Restorative justice asks us to consider all of the parties who have been harmed in an incident, including our community, and it often seeks justice in community settings through restorative circles or conferences that make space for many stakeholders to be heard. Similarly, ancient Jewish systems of justice also stressed the importance of community.
Mariame Kaba, an influential activist, educator, and abolitionist, speaks to the role of community in restorative justice:
“[H]ow do we repair this harm and who needs to be at the table for that to happen. [Restorative justice] invites community in. It invites other people who were also harmed because we recognize that the ripples of harm are beyond the two individuals that were involved, it’s also the broader community and the society at large. So that’s what restorative justice, at its base, is really the unit of concern is the broken relationship and the harm.”
Ethics of the Fathers stresses that only “the One” -- God-- can judge by Themself. For humans to deliver true justice, many voices need to be included.
The traditional Jewish court was a microcosm of community, most often composed of 71 or 23 judges.
In 2018, amidst the unfolding #MeToo movement, a number of Jewish thought leaders came together to compose an alternate version of the traditional Al Chet prayer said during the Days of Awe, a version that responded to the ongoing crisis of sexual harassment and assault in our communities. The prayer speaks to the ways that communities and community members might be complicit in that category of interpersonal harm. This is an excerpt of the prayer that they composed:
For the sin we committed by causing survivors to doubt their truth.
For the sin we committed by misusing Jewish texts to promote silence.
For the sin we committed by not supporting survivors.
For the sin we committed by gaslighting victims and victim advocates.
For the sin we committed by cutting corners in best practice protocols.
For the sin we committed by talking more than listening.
For the sin we committed by prioritizing nuance over moral clarity.
For the sin we committed by urging those who have been victimized to forgive, especially before their perpetrator did the hard work of repentance.
For the sin we committed by prioritizing some victims’ voices over others.
For the sin we committed by requiring vulnerable people to depend on me, rather than investing in the development of healthy, decentralized systems that empower the entire community, and hold us accountable.
By Danya Ruttenberg, Shira Berkovits, S. Bear Bergman, Guila Benchimol
The Atonement Prayers We Should All Say, in the #MeToo Era
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
In what ways is justice a solitary pursuit? In what ways is it interpersonal? In what way is it communal?
In what ways might a community be damaged by interpersonal harm?
Should spiritual or religious community be involved in the justice process? Should we revive a large, community-inclusive Beis Din to handle interpersonal conflict? What might be the pitfalls of such a model? What might be the benefits?