Camp Ramah director on leave amid allegations he mishandled sexual assault complaint

JTA — Rabbi Ethan Linden, director of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, is taking a leave of absence while his handling of a 2018 sexual assault allegation involving two campers is investigated, the camp announced Friday.

The announcement came one week after a lawsuit by the victim alleged a serious mishandling of the allegations at the time. Previously, the Ramah camp network had said it supports victims but stood by Linden’s handling of the incident.

In an email to the Ramah Berkshires community, board president Richie Friedman wrote that the board is placing Linden on administrative leave while it embarks on a “thorough review” of the case.

“Reading the allegations that our leadership did not respond quickly and appropriately to the victim’s report was deeply troubling. We are sorry for the pain this has caused to all parties involved and to our beloved community,” the statement said.

“We understand that parents must have the trust and confidence that Camp and its leadership can and will ensure the physical and emotional well-being of their children. This has been reinforced in my many conversations with parents over the last few days,” it said.

Due to the allegations made against the camp and against Linden, the board had decided to place him on immediate administrative leave. The board had discussed the matter with Linden, who agreed it was the best course of action, the statement said.

The board will reassess Linden’s status after a review was completed, it said.

Amy Skopp Cooper, director of the National Ramah Commission and former director of Camp Ramah Nyack for 20 years, will act as director at Ramah Berkshires this summer.

A camp spokesperson confirmed to JTA that the board waited to announce Linden’s leave of absence until it could also make public that “a trusted and seasoned leader like Amy would be overseeing camp this summer.”

The lawsuit filed last week alleged Linden “acted with deliberate indifference” after being informed that a female camper had been sexually assaulted by a male camper.

Linden did not follow the protocol set forth by the camp’s accrediting agency, the American Camp Association, for what to do when sexual assault is alleged at camp, the lawsuit charges. It says he did not immediately report the assault to authorities or remove the male camper from camp.

Linden also did not inform the family of the female camper of the assault, according to the lawsuit. In fact, the lawsuit charges, he pressed the camper not to tell her parents at all and involved police only at their insistence several weeks after the alleged assault.

The lawsuit also names Camp Ramah in the Berkshires and the National Ramah Commission, the group that oversees all Ramah camps, charging that the organization knew about the sexual assault and its handling by at least January 2019 but has allowed Linden to remain in charge.

Linden had pledged to improve safeguards against abuse at the camp before the allegations.

Camp Ramah in the Berkshires is one of 10 overnight camps associated with the Conservative movement of Judaism.