Shavit’s Planned Comeback At 92Y Derailed

Shavit’s Planned Comeback At 92Y Derailed

New sexual misconduct allegations emerge; ethics group calls for Y firings.

Ari Shavit, shown in 2015, was a popular draw on the Jewish lecture circuit after the publication of his book “My Promised Land.” Getty Images
Ari Shavit, shown in 2015, was a popular draw on the Jewish lecture circuit after the publication of his book “My Promised Land.” Getty Images

An event featuring Ari Shavit, the Israeli author and columnist who was accused last year of sexual assault, has disappeared from the website of the 92nd Street Y, after two more women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations.

Shavit was the scheduled keynote speaker at an Israeli Independence Day program in April at the prominent Jewish institution. It would have been his first major public event in this country since the assault accusations last year.

The talk was advertised as “a timely, thoughtful discussion” on Israel’s challenges and Shavit’s forthcoming book, which was unnamed.

But as of last Friday afternoon, notice of the event was removed from the website and tickets page after two more women told the magazine Jewish Currents of sexual misconduct allegations in 2014 and 2015. At the time, both students were involved with the liberal campus Israel group J Street U.

Amna Farooqi, who served as national student president of J Street U, told Jewish Currents that in 2015, Shavit kissed her at the end of a meeting in a way she described to a friend as “weird” and “inappropriate.” The friend confirms their conversation.

Catriona Stewart, who currently serves as J Street U’s deputy director, told Jewish Currents that when she was a student, Shavit rubbed her lower back inappropriately during a photo shoot.

The 92nd Street Y did not respond to requests for comment, and Shavit did not respond immediately to a request for comment. [This week, an email and a phone call from The Jewish Week to the Y for comment were not returned.]

The Committee on Ethics in Jewish Leadership, a grassroots movement that promotes accountability, transparency and democracy in Jewish organizations and institutions, has urged the immediate firing of the Y officials responsible for issuing the speaking invitation to Shavit.

“While many other Americans are finally coming to grips with the severity of the sexual harassment problem, the Jewish community has been painfully slow to confront its own sexual harassers — as evidenced by the decision of the 92nd Street Y to honor the admitted sexual harasser Ari Shavit by having him as its keynote speaker at a forthcoming event celebrating Israeli independence,” the group said in a statement Monday.

It continued: “There is no lack of spokeswomen, or men, who could represent Israel on such occasions. The choice of Shavit to deliver the keynote address at one of the most important lecture venues in New York City demonstrates either a stunning lack of awareness —professional incompetence — or denial of the seriousness of the problem of sexual harassment and abuse.”

The announcement of Shavit’s talk, as well as the new allegations, came during the “#MeToo movement,” as a wave of women have stepped forward to accuse a rash of high-profile men of sexual assault and harassment.

Shavit admitted last year that he was the unnamed Israeli journalist whom Danielle Berrin, a reporter at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, accused of sexual harassment and assault in an October 2016 cover story. Berrin wrote that Shavit grabbed the back of her head and pulled her toward him. Afterward, she wrote, he propositioned her, invited her up to his hotel room and “continued to pull and paw at me.”

A second woman, who worked for the liberal Israel lobby J Street but remained anonymous, also accused Shavit of sexual harassment in 2016.

The accusations led Shavit to resign as a columnist at Haaretz and commentator on Israeli Channel 10. Shavit is also the author of “My Promised Land,” a well-received book about Israel that made him a popular draw on the Jewish lecture circuit.

Shavit told The Jerusalem Post in a statement this week that he had gone through “a personal year of reckoning, humility and change. I spent precious time with my family, addressed my past and did my utmost to become a better person.”

Last Friday, in an email to Jewish Currents, Shavit did not deny the women’s accounts, but said he “left the public arena” in order to “begin a deep process of reckoning and self-reflection.”

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