Building a Culture of Respect, Positivity and Empowerment  

Our mission is to reimagine and breathe new life into Judaism, which means the open exchange of ideas, freedom of thought and expression, and productive debate – in Hebrew, makhloket l’shem shamayim – are central to our mission. We affirm the importance of a diverse environment that is built on dignity and mutual respect for all participants and Mishkan staff members, and is free of bias and intimidation. We are dedicated to providing a safe, welcoming, and productive experience for everyone participating in our community or events, regardless of age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, marital status, national origin, parental status, physical appearance, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. Mishkan will not tolerate harassment of or by participants, staff or volunteers, in any form. When anyone enters Mishkan space they contribute to the culture we build, and in particular, our Builders, volunteers, Board members, participants in our programs and regular attendees, as well as our staff, play a crucial role in building a positive community culture and upholding our norms. 

To learn more about our core values and vibe, click here. The following is intended to be a code of conduct to create a sense of respect and empowerment within the community.

Code of Conduct

Love Thy Neighbor / ahavta l’reyekha kamokha: You don’t have to be friends with every single person you meet, but you do have to treat everybody with respect, especially people with whom you may disagree. Treat people with respect and dignity whether you are in Mishkan community space or just hanging out with other Mishkanites, whether you are close friends, recent acquaintances, have personal history, or disagree vehemently on important issues. When in doubt about whether a person deserves your kindness, be kind.

Consent / shmirat ha’guf: We are a community in which hugs and European kisses and people putting their arms around the shoulders of the person next to them during a song are commonplace. And yet, please ask for and receive consent before engaging in personal physical contact of any kind with another community member or staff (this includes hugs and even light touches on the arm). Remember that what might seem natural for you could be a boundary violation for another person. Please also be aware of “close-talking” or crowding others’ physical space, and know that consent for one kind of touch isn’t blanket consent for all kinds of touches. When in doubt, ask (ie, saying “Can I give you a hug?” before giving someone a hug).

Use Your Words / tokheha: In a diverse community people may say and do things you find objectionable. Don’t seethe, or go around complaining about a person behind their back – say something to them! Tokheha is compassionate rebuke, and is a commandment in the Torah! Drawing from your own experience, offer the reasons why you were made uncomfortable. Often these kinds of mis-fires can be generational or from a person’s lack of exposure or experience with something you can’t believe they don’t know… See if you can build a culture of learning and growing here, in which you’re helping people learn from your experience in a kind and respectful way.

If Someone is Making You Uncomfortable, Consider Using The Following Phrases To Communicate Your Boundaries:  “Can you please take a few steps back?”  “You are making me uncomfortable.” “I don’t want to be touched.”  “No, thank you.” Sometimes having phrases ready can help you diffuse an uncomfortable moment and help someone else be aware of their impact on you. In an ideal world, we are a part of a community in which everyone feels empowered to say these things to one another. It might take some courage to say these words in different situations, but the communal norm we are working toward is one in which no one is above tokheha, rebuke, when they are doing something that makes others uncomfortable. Very often you will be clueing the person with whom you’re speaking into a dynamic of which they were not aware.

Respect People’s Different Backgrounds and Levels of Jewish Observance: Some people write on Shabbat, some people don’t. Some people drive and take public transportation on Shabbat, others walk. Some people believe the Torah was given by God Themself on Mt. Sinai, others believe it was compiled by inspired people over hundreds of years. We value the diverse space that brings together people of wildly different background and observance and don’t assume anything about peoples’ prior knowledge or practice. Please respect others in their practice, and when in doubt or you’re curious about a person’s approach or background, ask if you can talk to them about it, in a friendly way. Chances are you may learn something and have a great conversation.

Think Before You Speak / shmirat ha’lashon: One general principle we find helpful before speaking: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? When you comment on someone’s physical appearance (“Wow, is that a new haircut?”) they may take it as a compliment, or as unwelcome commentary. Not that you need to walk on eggshells, but do be aware of how your words may sound to a listener, especially one you don’t know well.

Abuse: Mishkan does not tolerate harassment or abuse of any community member, volunteer or staff, irrespective of whether such abuse is physical, emotional, verbal or sexual, and irrespective of whether such abuse is carried on by community member against community member, community member against staff, or staff against community member. Mishkan has the right to report any person abusing or suspected of abusing someone else to the proper authorities for further investigation. Mishkan also has the right to ask community members who have demonstrated abusive behavior to take a break from the community.

Respecting Our Staff / k’vot ha’tzevet: Mishkan staff are professionals who work very hard behind the scenes to make Mishkan possible, and they should have work environments that are free of harassment and abuse by community members and volunteers. Harassment or abuse of Mishkan staff members will not be tolerated.

Property / nezikin: Community members agree not to knowingly cause damage to the facility, equipment, materials or other property that does not belong to them, whether in Mishkan’s space or in spaces we rent for programs.

Love Thy Neighbor Online (aka don’t be a troll): As community members at Mishkan, you help create intentional space both in real life and online. Be as kind and respectful in your online/social media communications as you would be in person. It always helps to state why something you feel passionately about matters to you- to bring your stake and story into the conversation and not state opinions as if they are facts. Love Thy Neighbor applies online too, and if you have the opportunity to defuse arguments online or remind others to be kind and respectful, take it!

Dating in the Community: If you are dating someone in the community, remember you’ll continue to see them at Shabbat and community events even if the relationship doesn’t work out. Keep things on good terms by treating each other with respect and honesty, and using direct communication.

Assume Positive Intent: We operate from the premise that most people – staff and community – are doing their best with the information and experience they have. Before arriving at the conclusion that a person’s behavior had malicious intent, consider the ways in which what happened may be the result of misunderstanding – informational, generational, etc, and if possible return to the “Use Your Words” suggestion to ask or give feedback.

What to do if you Witness Harassment or Abuse

If you witness harassment or abuse in Mishkan spaces or between Mishkanites, consider the following actions:

  • If you feel comfortable, intervene directly to diffuse the situation. Once diffused, inform Mishkan staff to further gather information and implement disciplinary action if need be.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable to intervene directly, find a staff member immediately to intervene, or alert Mishkan staff at the soonest opportunity that you witnessed harassment or abuse.
  • If there are no Mishkan staff around and if safety is an immediate concern, use your judgment about whether or not the situation requires police or security intervention.

Procedure for Reporting Harassment or Other Prohibited Conduct

If you believe that you have been the subject of harassment or other prohibited conduct and wish to register a formal complaint with Mishkan, bring your complaint to Mishkan’s Executive Director as soon as possible following the incident. You will be asked to provide details of the incident or incidents, names of individuals involved and names of any witnesses. You will also be asked to communicate your complaint in writing as soon as possible. Mishkan will gather more information on the allegation(s), which will include direct conversation with the alleged offender and potential witnesses. We operate from the premise of both honoring and taking seriously the experience of the offended, as well as honoring the dignity of an individual who is accused of an offense. Any illegal conduct should be reported promptly to the police. Certain types of complaints may require mandated reporting by Mishkan’s staff. Mishkan’s staff will be in touch with all parties during the various steps of information-gathering to determine the next steps, which covers what will happen during the interim time of information gathering as well.

When possible and with the agreement of all involved, Mishkan’s leadership encourages the resolution of complaints by using the principles of restorative justice – a system of reconciliation which emphasizes accountability and making amends. When all parties agree, this may include facilitated meetings between complainant and offender, or for the offender to be afforded the opportunity to apologize to the complainant. As a Jewish organization, we support the practice of the offender making Teshuvah – apologizing in words and in deed and expressing the intent never to repeat the offense. This is one of the systems of accountability that enables people who have had previous conflict to learn from mistakes, correct behavior and then continue working alongside one another and building a stronger community.

Thoughts or comments? We’d love to hear them. write to [email protected].