Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

The Jewish Theological Seminary ("JTS") is committed to the principle that discrimination and sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the JTS community. This principle extends to faculty, staff, students and applicants for admission and employment, and applies, as well, to the conduct of all visitors, invitees and vendors, contractors or consultants who do business with JTS. This principle is to be observed in employment practices, personnel policies, financial assistance, educational programs activities and housing matters. This policy also explicitly encompasses the goal that all members of the JTS community -- faculty, staff and students – must be able to work and study in an atmosphere that discourages discrimination and sexual harassment by colleagues, supervisors, teachers or peers.


Discriminatory treatment, insensitive or derogatory language or actions based on factors as such as an individual's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or other categories protected by law, are offensive and prohibited at JTS. Behavior which involves discriminatory treatment can be considered demeaning, coercive or depending upon the circumstances, threatening and intimidating.  This policy applies to students and employees of JTS, as well as persons seeking status as a student or employee at JTS, except that only Jews are eligible for admission to the Rabbinical and Cantorial Schools.

Members of the JTS community are encouraged to report any incidents of discriminatory treatment promptly to any of the administrators listed in this policy. Individuals may also seek guidance from the individuals listed in the policy if they have any questions about discriminatory treatment, harassment or bias related crimes. JTS will undertake an investigation of a complaint of discriminatory treatment in accordance with this policy and will make a determination whether disciplinary action is warranted.

JTS has included the topic of discrimination in its programming for students, together with information about harassment, bias related crimes, sexual assault and campus safety. Any member of the community may obtain additional information from the Office of Student Life.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as any conduct directed toward an individual or group based on gender that is sufficiently persistent, severe or pervasive as to alter the individual's employment conditions, educational environment, or living environment, and that creates an intimidating, offensive or hostile environment for employment or education.

In determining whether alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment, it is necessary to examine all of the relevant information available, including the nature of the conduct, whether such conduct is unwelcome, whether such conduct is persistent, pervasive or severe, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. Unless the conduct is severe, a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive sexual conduct or remarks generally do not create a hostile environment, which generally requires a showing of a pattern of offensive conduct. Sexual harassment can take many different forms, including:

Verbal: sexual innuendo, advances and other suggestive or derogatory comments, humor or jokes about sex or gender-specific traits, sexual propositions, insults, threats, written innuendo or suggestive comments, humor or jokes, in email, on social media sites, in hard copy or oral communication.

Nonverbal: suggestive or insulting sounds and gestures, leering, whistling, displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, calendars or computer screens.

Physical: unwanted or unnecessary physical contact (e.g. brushing, patting, pinching), unwanted sexual advances, coerced sexual intercourse, stalking.  Sexual violence (including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion) is prohibited sexual harassment under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Depending upon the factors referred to above, the following conduct is probably not sexual harassment in violation of JTS policy:

  • Discussion, in an instructional setting, of controversial or even offensive material that is relevant to the subject matter being taught.
  • Social situations or interactions which, while possibly uncomfortable, are not sufficiently persistent, pervasive or severe as to meet the criteria of a hostile environment.

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined sexual harassment. The definition, while not dispositive, provides descriptive guidelines that may be helpful in clarifying what is considered sexual harassment:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  1. submitting to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic status; or
  2. submitting to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions or an academic decision affecting such individual; or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.

Sexual harassment may involve women being harassed by men, men being harassed by women, or harassment between persons of the same sex.

In order to provide information about bias-related crimes, crime prevention and reporting procedures, JTS has incorporated this topic into its orientation programs for new students and in the materials distributed to resident students. Students are also alerted about events that affect their security and the security of the community when the need arises.

Applicable Procedures

Several basic premises underlie the structure of these procedures and are intended to govern their application. First, the primary goals of this policy are to provide immediate response to an incident of discrimination or sexual harassment, provide appropriate redress for the victim and prevent similar incidents in the future. Punishment of the offender or retribution is not a primary goal, although in significant cases appropriate action may include, but is not necessarily limited to, one of the following: a recommendation of counseling, oral or written reprimand, discipline, suspension, dismissal, termination of employment or participation in an academic program. . Second, a member of the JTS community who exhibits singular or isolated acts of conduct perceived as discrimination or sexual harassment may simply lack the sensitivity to know these actions are creating discomfort or may be humiliating to others. Accordingly, any member of the JTS community who becomes aware of such activity may want to sensitize the individual directly in a discreet and confidential manner. Third, these matters are unusually sensitive, and additional harm can be caused to the victim, the alleged offender, and potential witnesses by inappropriate publicity.

1. Informal Resolution (Step One)

Initially, any member of the JTS community who thinks he or she has been subject to discrimination or sexual harassment may want to consider seeking a resolution of the problem informally and unofficially, through communication directly with the person concerned. . If the individual does not wish to try an informal approach or such an approach is not possible or does not resolve the matter, the individual should promptly bring the problem to the attention of any one of the Designated JTS Officials listed at the end of this policy. Complaints under Title IX should be brought to the attention of Diana Torres-Petrilli, the JTS Title IX Coordinator.

At the initial discussion between the individual who believes that he or she has been subject to discrimination or sexual harassment (the Complainant), and one of the Designated JTS Officials listed below, the Complainant may request that his or her identity be kept confidential while the individual decides whether or not to file a charge. The Seminary shall maintain the confidentiality to the extent feasible with its obligations pursuant to this policy.

One does not have to be the direct target of the discrimination or sexual harassment to report it to a Designated JTS Official who shall investigate the complaint consistent with these procedures if appropriate.

In addition, an individual who has the option of bringing a charge of discrimination or sexual harassment in more than one forum (such as a charge against a student in the Joint Program with Columbia which could be brought either at Columbia or at JTS) has the right to elect a forum in which to pursue his or her complaint. If the individual does not elect to pursue a complaint at JTS, the individual should nonetheless provide information to JTS about the charge.

In the initial meeting with one of the Designated JTS Officials, the nature and context of the incident need to be explored. The Designated JTS Official should discuss with the Complainant the procedures under this policy. If the Complainant decides to proceed, the Complainant must submit a written statement to the Designated JTS Official. The statement should contain specific details and be signed. JTS reserves the right to investigate allegations in the absence of a written complaint under appropriate circumstances.

Complaints should be presented as promptly as possible after the alleged discrimination or sexual harassment occurs. Normally, complaints should be brought to the attention of one of the Designated JTS Officials within a period of two months after the incident occurs. Prompt reporting is encouraged; the longer the amount of time that elapses, the more difficult it is to investigate the alleged harassment. An investigation may be postponed, however, at the request of the Complainant, for a reasonable time, such as until after a term ends or an examination is completed.

The Designated JTS Official shall then make such investigation as may be necessary and appropriate to gather the facts, including interviews and requests for written information from the Complainant, the alleged harasser and witness(es), if any. In that investigation, the Designated JTS Official shall, at all times, respect the sensitivity of the situation and the confidentiality rights of both the Complainant and the accused, consistent with the need for a thorough fact-finding. A recommended resolution, in writing, should be proposed within a reasonable time period, generally not to exceed twenty (20) school days, in a matter consistent with the need for privacy and discretion; a copy of the resolution, if accepted by the parties, shall be retained in Counsel's office for an appropriate period after a finding is made. The Complainant or the alleged harasser, if unsatisfied with the resolution proposed by the JTS Official, may request, within two weeks of receipt of the resolution, in writing to that JTS Official, that the complaint be referred to more formal procedures (Step Two). A Complainant may elect, during the informal process, to proceed to the Formal Resolution.

2. Formal Resolution (Step Two)

A complaint concerning an employment situation not settled at the Step One informal resolution, and which is not addressed by an applicable procedure in a collective bargaining agreement, shall be directed to a review panel appointed jointly by the Vice Chancellor/Chief Operating Officer and the Director of Human Resources. Any complaints other than those concerning an employment situation, namely student/student, student/faculty, faculty/faculty and staff/student matters, shall be directed to a review panel of three members of the JTS community, selected jointly by the Provost and the Dean of Student Life.

In each instance, the panel shall consist of any three members of the JTS Community, and shall include a student if a student employed at JTS is the Complainant or the alleged harasser. The panel shall invite parties to the dispute to appear to explain their position and to raise any questions for any adverse witnesses. The panel may conduct its own informal inquiry, call its own witnesses and gather whatever information it seems necessary to assist it in reaching a determination as to the merits of the allegation. Each person affected by the inquiry will be afforded a full opportunity to be heard and shall have the right to be accompanied by an advisor, who shall not be an attorney. Once such a determination has been reached, it shall be communicated in writing to both parties and the Chancellor for action. A brief summary of the basis for the determination will be available to either party upon request. The panel's conclusion on the merits of the allegation shall be final and not subject to further review. If the Chancellor is not able to accept the recommendation of the panel, the recommendation shall be remanded back to the panel for clarification or modification. The panel's decision and the final determination shall also be retained by Counsel's office.

The Review Panel should initiate its activities within fifteen (15) school days of receiving the complaint. Actual hearings should start with thirty (30) school days after the Review Panel starts handling a complaint, and hearings and fact finding should conclude within thirty (30) school days. A determination of the Hearing Panel should be available to the parties and the Chancellor within twenty (20) days after the conclusion of the Review Panel's hearings and fact finding. These time frames may be extended for reasonable periods for good cause or at the request or mutual agreement of the parties.

No one at JTS may take any adverse action in any way against a person making a claim of discrimination or sexual harassment in good faith. However, any student, faculty or staff member who exercises bad faith and brings false, malicious or frivolous charges may be subject to disciplinary action.

It is JTS' responsibility to provide educational programs on discrimination or sexual harassment for all interested members of the JTS community. JTS also makes available counseling services and referrals to outside professionals through the Office of Student Life.

There are circumstances where the policies administered by JTS, including this one, will take into consideration the beliefs and practices of Conservative Judaism.

It is the responsibility of the Chancellor to implement and monitor this policy.

The Designated JTS Officials under this policy are as follows:

Director of Human Resources
Ms. Diana Torres-Petrilli
(212) 678-8011
Room 110 Unterberg
Assoc. Dean, The Rabbinical School
Rabbi Lisa Gelber
(212) 678-8814
Room 503 Brush
Dean, Graduate and Undergraduate Studies
Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz
(212) 678-8827
Room 513 Brush
Dean of Student Life
Ms. Sara Horowitz
(212) 678-8838
Room 209 Unterberg
Assoc. Dean, List College
Ms. Rebecca Grabiner
(212) 678-8826
Room 513 Brush
Director of Student Life
Ms. Ruth Decalo
(212) 678-8915
Room 209 Unterberg
Dean, The Davidson School
Dr. Jeffrey Kress
(212) 678-8030
Room 530 Brush

Executive Vice Chancellor/Chief Operating Officer
Mr. Marc Gary
(212) 678-8080
Room 503 Schiff

Dean, The Rabbinical School
Rabbi Daniel Nevins
(212) 678-8907
Room 509 Brush
Dr. Alan Cooper
(212) 678-8065
Room 505 Schiff
Associate Provost
Dr. Stephen Garfinkel
(212) 678-8042
Room 508 Schiff
Implemented: January, 1993
Last Update: April 2014