreaking’

The school said it would create a plan of action by December 14 in response to the “distressing and heartbreaking” revelations made in the report. 

“While the bulk of the report and certainly the most egregious behavior occurred over a decade or even decades ago, our foundational values must remain constant,” HUC President Andrew Refield said.

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