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After Franken’s Resignation, Jewish Women Hope For ‘Wake-Up Call’

Laura Monn Ginsburg cried when she watched her U.S. senator announce his resignation. But she also said that Al Franken did the right thing by stepping down.

“I’m sad for Minnesota. We’ve lost a good senator,” Monn Ginsburg, the incoming president of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Minnesota section, told the Forward. “But there’s a part of me that’s hopeful in all of this that he’s setting an example.”

Jewish women in Minnesota and across the country were left with mixed feelings Thursday after Franken, an outspoken supporter of women’s rights, announced his resignation after numerous women accused him of sexual misconduct, including groping.

Elaine Wolfe, whose daughter is a rabbi, said Franken’s admissions are embarrassing to her as a Jew.

“How can a nice Jewish boy do that stuff? It reflects poorly on us,” said Wolfe, who was attending the Reform movement’s biennial conference. “That’s not the Judaism I was raised with.”

Carin Mrotz, the executive director of the Minnesota progressive advocacy organization Jewish Community Action, listened to Franken’s speech on the radio.

She was frustrated that Franken took time to deny some of the allegations against him.

“It could have been a speech that could have been about listening to women,” she said, adding, “What we need to do going forward is to change our systems. To include that denial in that way took away from a much larger, bigger message.”

At the Union for Reform Judaism biennial, a large gathering held this week in Boston, members of the country’s largest Jewish denomination were disheartened by Franken’s fall.

The movement prides itself on its dedication to progressive politics. Topics discussed this year included sexual assault.

“I’m so disappointed,” said Rabbi Stephanie Wolfe, a 49-year-old educational director of a synagogue in Burlington, Massachusetts. “I was just reading his book. Now I don’t know if I even want to finish it.”

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, who writes about parenting and spirituality, saw the news about Franken as part of a broader cultural moment where men are being held accountable for sexual misdeeds.

“I hope this is a wake-up call for us to clean house,” Ruttenberg said, “and to start building spaces that really honor the value of kavod habriyot, respect for humanity.”

In his speech, Franken pointed out the irony that he was resigning “while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office.”

Mrotz said Franken, who made his name as a progressive Democrat, was right to refer to President Trump’s misdeeds. “If we’re going to make any real cultural change, it’s not going to be just Democrats,” she said.

Monn Ginsburg was left with mixed feelings in this moment when women across the country are speaking out about sexual harassment in their industries.

“How do we capture this momentum where people are finally caring about something that hasn’t been at the forefront…and do right by everyone involved?” she said. “And I don’t know the answer to that.”

Additional reporting by Sam Kestenbaum.

Contact Aiden Pink at pink@forward.com or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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