A synagogue and a Jewish community have so many different components. We have worship services and educational programs for people of all ages from toddlers to seniors. We celebrate weddings, we bless and name babies and we comfort those who mourn the loss of a loved one. Much of what a synagogue offers is transparent to those who attend the different events involved in worship, education, celebration and mourning, but as with any organization, there are parts of our organizational mechanism that do not normally see the light of day.
We know from recent years of media coverage that at times, some clergy have committed various types of unethical and even abusive behaviors. This tragic reality has brought shame to religious organizations and great damage to individual lives.
The purpose of this article is to let our community know that our rabbis and all of our teachers are held to a very high standard regarding our interactions with one another and with the members of the congregation and the Jewish community at large.
Rabbi Yitz was ordained in the Jewish Renewal Movement and he is a member of OHALAH, the Jewish Renewal association of rabbis and cantors. Rabbi Boris was ordained in the Reconstructionist Movement and he is a member of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA). OHALAH and the RRA have ethics codes. These codes are available on the website of our rabbinic associations and they are meant to be available to the public should anyone wish to file a complaint against a rabbi or any religious leader who holds membership in our respective rabbinic associations.
The Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Movements all have ethics codes that relate to the rabbis who are members of their respective rabbinic association. High ethical standard are becoming the norm more and more each year and colleagues who violate the standards are expected to enter into a process of healing and rehabilitation which includes a promise to not violate the code of their movement in the future.
Each Movement of Judaism has different sensibilities from the other Movements, but there are certain standards that carry across Movements. For example, it is inappropriate for a rabbi to have a romantic relationship with a congregant or student or staff member who answers to that rabbi because these relationships are based on trust that includes respect for the rabbi’s authority. This authority creates an imbalance of power which is present regardless of whether or not it is perceived.
As part of our congregation’s evolution, we have decided to share the links to our respective ethics codes in case anyone would like to read them over or share them with colleagues, friends and family.
The OHALAH code is available at https://ohalah.org/about-us/ohalah-code-of-ethics-as-of-2011/.
The RRA code is available at http://www.therra.org/ETHICS%20CODE%20RRA%202007.pdf