Community Accountability

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This is a living document that will change over time as needed. Please add your comments and suggested edits to this document.

The following outlines how Jewish Farmer Network (JFN) currently responds when people within our community cause or experience harm in JFN community spaces. We are grateful for the leadership of Svara, from whom we have adapted much of this language, with permission:

 

Why does Jewish Farmer Network have a Community Accountability Process? 

When coming together to learn and grow relationships in community, there will inevitably be moments where we let one another down, misstep, misspeak, hurt others, or get hurt ourselves. Harm can happen on multiple levels, and we seek to nurture a community where we support each other to acknowledge mistakes and work towards repairing them. JFN believes that a transparent process for how we support each other in taking accountability when harm happens creates greater trust and safety for both individuals and the community as a whole. This process also enables JFN to take responsibility for any ways that we as an organization have caused or enabled harm – and to make amends.

The team at Jewish Farmer Network is committed to building an organization and a community that can hold complexity and nuance, while centering the needs and safety of survivors of harm. As we work with Jewish farmers to build a more just and regenerative food system for all, JFN is guided by the Jewish traditions of teshuva and tikkun, as well as the practices of Transformative Justice. By leaning into these community-based frameworks of accountability, rather than systems of incarceration,  we hope to respond to harm in ways that do not cause more harm and prevent future harm from occurring.

 

What are JFN’s hopes for Community Accountability?

JFN seeks to hold community spaces that are as free from harm as possible, which happens when we honestly address when and how harm does happen – and work to transform our community so that those harms don’t reoccur in the future. There are many kinds and degrees of harm, and we seek to respond to each situation in a manner that reflects the particularities of the situation and is rooted in the needs of those harmed. Accountability is a voluntary process; no one can be forced to take accountability for their actions. While we strive to reach resolutions that lead to an ongoing relationship with JFN, we reserve the right to restrict people from engaging in our community spaces for a given period of time or, in some cases, indefinitely, as they move through a teshuva process. 

Whenever both possible and safe, JFN strongly encourages individuals to reach out to each other directly to resolve harm. We encourage people to share their experiences with as much kindness and curiosity – and as few assumptions – as possible. The guidelines below, which engage JFN staff and/or board members in the teshuva/tikkun process, exist because we know that direct contact is not, or may not always feel like, a safe option.

 

Definitions

Accountability: “The ability to recognize, end, and take responsibility for [harm]. For all people involved, thinking about the ways they may have contributed to [harm], recognizing their roles, acknowledging the ways they may need to make amends for their actions and make changes to ensure that [harm] does not continue and that alternatives can take its place. We see accountability as a process, one that takes time, rather than a one–time event.” (Creative Interventions Workbook, p11)

 

Community Accountability (CA): Strategies that “aim at preventing, intervening in, responding to, and healing from violence through strengthening relationships and communities, emphasizing mutual responsibility for addressing the conditions that allow violence to take place, and holding people accountable for violence and harm.” (The Audre Lorde Project, National Gathering on Transformative and Community Accountability in Fumbling Towards Repair, p27)

 

Conflict: Strong disagreement. A key question to ask when differentiating between conflict and harm is: “Is the harmed party unsafe or uncomfortable?” Conflicts often bring up discomfort, but they are not inherently unsafe. (Fumbling Towards Repair, p33)

 

Harm: “Some form of injury to a person, group or community. This injury can be of many types: physical, financial, emotional, sexual, spiritual, environmental and so on.” Violence and harm are "related to power. People who have less power can be more vulnerable to violence because they are an easier target, because they are less likely to be protected or are more likely to be blamed. They may have less places to go to get help." People can be more vulnerable to harm depending on their gender, race, class, education, immigration status, sexual orientation, age, disability, physical appearance, nationality, religion, and/or political affiliation. (Creative Interventions Toolkit, p451, 78)

 

Jewish Farmer Network (JFN) Community Spaces: Includes JFN programs, official JFN communications, and individual communications with JFN team members.

Tikkun: Jewish concept of healing or fixing.

 

Transformative Justice (TJ): “A way to respond to violence within our communities in ways that 1) don’t create more harm and violence, 2) actively work to cultivate the very things that we know will prevent violence, such as accountability, healing, trust, connection, safety.” The goals of Transformative Justice are: 

“1. Survivor safety, healing, and agency

2. Accountability and transformation of those who abuse or cause harm

3. Community response and accountability

4. Transformation of the community and social conditions that create and perpetuate violence – systems of oppression, exploitation, domination, and state violence.”

(Mia Mingus and Generation FIVE in Fumbling Towards Repair, p21)

Teshuva: Jewish spiritual practice of acknowledging and repairing harm and asking for forgiveness (Svara’s Community Norms)

 

Harm Between Participants in the Present

  • If you experience harm, or are concerned you may have harmed someone else, please fill out this form OR reach out to a staff member for support. We’re here to listen and to support processes of transformative repair whenever possible. We might invite you to engage in a process of teshuva, the Jewish spiritual practice of acknowledging and repairing harm and asking for forgiveness, and are happy to talk you through how that could work.

  • A note on conflict: As a general rule, JFN does not have the capacity, nor is it necessarily our place, to mediate interpersonal conflict between participants. If you are experiencing an interpersonal conflict with another participant that originated or escalated in JFN community spaces, you are welcome to reach out to a staff member. Through conversation with you and internally, JFN will determine whether it is appropriate and within our capacity to provide further support. We are committed to learning how we can better hold community spaces that make room for generative disagreement, and we want feedback when we fall short. You can read more about our Community Norms here. 

 

Harm Between Participants from Past Events 

  • We welcome you to Jewish Farmer Network in your current context, as the person you are today. We also recognize that each of us brings a personal history to JFN — some aspects that we’re proud of and some aspects that we wish we could have done differently. Even as we attempt to make JFN as safe a space as possible, there may be times that the struggles someone else brings to the table will be difficult for you or create an issue for you. If you are disturbed by something in another participant’s past, we invite you to reach out to a staff member for support. 

 

Harm Between Participants and JFN's Team (Staff, Facilitators, Teachers, Volunteers, and/or Board Members)

  • Our team is committed to embodying the steps of transformative repair that we ask of our community. We take your feedback and trust seriously. We are always open to direct feedback about any ways in which we may have caused or perpetuated harm in JFN community spaces. If you experience harm in JFN community spaces from a JFN team member, and feel that it’s too challenging for whatever reason to engage the person directly, please fill out this form OR reach out to Shani Mink (Executive Director, shani@jewishfarmernetwork.org) or SJ Seldin (Board Chair, sj@jewishfarmernetwork.org) who can help guide you through next steps. Your feedback to Shani or SJ will remain confidential unless you request otherwise, and you are welcome to request that your feedback be offered to a team member anonymously.

 

Harm Among JFN’s Team (Staff, Facilitators, Teachers, Volunteers, and/or Board Members)

  • If you are a member of JFN’s team and you experience harm from – or are concerned you may have harmed – another team member, and feel that it’s too challenging for whatever reason to engage the person directly, please fill out this form OR reach out to Shani Mink (Executive Director, shani@jewishfarmernetwork.org) or SJ Seldin (Board Chair, sj@jewishfarmernetwork.org) who can help guide you through next steps. 

 

We acknowledge that there is currently a gap in our accountability process, which involves how to reach out if you have experienced harm from – or are concerned you may have harmed – either Shani or SJ. JFN is currently working to identify an independent entity who is able to respond to these kinds of situations when the person involved is unable to reach out directly. In the meantime, if at all possible, we encourage you to reach out to either Shani or SJ directly.

 

Sources

Creative Interventions Toolkit. www.creative-interventions.org, AK Press. Chico, CA. 2012

Creative Interventions Workbook. www.creative-interventions.org, AK Press. Chico, CA. 2021

Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan, Fumbling Towards Repair: A Workbook for Community Accountability Facilitators. Project Nia and Just Practice. Canada. June 2019

“Svara’s Community Norms.” Svara. Accessed January 25, 2022. https://svara.org/community-norms/

Jewish Farmer Network is tremendously grateful to Imani Chapman and Franny Silverman of Imani Strategies for their support and guidance in developing this community accountability process.