Rabbi Anchelle Perl, a member of the Long Island Lubavitch.

Rabbi Anchelle Perl, a member of the Long Island Lubavitch. Credit: NEWSDAY / John Keating

The #MeToo social media movement, which has raised awareness of unwanted and inappropriate behavior in the workplace and helped punish a number of powerful figures, has also prompted a religious response. The Twitter #ChurchToo hashtag offers a public forum for sexual abuse survivors to speak about harassment in religious communities. How can local religious congregations aid victims and prevent abuse from happening? This week’s clergy discuss guideposts for proper behavior found in their religious teachings.

Rabbi Anchelle Perl

Director, Chabad of Mineola

Engaging in any illicit sexual activities basically comes down to demonstrating disregard for another’s rights, and since we are all made in the image of God, each illicit act demonstrates a disregard for the reality of God as well. It’s all included in “Do not commit adultery.” From the perspective of the Torah, sexual harassment is an abuse of the power balance. God created a world in which no two people are equal. God deliberately created a world of imbalance and expressly commanded us not to take advantage of that fact. It is precisely the restraint that we, as human beings, are called upon to manifest that sets us apart from the animals and endows us with our morality. We must return to respecting personal space and boundaries. When God created the world, it was part of his plan to give everything a limit, everything its borders. By giving us borders, God gave us a true sense of security. Any semblance of inappropriate sexual behavior toward another individual clearly crosses defined red lines in the Torah. The antidote to sexual harassment is to understand that being a sexual being is not abnormal, but extremely normal. That’s why we need the Torah’s commandments. Without commandments we would be lost. Laws, both human and as dictated by the Almighty, are necessary to guide us in right from wrong, but it is up to each of us to foster a deeper purpose in life, an inner change of mindset that will define these higher standards of morality with boundaries, reflective of truer personality traits in our thoughts, speech and action.

The Rev. Wendy C. Modeste

Pastor, United Methodist Church of Bay Shore

It is not an exaggeration to say that Jesus was a revolutionary in his views toward women. Jesus gave no explicit teaching on the role of women in the church. He treated every woman he met as a person in her own right. In Christ’s day, men were not allowed to talk to women, except those within their own families. Yet it would appear that about half of Jesus’ closest followers were women, among them Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others. His first miracle was performed at the behest of a woman — his mother. The first proclaimer of Jesus to the Jewish people was a woman — Anna in the Temple (Luke 2:36-38). The Samaritan woman at the well became one of the first mass evangelists for Christ. Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Another woman — one who had been plagued with a flow of blood for 12 years — reached out and touched Christ’s garment and was healed. In fact, of the three people Christ raised from the dead, two of them were women. It was women who were with Jesus at the cross until the end, and women who were the first to come to the tomb and proclaim his resurrection. Men and women alike can follow the example of Jesus by treating everyone alike — with tolerance, patience, respect and kindness. This was confirmed by the apostle Paul when he stated, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are . . . heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Samantha Tetro

Samantha’s Li’l Bit of Heaven Ministries, East Northport

Sexual harassment has sadly become quite the norm. Rarely have I met someone who has not experienced it in one form or another. It is a hot topic right now because, finally, victims are speaking out. Because of the bravery of a few, there is now growing power in many. It’s evident that God takes this behavior very seriously as well. The Bible is very clear when it comes to sexual harassment. In the Book of Ephesians (5:4), God’s word says: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” However, it doesn’t end there. The Lord goes on to say in Verse 5: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of God.” How can you help the victims of sexual harassment? By offering them a soft place to fall. Offer them a listening ear, a compassionate heart, an atmosphere of acceptance and, most of all, prayer. As they heal, they will go from victim to victorious.

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