Build Your Committee
Forming a Keilim Committee
Building a safe, respectful, and equitable community requires commitment and planning. Organizations should begin their efforts by forming a standing Keilim Committee. A dedicated Committee is integral to creating systemic and lasting change by ensuring ongoing prioritization of this work.
The Keilim Committee’s role includes development of policies, education, and advisement, and ongoing evaluation and maintenance:
a) Policy Development: Creating policies and procedures provides guidance to staff and community members in promoting a safe, respectful, and equitable environment.
b) Education and Advisement: By engaging in the process of Policy formation, your Committee serves as a continuously present group that is empowered and equipped to educate the community on the Policy and on the complex issues it addresses. Such education may include communicating your Policy’s terms to the entire organization, training staff, raising awareness, and answering questions about the Policy.
c) Ongoing Review and Revision: Meeting regularly as a standing Committee provides ongoing opportunities to evaluate your organization’s compliance with the Policy and consider revisions as necessary. In addition, your Committee will oversee formal reviews conducted at regular intervals in Living Your Policy.
The Organizational Response module covers how organizations respond to Policy violations and who should be involved in the process. In some organizations, the Keilim Committee may play a leading role while, in others, a subset of the Committee or other relevant staff, such as an HR Committee, will direct the response as outlined in the response protocols articulated in your Policy.
Here you will consider who should be part of your Keilim Committee and how to begin your work together.
Who Should be on Your Committee?
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Building a diverse Committee that includes a wide range of viewpoints present in your community is critical to understanding, preventing, and addressing organizational discrimination, harassment, and abuse. Therefore, the ideal Committee contains a variety of voices, reflecting the breadth of identities and experiences represented by those who interact with your organization. Consider, for example, race, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, class background, national origin, religion, and disability. Gather as diverse a group as possible, and before the first meeting, have the committee members consider whether the Committee represents the diversity of the organization and, if not, whom else to invite.
Considering diversity also means including representatives from a range of departments and roles in your organization. Doing so will create a base of people across your organization who will support and champion your Policy work. Consider including staff who can represent the daily realities of various organizational areas (e.g., programming, education, rabbinic, administration, maintenance, fitness, human resources, etc.) as well as those who can represent decision-making authority across the organization (e.g., senior staff, board members, middle management etc.) It is important that your top leadership play a significant role in demonstrating to the community that this work is a priority, but, depending on your organization, they may or may not have an official or ex officio role on your Committee. Regarding staff serving on the Committee, consider how their work in this capacity will fit into their existing responsibilities and whether adjustments need to be made, in responsibilities or pay, to accommodate this work. In addition, Committee meetings occuring after work hours may incur additional childcare, caregiver, meal and/or transportation costs for staff. Providing a meal and/or childcare during meetings, for example, can help address the needs that may arise for Committee members.
Forming an effective Committee requires drawing upon existing expertise and leadership, which includes lived experience. Everyone on your Committee will come to this work with their own experiences and histories, which may include experiences of discrimination, harassment, or other abuse. It is important to remember that we don’t always know what people are bringing into the space and do our best to facilitate conversations with a trauma-informed lens in our interactions with all people – whether we are aware of past trauma or not – and recognize that those with past experiences of discrimination, harassment, and other abuses can bring unique wisdom and insight to the Committee’s work. If you are aware of someone within your community already leading publicly on this issue, make an effort to include them in the Committee.
At various points throughout the Policy-development process, you’ll need to consult with professionals for issues such as ensuring that your Policy complies with state and local laws. How you procure this guidance is up to you. Some organizations pay consultants to advise on the process or review the completed Policy. Others have this expertise within their community and may invite one or more individuals to join the Committee as full members or as part of a working group. These may include people skilled in conflict resolution; people experienced in drafting policies or ensuring Policy compliance (e.g., HR); and experts on the topics of discrimination, harassment, or abuse (including attorneys, mental health professionals specializing in these areas, or victim-advocates).
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When recruiting Committee members, clarify the Committee’s role and what power it holds. For instance, if the Committee presents Policy recommendations to a different body for final approval, members should be aware of this process from the outset. At the same time, since Keilim emphasizes meaningful change, the Committee should hold significant power. Of course, such power must include checks and balances, and the Committee itself must be beholden to its stated procedures.
We recommend having 6-8 people on the Committee. This means that the examples listed above are not a checklist for completion but rather an invitation to consider all those in your community whose participation will enhance your Committee. Ultimately, it’s best to balance having enough members to include different viewpoints but few enough to be efficient.
As you consider who will serve on your Committee, keep in mind that selecting a Committee chair is an important decision. This role ensures that Policy development moves steadily and oversees its implementation. Having one overall coordinator will help to ensure more seamless implementation of your Policy. Your Committee chair should have time to commit to Keilim, whether this person is a staff member or a lay leader. They should also have experience in meeting facilitation, organizational change, or another area that enables them to effectively manage the Committee. Consider the personal experience the Committee chair brings and how the Chair will model respectful, sensitive, and inclusive leadership.
In addition to having individuals with varied expertise and perspective, Committee members must be willing to listen deeply, work through conflict relationally, and remain present and engaged in difficult conversations. While Committee members must be able to work together, some disagreement is to be expected. Keep in mind that diversity of opinion, different work styles, and gentle pushback can all be helpful in developing nuanced Policy. At the same time, if a member pushes an agenda that conflicts with what the Committee has agreed upon, dominates the conversation, silences or bullies others, or derails the Committee’s efforts, it is critical to address these behaviors or consider a non-Committee role for the individual. Maintain focus on your shared goals of creating a safe, respectful, and equitable organizational culture as you engage in this work and as difficult conversations arise.
Getting Started as a Committee
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Set the Tone
The Committee chair should cultivate and model an environment in which Committee members approach group dialogue with open hearts and with a commitment to supportive listening and respectful disagreement. To accomplish this goal, the Committee might wish to establish practices that remind members of their mission. An example might be to start each meeting by reading a short excerpt from a victim-survivor’s writings or reciting a grounding blessing, like the Sample Yehi Ratzon for Committee Work.
The work of policy development and education around discrimination, harassment, and other abuses of power, can be heavy. When individuals have their own experiences with the issues, it is especially so. Make sure to support the people who have undertaken this effort, in your everyday interactions and meetings. For instance, consider holding meetings in a warm and inviting space; creating a flexible structure where breaks are built in and people can step out of the meeting as needed; and where there are opportunities for people to share their ideas, or promote their participation on the committee.
Given the emotional aspects of this work, the Committee should take preliminary steps to build trust among its members. Begin by setting aside time to get to know one another and learning each member’s reasons for joining the Committee. Doing so in an honest and sensitive space provides your Committee with a foundation of trust and empathy. Regardless of people’s answers, a diversity of motivations can help your Committee reach its shared goals.
Consider opening your first Committee meeting with this simple request: Tell us about what brought you to this Committee. This open-ended statement allows each Committee member to engage with the group to the extent and in a manner that is comfortable to them.
Some might answer the question straightforwardly:
“The rabbi asked me to join.”
Others might describe their personal motivation:
“I’ve been a lay leader in the organization for many years, and this community plays a central role in my family’s life. It’s important to me that we strive to create the safest and most respectful environment possible and live according to our core Jewish values.”
And others might disclose ways in which this issue has impacted their life more personally:
“I was sexually harassed in a Jewish organizational context and wasn’t sure where to turn. I hope that this Committee gives people in our organization a sense that they are supported, and I’d like to make our organization a place that would have allowed me to reach out during that difficult time.”
There should never be pressure to share personal experiences or emotions, but if a Committee member wishes to share, listen carefully, without interrupting, and then thank them for their trust. If you reflect back an emotion they share, use the same language that they used to describe the experience. A group process that is responsive and sensitive to the possibility of trauma histories — whether known or unknown — will help set the Committee up for success.
Engage in Learning Together
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Learning together also includes recognizing that Policy creation is sacred work, imbued with Jewish values. As such, we encourage you to engage in Jewish learning as a Committee. The Values Statement section of this module provides the opportunity to begin discussing the Jewish values that resonate with your organization in the context of this work.
Setting the Committee’s Process
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Individual Committees’ meeting agendas vary depending on frequency/duration of meetings, goals, and scope of work. The two following examples provide suggestions for structuring initial meetings, including how to incorporate the process and tone-setting aspects outlined above. Note that these sample agendas are built with 60-90 minute meetings in mind.
Sample First Meeting Agenda
- Members introduce themselves and share motivations for joining
- Overview of Committee’s work/goals
- Setting the Tone: Yehi Ratzon
– Rationale for beginning in prayer
– Note that this is how subsequent meetings will start
- Group learning: Read/discuss foundational article or excerpt from victim-survivor’s writing
- Discuss process for working together/decision-making
Preview of next meeting/conclusion
Sample Second Meeting Agenda (if moving forward sequentially in Keilim as a full Committee)
- Yehi Ratzon
- Values Statement: Identify Your Organizational Values
- Remaining items from setting processes around decision-making/working together
- Preview of next meeting/conclusion
Once your Keilim Committee has been formed, you should codify the Committee’s roles, responsibilities, and processes. You can use the sample language we’ve provided as a point of reference as you draft your own.
The following supporting documents can be tailored to your organization’s unique needs. We have included a sample email that can be used to reach out to potential Committee members as well as grounding prayers to start your Committee meetings.