The Atonement Prayers We Should All Say, In The #MeToo Era

As the Days of Awe roll around, we find ourselves repeating two traditional confession prayers — Al Chet and Ashamnu — many times throughout Selichot (penitential prayers) and Yom Kippur.

What makes this year different from other years? This year, we enter the High Holiday season with the painful memories of #MeToo, fresh wounds of uncovered assaults and harassment worldwide, across ranks and industries.

And as we do teshuva, repentance, we must ask ourselves: How have we been complicit in abuses of power, in our very own communities?

Below, we have created an alternate version of Al Chet and Ashamnu for the #MeToo era. Let us take responsibility for our actions — or inactions — and promise to do better.

We hope Jewish communities can draw on our supplemental liturgy — use this in services, sermons, and conversations — and commit to making communal safety a priority in the year to come.

An Al Chet for the #MeToo Era


For the sin we committed through inappropriate use of power.
For the sin we committed by inappropriate sexual advances.
For the sin we committed by putting people in power without oversight.
For the sin we committed by not taking seriously the complaints of a colleague.
For the sin we committed by not believing victims when they spoke up.
For the sin we committed by not being aware of our own power or privilege when making an advance.
For the sin we committed by pushing forward when we should have waited and listened.
For the sin we committed by believing that sexual victimization does not happen in the Jewish world.

For all of these sins, God, help us rectify the evil we have brought about, help us to restore justice through the hard work of repentance. Only then, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.

For the sin we committed in choosing to think a person who is appropriate with us is appropriate with everyone.
For the sin we committed by choosing our own comfort over the safety of others.
For the sin we committed by focusing on our intent rather than our impact.
For the sin we committed by prioritizing reputations and money over safety.
For the sin we committed by ignoring sexual victimization as a problem until #MeToo.
For the sin we committed by performative wokeness.
For the sin we committed by failing to acknowledge our ignorance about sexual victimization.
For the sin we committed by waiting to stand against a perpetrator until we saw others doing so.
For the sin we committed by making light of victims’ suffering.
For the sin we committed by contributing to rape culture.

For all of these sins, God, help us rectify the evil we have brought about, help us to restore justice through the hard work of repentance. Only then, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.

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.

For all of these sins, God, help us rectify the evil we have brought about, help us to restore justice through the hard work of repentance. Only then, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.

By Danya Ruttenberg, Shira Berkovits, S. Bear Bergman, Guila Benchimol

An Ashamnu for #MeToo


We Abused our power, we didn’t Believe survivors, we were Complicit, we Demeaned. We Echoed the majority, we Focused on our own self-interest over safety, we Gave abusers opportunities to further harm, we Humiliated survivors, we Ignored our impact, we Justified inappropriate behavior. We Kept abusers in power, we Laughed at jokes that supported rape culture, we Marginalized narratives that weren’t easy to digest, we Normalized problematic behavior, we Ostracized victims, we Participated in the erasure of survivors’ voices. We Questioned survivors’ motivations, we Reinforced harmful myths, we Silenced voices trying to come forward, We Trivialized. We didn’t Use safe protocols, we Violated boundaries, we Waited too long to take action, we eXonerated perpetrators who didn’t repent, we Yielded to our basest impulses, we Zealously defended perpetrators of harm.

By Danya Ruttenberg, S. Bear Bergman, Leah Greenblum, Emily Becker, Abby Citrin

Author

Guila Benchimol

Guila Benchimol

Guila Benchimol is a PhD candidate in sociological criminology at the University of Guelph. Her research and advocacy focus on sexual violence, with a special interest on violence in religious communities. She brings over 10 years of experience as a Jewish educator to her work and she consults for and addresses Jewish organizations and communities regarding abuse prevention and intervention. Guila is also a research assistant at the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence where she has worked on projects related to homicide and domestic violence cases. She has written for Huffington Post Canada, The Canadian Jewish News, The Jewish Week, and more.

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The Atonement Prayers We Should All Say, In The #MeToo Era

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