If you have questions about the ethics code or reporting of an ethics complaint, please email Ethics@ccarnet.org.
Information regarding rabbis expelled, suspended, or censured with publication for violations of the Code of Ethics for Rabbis can be found here.
A list of CCAR Ethics Committee Members can be found here.
CCAR ETHICS UPDATES
This is a time for listening and learning. This is also a time for action. The CCAR has enlisted Alcalaw LLP, a team of trauma-informed lawyers and consultants, to conduct a neutral investigation into the CCAR’s handling of ethics complaints. If you would like to report information about the CCAR’s handling of a previously filed ethics complaint, contact Alcalaw LLP here. If you would like to file a new ethics complaint, contact the CCAR Ethics Committee here.
- A Letter from Rabbis Hara Person and Lewis Kamrass: Announcing the CCAR Task Force on Ethics (August 30, 2021)
- A Letter from Rabbi Hara Person (August 19, 2021)
- A CCAR Ethics Update from Rabbi Hara Person (August 4, 2021)
- A CCAR Ethics Update from Rabbi Hara Person (July 29, 2021)
- A CCAR Ethics Update from Rabbi Hara Person (July 8, 2021)
- Learning From the Past to Build the CCAR of the Future, by Rabbi Hara Person (June 9, 2021)
- A CCAR Ethics Update From Rabbis Lewis Kamrass and Hara Person (May 13, 2021)
- A CCAR Ethics Update From Rabbis Lewish Kamrass and Hara Person (May 6, 2021)
- A CCAR Ethics Update From Rabbis Lewis Kamrass and Hara Person (April 27, 2021)
CCAR ETHICS Articles
- Ethics Process Part I: When the Ethics Committee Receives a Complaint (July/Aug 2019)
- Ethics Process Part II: How the Ethics Committee Makes Decisions (Sept/Oct 2019)
- Ethics Process Part III: The T’shuvah Process (Nov/Dec 2019)
- What is Unique About the CCAR Ethics Code (June 2018)
- Confidentiality in the Ethics Process (May 2019)
- Maintaining High Ethical Standards for Reform Rabbis (April 2021)
CENTRAL CONFERENCE OF AMERICAN RABBIS CODE OF ETHICS
Adopted in convention assembled, June, 1991, and as amended in 1993, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021.
As rabbis, we are expected to abide by the highest moral values of our Jewish tradition: personal conscience and professional integrity, honorable social relationships, and the virtues of family life. As teachers and role models, we are called upon to exemplify the ideals we proclaim. Should we fail, we need to do t’shuvah, ask forgiveness, avoid repetition, and make restitution whenever possible.
Therefore, in keeping with the high traditions of the rabbinate, the Central Conference of American Rabbis establishes this Code of Ethics, to which its members are obligated. Improprieties in any of the areas covered will subject the rabbi to the review of the Ethics Committee (“EC”).
Rabbis are encouraged to consult with the Chair of the EC to better understand this Code of Ethics and its implementation.
I. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
As rabbis we must do all that is in our power to reverse the deterioration of society and to elevate standards of moral behavior. We are expected, therefore, to behave at a level worthy of emulation. This includes behavior in family, social and financial affairs.
Inevitably, rabbinic duties sometimes conflict with familial responsibility. Valuing both, we rabbis must balance our ethical responsibility with our calling, on the one hand, and with our own family on the other. On occasion, the needs of congregants demand our primary attention. On occasion also, we must conduct our own lives so as to prevent our primary duty to our own family from being compromised or endangered by professional duties or relationships.
As human beings, we are tempted by yetzer hara (the evil inclination), particularly in the areas of substance abuse and sexuality. However, our position as rabbis, teachers of moral standards, and models of moral behavior, demands of us adherence to an exemplary moral code. We must, therefore, not engage in exploitative practices which destroy our moral integrity. We are expected by others, and we expect of ourselves and each other, to be scrupulous in avoiding even the appearance of sexual misconduct, whether by taking advantage of our position with those weaker than ourselves or dependent upon us, or succumbing to the temptations of willing adults. Similarly, recognizing the consequences of addiction, we have a responsibility to seek help for any need or tendency to abuse chemical substances.
Additionally, we recognize that practices such as bullying or harassing, intimidation, and overly aggressive behavior toward another person destroy our moral integrity and are inappropriate.
The rabbi must be beyond reproach in conducting financial affairs. Financial impropriety includes but is not limited to inappropriate use of rabbis’ discretionary funds for personal or family expenses, embezzlement, non-payment of just debts, tax evasion or any illegal monetary dealings.
D. Intellectual Honesty
Rabbis will adhere to the traditional principle of b’shem omro (refraining from plagiarism) and maintaining the integrity of their own credentials.
E. Rabbinic Commitment
In addition, a rabbi must live up to all commitments to officiate at specific ceremonies and/or rituals made to colleagues or lay people. If it is impossible to fulfill a stated commitment to officiate at a particular ritual, the rabbi must find a qualified substitute and discuss the change immediately with the congregant, non-congregant or colleague involved.
II. RABBINIC RELATIONSHIPS
A. The Congregational Staff
In their relationships with their congregational staff, rabbis are required to observe the ethical norms as set forth in the Guidelines for Rabbinical Congregational Relationships.
B. Relationships between Rabbis within the Same Congregation
When rabbis near the conclusion of their term of service with a congregation and the congregation is seeking a successor, the incumbent rabbi shall respect the freedom of the congregation and the candidates to enter into such discussions as may lead to the choice of a successor. Candidates for a rabbinical position shall act in accordance with the guidelines established by the Rabbinical Placement Commission. Relationships between rabbis of the same congregation should reflect the highest regard for k’vod harav (respect for the rabbi). Rabbis should resolve their differences privately and amicably.
1. Rabbi and Assistant/Associate Rabbi and/or Rabbi-Educator
Rabbis in a congregation should treat each other as trusting colleagues, upholding each other in their work, and encouraging each other in their ideas.
a. The senior rabbi should share rabbinic duties with the assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator in such ways as to enhance opportunities for growth. To the extent possible, these duties should be described during the assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator interview process, so that there will be no misunderstanding later. Should a change in status or responsibilities be desired, in a way that affects the relationship between the rabbis, the matter should be discussed fully between the colleagues and every effort made to reach a mutual accommodation. If, despite their best efforts, the colleagues are unable to resolve the matter between themselves, they should turn to the CCAR leadership or appropriate URJ personnel for mediation of their differences.
b. Rabbis should show due regard for each other, enhance and support each other’s work and standing, and avoid any activity which would foster congregational disharmony.
c. If an assistant rabbi is named associate, the senior rabbi should recognize that this advancement implies a greater sharing of responsibility while the associate should show continuing respect for the authority of the senior rabbi.
d. If a new senior rabbi is engaged by the congregation during the tenure of an assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator, and the colleagues cannot arrive at an agreement concerning the scope of the assistant/associate rabbi’s and/or rabbi-educator’s duties, then the policy under which the assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator was engaged by the congregation shall be observed by the assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator during the remainder of that rabbi’s tenure with the congregation.
e. Rabbis in the same congregation should keep each other informed of rabbinic services to members and non-members. Within the bounds of confidentiality, the assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator should keep the senior rabbi informed of all members who enter a counseling relationship with them.
f. An assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator should be given the opportunity to take part in the decision-making process in the congregation, by serving ex officio on policy-making committees and by attending Temple Board meetings.
g. An assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator should have freedom of the pulpit and the classroom, as well as regular opportunities for personal expression.
h. The senior rabbi should encourage the congregation to enable the assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator to attend regional and national conferences. If a congregation requires that one rabbi always be present, the senior rabbi should consider alternate attendance at conferences with the assistant/associate rabbi and/or rabbi-educator.
Exceptions to Section II.B.(1) may be made by mutual consent of the senior and assistant/associate.
2. Rabbi and Rabbi Emeritus/Emerita
Emotional ties between rabbi and congregation strengthen with time, and continue beyond the date at which a rabbi retires. Still, each congregation requires a single rabbi who is given both the authority and the responsibility of guiding it.
a. The rabbi emeritus/emerita should help the successor in the position to which the rabbi has been elected and should guide lay people to understand that when a new rabbi commences rabbinic duties, responsibility is transferred automatically and fully. The rabbi emeritus/emerita also should guide lay people to accept the new rabbi as the successor and to show the new rabbi all courtesy. The rabbi emeritus/emerita should refuse to be drawn into questions of congregational policy or into newly established relationships between the new rabbi and that rabbi’s congregants, individually or collectively.
b. The successor rabbi and the rabbi emeritus/emerita have an obligation to accord each other honor and courtesy, and to maintain an adequate reciprocal flow of information and communication, thus maintaining the spirit of k’vod harav . The successor rabbi should respect the experience and work of the predecessor.
c. The rabbi emeritus/emerita may sit on the pulpit at any services and at a place of honor at all significant occasions in the life of the congregation and should be so welcomed. The wishes of the emeritus/emerita to do otherwise should be respected.
d. When invited to do so by the rabbi of a congregation, the rabbi emeritus/emerita may participate in conducting the synagogue service or may preach. When performing these functions, the rabbi emeritus/emerita should follow the forms of worship and ritual then prevailing, unless there is agreement otherwise.
e. The rabbi emeritus/emerita may officiate at life cycle ceremonies with the agreement of the successor. In such situations, the rabbi emeritus/emerita should follow the policies set by the successor, unless they agree otherwise.
f. A rabbi emeritus/emerita ought not engage in activities which interfere with the successor rabbi’s leadership of or relationship with the congregation or community.
g. The incumbent rabbi has a responsibility to see to the well-being of the rabbi emeritus/emerita and spouse. This responsibility extends to a surviving spouse.
h. The assistant/associate rabbi should respect the historic ties of the rabbi emeritus/emerita to the congregation, and rabbis emeriti should welcome their younger colleagues, sustaining them in their rabbinate and nurturing them in their work. Mutual consideration and support will enhance both positions.
Variations of all of this Section II.B.2 may be made by mutual agreement of the rabbi and rabbi emeritus/emerita.
C. Relationships between Rabbis in Different Communities, Congregations or Organizations
All CCAR rabbis, including e.g., Hillel rabbis and military and civilian chaplains, regardless of their specific placement, are bound by the following provisions. The principles herein contained are applicable also in our relationships with rabbis who are not members of the CCAR and with student rabbis.
1. A rabbi living in another rabbi’s community or maintaining membership in the rabbi’s congregation should not engage in activities which interfere with the incumbent rabbi’s leadership of or relationship with the community, congregation or organization.
2. A rabbi should occupy a colleague’s pulpit, officiate in the synagogue, or speak at any function of the congregation or of any auxiliary only at the invitation of the incumbent rabbi.
3. A rabbi who is asked to officiate at a life cycle event should inquire whether either (or any) of the individuals are members of another congregation. A rabbi should agree to officiate for a member of another congregation only with appropriate notice to the rabbi of that congregation at the time the request is made.
a. If the child of a member is an unaffiliated young adult (out of school and not a member of any congregation) and chooses a rabbi other than the family’s rabbi, the family’s rabbi should be informed by the officiating rabbi in advance of the event.
b. Where, in the event of a prospective marriage, the families of couple belong to different congregations, it is incumbent upon the officiating rabbi to inform the other rabbi.
c. In other life cycle situations, where various members of the family belong to other congregations, the officiating rabbi should urge the individuals involved to notify their own rabbis of the event.
4. No rabbi should offer and/or render such pastoral attentions to members of other congregations, chavurot and other religious institutions, as might harm the relations between rabbinical colleagues, between Reform congregations, or between a rabbi and that rabbi’s congregant.
5. A rabbi should neither solicit nor sanction efforts to solicit members of another congregation.
6. A rabbi may not seek to employ the assistant or associate rabbi of another congregation or a member of another congregation’s staff, nor sanction such an effort, without informing the rabbi of that congregation.
7. When rabbis disagree in public, this disagreement should be stated in terms of issues. The rabbis should avoid personal attack. Lashon hara (malicious gossip) is equally unacceptable.
III. CONFIDENTIALITY AND ITS LIMITS
Within the exercise of pastoral care the rabbi shall maintain a relationship of trust and confidentiality holding sacred all information revealed within the provision of pastoral care. If, however, during pastoral care information emerges concerning abuse of a minor child or incapacitated adult or indicating imminent danger to any person, the rabbi is to follow the laws of the state or province concerning revealing this information to persons authorized to address the safety of the person at risk.
However, the nature and practice of Reform Judaism and its ethical legacy mandate that our religious conscience place highest priority on the needs of the vulnerable. It is therefore essential to report abuse of minors and incapacitated adults even when the state or province does not require the rabbi to do so. In addition, concerning one whose physical or psychological well-being is in danger, the rabbi’s moral conscience may direct that rabbi to share such knowledge with appropriate authorities.
With this issue of clergy reporting as with many of the situations about which this Code of Ethics is concerned, rabbis are encouraged to consult with the Chair of the EC to better understand these guidelines and their implementation.
IV. RABBINIC SERVICES
1. The congregational rabbi of today is a professional spiritual leader of the congregation, which in turn assumes responsibility for support of the physical and financial needs of the rabbi and the rabbi’s family. Consequently, members of the congregation who have by their dues contributed to the rabbi’s support, have a right to rabbinic services in time of need for life cycle rites and pastoral functions, provided that performance of such services shall not be contrary to the convictions of that rabbi. Under no circumstances, therefore, should a full-time rabbi set a fee for officiating at life cycle occasions of members of that rabbi’s congregation. Rabbis serving congregations on a part-time basis may agree upon arrangements with their own congregations .
2. While a rabbi, congregational or not, may have no professional obligations to the unaffiliated, if the rabbi provides services for the unaffiliated, the rabbi may reasonably expect an honorarium that is not excessive.
B. Communication of Services
In making known the availability of rabbinic services, whether in a telephone directory, the press, the Internet or other media, all communications should be in good taste and in keeping with the dignity of the rabbinate.
It is essential that the relationship of the rabbi with a prospective ger (convert) avoid any semblance of commercialism. The mitzvah to instruct prospective converts and to officiate at their ceremonies of gerut (conversion ) precludes the charging of rabbinic fees.
V. ETHICS GUIDELINES CONCERNING SEXUAL BOUNDARIES
As rabbis, Jewish leaders and pastoral guides we are commanded to exemplify holiness through our teachings and our lives. We bear the greatest responsibility for insuring that ethical and sexual boundaries are scrupulously respected in all our relationships with all persons who turn to us in trust. Sexual misconduct by rabbis is a sin against human beings; it is also a Chilul Hashem (profanation of God’s name). It is the responsibility of the CCAR to uphold the sacred calling of the rabbinate by creating just and appropriate responses to sexual misconduct.
Sections V and VI of this Code of Ethics set forth definitions of sexual misconduct. The following section (Section VII) sets forth powers and procedures that will enable the CCAR to respond promptly and effectively when sexual (or other) misconduct is alleged: to insure a fair hearing, to extend sensitivity and spiritual guidance through offering the opportunity for rabbinic referral to the complainants, as well as families of alleged perpetrators, and to bring offenders to justice. We firmly believe that the gates of repentance are always open, and, whenever possible, colleagues who have been disciplined will be guided toward rehabilitation. In some cases, however, a return to the sacred work of the rabbinate may not be permissible.
As rabbis vested with real and symbolic religious authority, we have the responsibility to recognize the power differential inherent in our rabbinic roles and the vulnerability of those whom we teach, counsel, and serve. It is our obligation to maintain appropriate boundaries in all situations and settings. Unacceptable behavior includes all forms of sexual harassment and intimidation, requests for sexual favors, and any unwelcome verbal, physical or visual conduct of a sexual nature, or improper touching or socializing. Any such act or behavior which exploits the vulnerability of another, even if it appears to be consensual, compromises the moral integrity of the rabbi and is an ethical violation.
All sexual boundary violations are serious and constitute unacceptable rabbinic behavior.
1. Type 1 violations include but are not limited to inappropriate comments, jokes, verbal conduct, and visual conduct of a sexual nature. While such behaviors may be less egregious, they still constitute an ethical violation.
2. Type 2 violations include but are not limited to all forms of sexual harassment and intimidation, quid pro quo and requests for sexual favors, and any unwelcome physical contact or conduct.
Moreover, any personal relationship that the rabbi keeps clandestine (beyond the bounds of normal privacy), or which raises doubts for the rabbi regarding its ethical propriety ought to give the rabbi serious pause and propel the rabbi, at the very least, to seek moral counsel. Among other considerations, rabbis are expected to honor the sanctity and fidelity of committed relationships, their own and those of others. Any sexual activity that betrays those relationships or leads others to betray like relationships constitutes an ethical violation.
Any violation of Section V or any section of this Code of Ethics that involves minors is considered to be especially egregious.
VII. POWERS AND PROCEDURES FOR ADJUDICATING ETHICAL VIOLATIONS
The EC shall investigate and adjudicate complaints against members of the CCAR. To insure prompt and thorough responses to complaints, the EC may establish information gathering teams to conduct investigations. In cases involving sexual misconduct, each information gathering team will be comprised of two rabbis (one of whom is a member of the EC) and a layperson. If the appointment of a member of the EC to the information gathering team involves geographical difficulties, a former member of the EC may be appointed by the CCAR President or this provision may be waived by the Chair of the EC with approval of a majority of the EC.2 The EC member of the team may participate in the EC’s deliberations concerning the specific case but shall not vote thereon. Attention should be paid to gender balance when composing information gathering teams. In addition, the EC will establish a list of consultants, including psychotherapists with expertise in matters of sexual misconduct, who will be available to the information gathering teams. In reviewing all other complaints, the use and composition of fact gathering teams will be left to the discretion of the EC. There may be cases not involving sexual misconduct in which the EC decides to conduct the investigation itself without designating a information gathering team.
1. As stated in this Code of Ethics, anyone with knowledge of misconduct, whether or not an alleged victim, may submit a complaint. All appropriate URJ personnel, CCAR members, and URJ congregational presidents should be informed of CCAR ethics procedures and instructed in how to handle inquiries about complaints. Persons receiving a complaint should respond compassionately but should not seek details or make judgments as to guilt or innocence. They should inform the complainant about the procedure for making a complaint and may continue to counsel that person. Complaints should be sent to the Chair of the EC. In order for the investigation process to begin, complaints must be written and must include the names of all parties involved, as well as specific details of the misconduct. If the complainant is not ready to initiate a written complaint or wishes to withhold relevant information, the EC may designate an appropriate party to counsel, advise or represent the complainant.
a. A Rabbi may self-report an ethical violation. A self-report is treated as an admission of violation of the applicable section of the Code, and facts contained in a self report are treated as admitted. A self-report will otherwise be treated the same as a complaint filed by someone other than the rabbi and will be investigated and adjudicated according to this Code of Ethics.
b. If in the course of investigating either a self-report or a complaint by a third party additional allegations emerge, written notice will be given to the rabbi and the rabbi will be given an opportunity to respond.
c. A rabbi may communicate an inquiry concerning a matter, which itself does not constitute a self-report and therefore does not trigger the EC’s response to a reported ethical violation.
1. The Chair shall promptly respond in writing to the complainant outlining the process of investigation. The Chair will inquire whether the alleged victim(s) have access to adequate support services.
2. The Chair will promptly send notice of the charge, providing a copy of the complaint together with information about the pending investigation, to the rabbi and to the alleged victim(s) if the complainant is a third party. The Chair will also advise the rabbi as to support programs available from the CCAR (e.g., Rapid Response-Carenet, Hot Line, Director of Rabbinic Education and Support Services, Spouse Support Network, etc.) The rabbi will be instructed to respond in writing within two weeks. A copy of the rabbi’s response will be sent to the alleged victim(s) and to the complainant, if the complainant is a third party.
3. Except in cases where sufficient information already exists for the EC to proceed with adjudication, the EC Chair shall promptly establish the information gathering team and provide team members with a copy of the complaint and the response. If the complaint has been initiated by a third party without the consent of the alleged victim(s), the Chair of the EC may conduct further investigation to determine whether an information gathering team should be established.
4. In cases in which the complaint, if deemed potentially valid, rises to the possibility of immediate harm to the congregation or other entity served by the rabbi, the Chair may, after consultation with members of the EC, notify the rabbi’s supervisor or congregational president of the complaint and the pending investigation. In cases in which the Chair deems the rabbi to be a serious danger to others, the Chair, after consultation with members of the EC and CCAR Chief Executive, may notify the rabbi’s supervisor or congregational president and urge that the rabbi be removed from rabbinic functions prior to an investigation. The rabbi should be offered the opportunity to notify the supervisor or president prior to the notification by the Chair.
5. The Chair will then inform the CCAR Director Rabbinic Career Services when a serious accusation is pending against a rabbi, and the EC may recommend that, pending the investigation, placement be suspended for that rabbi.
6. The Chair will acknowledge receipt of the complaint but will disseminate no information to any source, including the media, until such time as a decision has been made in accordance with the procedures of the CCAR.
D. Information Gathering
1. In cases investigated by an information gathering team, the following procedures govern:
a. In order to determine whether there is a factual basis for the complaint, the information gathering team will meet separately with the rabbi, with the alleged victim(s) and with the complainant, if the complainant is a third party. At its discretion, the information gathering team may meet with additional knowledgeable parties, or request from the foregoing individuals or third parties information relevant to the Complaint and the Response, including but not limited to, print or electronic documents, reports, telephone records, computer data, financial data and records, or any other tangible or intangible information.
b. In meeting with the information gathering team, any person may be accompanied by no more than two other persons.
c. The information gathering team will maintain careful records of all meetings and materials, and log all telephone calls.
d. Throughout the entire process (information gathering, adjudicatory process, and, if relevant, the period of T’shuvah Rehabilitation Counseling), it will be the Conference’s goal, through the offices of the Senior Advisor on Ethics, the Director of Rabbinic Career Services and in conjunction with the Union for Reform Judaism (“URJ”), to provide support to the alleged victims, to the rabbi and the rabbi’s family, to the staff of the congregation, and to the congregation or constituency itself.
e. As soon as possible after concluding the investigation, the information gathering team will recommend in writing to the EC Chair one of the following outcomes:
1. A unanimous finding that there is not sufficient information to proceed to the adjudicatory process;
2. A split finding, in which case the EC will determine whether to proceed to the adjudicatory process;
3. A unanimous finding that there is sufficient information to proceed to the adjudicatory process.
f. The process for reviewing the information gathering team’s report is as follows:
1. When the information gathering team has prepared its report, a copy of the report will be provided to the rabbi, the alleged victim(s) and the complainant, if the complainant is a third party, any of whom may respond in writing within two weeks. The EC Chair shall provide its members with a copy of the report and responses, if any, within two weeks of receiving the responses, if possible.
2. During its deliberations and prior to coming to a final judgment, the EC will afford the rabbi, the alleged victim(s) and the complainant, if the complainant is a third party, separate opportunities to present their cases to and/or respond to questions from the EC. The rabbi and/or the complainant may request the opportunity to appear and be heard by the Ethics Committee prior to the EC rendering its decision. At the discretion of the EC, this session may be held in person or by video conference. Both the rabbi and complainant shall be informed of the request by either party for this meeting with the Ethics Committee.
3. When the EC has reviewed the conclusion of the information gathering team, the responses and presentations, if any, of the rabbi, the alleged victim(s) and/or the complainant, and has reached a judgment, the Chair shall inform all parties concerned as to the nature of its decision and of the appeal process. The EC may also request that the information gathering team gather more information before rendering a decision.
2. In cases not involving use of an information gathering team, the EC will conduct the information gathering and adjudicate the case. The rabbi and/or the complainant may request the opportunity to appear and be heard by the EC prior to the EC rendering its decision. At the discretion of the EC, this session may be held in-person or by video conference.
E. Adjudicatory Process
The following are the possible outcomes of the adjudicatory process:
a. If the EC dismisses the complaint, the complainant or alleged victim(s) may appeal to the EC. Both that party and the rabbi will have separate opportunities to present their cases to, and respond to questions from, the EC.
b. If the EC confirms its dismissal, no further appeal is allowable.
2. Action on Complaint
Depending on the severity of the violation and other attendant circumstances, the EC may reprimand, censure, suspend, or recommend expulsion of the rabbi from the CCAR. The EC shall communicate the decision to the complainant and where the EC Chair feels it would be appropriate to individuals who, although not complainants, were the subject of the violation. In cases in which there might be a danger to individuals or the community when the complaint is formally made, the Chair of the EC should alert the Director of Rabbinic Career Services that an ethics complaint is pending against the rabbi. When notifying a rabbi that the EC has received a complaint, the EC Chair will indicate the provision(s) of this Code of Ethics that will be the initial focus of the EC’s examination of the matter. The EC should make a diligent effort to reach a decision in an expeditious manner. Decisions of the EC are to be carefully drafted citing the correct sections of this Code of Ethics. The rationale upon which the decision is based shall be clearly set forth in the decision. In each case the EC shall keep a record of all aspects of the case including correspondence, pleadings, etc. A decision of the EC shall include the date of the vote, the vote count, and the members of the EC who participated in the vote. The Chair of the EC shall sign the decision. Once initiated, the investigation and the adjudicatory process will proceed to resolution, irrespective of the rabbi’s resigning from that rabbi’s position. A rabbi who resigns from the CCAR prior to, during or after the adjudicatory process will be regarded as expelled and will be subject to the condition of expulsion noted below.
Reprimand is a form of admonishment communicated to a rabbi regarding minor infraction of the Code. Reprimand requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote of those present and voting on the EC. The subject of a reprimand has the right to appeal the decision of the EC to the Board of Appeals (“BOA”). In all such appeals, the BOA “should decide if there was any prejudicial abuse of discretion by determining if the procedure was substantially fair and conformed to the CCAR Code of Ethics as well as whether the decision was reasonably supported by the evidence”.3 Notice of reprimand is not published. Depending upon the nature of the violation, the EC may require mentoring and/or therapeutic counseling.
1. Censure is a form of sanction imposed for violations of the Code more serious than those giving rise to reprimand, but not sufficient to require suspension.
2. Censure requires the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds (2/3) of those EC members present and voting.
3. An order of censure shall incorporate such conditions or restrictions as the EC may deem appropriate to protect those whom we serve, to prevent recurrence of the violation, and/or to foster rehabilitation of the rabbi. Such conditions might include, but are not limited to, psychological evaluation, therapy, t’shuvah-rehabilitation counseling and some restriction of rabbinic functions, or publication of censure in the CCAR newsletter, CCAR website, or CCAR member email. The subject of a censure has the right to appeal the decision of the EC to the BOA.
4. If the rabbi fails to fulfill the conditions imposed or if the process of counseling and rehabilitation is found by the EC not to be working, the EC may, among other remedies, decide that the rabbi be removed from all rabbinic functions and/or notice of censure be published in the CCAR newsletter, CCAR website, or CCAR member email. Any such decision must be by the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds (2/3) of those present and voting on the EC, with a minimum quorum of six (6) regular members.
5. The rabbi shall have the right to appeal to the BOA the decision of the EC from all rabbinic functions and/or publish notice of censure in the CCAR newsletter, CCAR website, or CCAR member email. In such an appeal, the rabbi, the alleged victim(s) and the complainant will have separate opportunities to present their cases to, and respond to questions from, the BOA.
6. In cases of censure not involving removal from all rabbinic functions and/or publication, the rabbi may appeal the decision to the BOA and the rabbi, the alleged victim(s) and the complainant shall have the opportunity to appear and advocate their respective positions as described above.
7. In cases of censure in which a rabbi is removed from rabbinic functions, the EC may permit the rabbi to engage in rabbinic employment with restrictions, unless the BOA directs otherwise in the process of an appeal. The condition of such permission is complete compliance by the rabbi with the rehabilitation process
1. The sanction of suspension is called for primarily in cases where:
a. The rabbi’s conduct causes significant harm to the victim(s) or institutions involved, and/or
b. The rabbi fails to recognize the wrongfulness of the rabbi’s actions and to take responsibility for those actions, and/or
c. The rabbi has been censured and refuses to meet with conditions of censure, and/or
d. The rabbi refuses to cooperate in an EC investigation of that rabbi’s conduct or otherwise violates Section VII.E.2.f (“Failure to Cooperate”).
2. An EC decision of suspension requires the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds (2/3) of those EC members present and voting with a minimum quorum of six (6) regular members present and voting.
3. If the EC imposes suspension, the rabbi will have an opportunity to present an appeal case to the BOA, and respond to questions from the BOA. The BOA may uphold the suspension, levy lesser penalties, or may reject the imposition of suspension without imposing any sanctions. All the above decisions require a minimum vote of at least three members of the BOA.
4. Notice of suspension shall be published in the CCAR newsletter, CCAR website, or CCAR member email with reference, by paragraph number, to the specific provision of this Code of Ethics that has been violated. Notice of suspension shall be sent to the CCAR Director of Rabbinic Career Services to be placed in the rabbi’s permanent file (see Section VIII Additional Provisions Concerning Notification). The EC shall report the decision to the president of the rabbi’s congregation, supervisor, or employer.
5. Depending on the severity of the violation and other attendant circumstances, the BOA may require the rabbi to take leave of rabbinic work until rehabilitation and reinstatement to full membership. Unless the BOA directs otherwise, a rabbi under suspension may not seek or accept rabbinic employment or engage in the practice of the rabbinate in any institution, including but not limited to, congregations affiliated with the URJ or the World Union for Progressive Judaism, or in institutions associated with the Reform Movement, including but not limited to the URJ, the Hebrew Union College‑Jewish Institute of Religion, the Skirball Cultural Center, the Religious Action Center, and the Israel Religious Action Center. The rabbi will no longer enjoy the privileges of membership including but not limited to serving in positions of leadership or participating in conferences, conventions, committees, or programs of the CCAR or any of its regions. When the rabbi has complied with the rehabilitation process and been reinstated to full membership, the Director of Rabbinic Career Services shall be so informed (see Section IX (“Additional Provisions Concerning Notification”)), and, with the consent of the reinstated rabbi, the CCAR membership shall also be informed.
6. During the rehabilitation process, the EC may permit the rabbi to engage in rabbinic employment with restrictions, unless the BOA directs otherwise.
7. If the adjudicatory process results in suspension, the rabbi is required to adhere to the conditions of suspension.
1. The sanction of expulsion is reserved for the gravest offenses, repeated violations, failure to comply with conditions of censure or with conditions of suspension, or willful violation of the Section VII.E.2.f (“Failure to Cooperate”). Expulsion may be imposed by the EC and then referred to the BOA by the EC upon the affirmative vote of at least two‑thirds (2/3) of the EC members present and voting with a minimum quorum of six (6) regular members present and voting.
2. The rabbi will have the right to appeal to, and respond to questions from, the BOA. The BOA may dismiss the charge, or impose a lesser sanction including suspension in accordance with the procedures outlined above, or impose expulsion from the CCAR. All decisions short of expulsion require a minimum vote of at least three members of the BOA. A vote of expulsion requires a vote of four of the five members of the BOA.
3. Notice of expulsion shall be published in the CCAR newsletter, CCAR website, or CCAR member email and shall be sent to the CCAR Director of Rabbinic Career Services to be placed in the rabbi’s permanent file (see Section VIII Additional Provisions Concerning Notification). The EC shall report the decision to the president of the rabbi’s congregation or the rabbi’s supervisor or employer. In cases in which the BOA has imposed suspension: When the rabbi has complied with the rehabilitation process and been reinstated to full membership, the Director of Rabbinic Career Services shall be so informed (see Section VIII), and, with the consent of the reinstated rabbi, the CCAR membership shall also be informed.
4. A colleague who has been expelled may petition the EC to be granted the status of suspension. This status change requires a decision endorsed by two-thirds (2/3) of the members of the EC and a minimum of three members of the BOA. If a status change is granted, the rabbi shall be subject to the same requirements outlined above for suspended colleagues.
5. As part of CCAR membership, there is an obligation to uphold this Code of Ethics. It shall be a violation of this Code for a CCAR member to knowingly employ any person (directly or by consenting to the employment of such a person by their congregation/organization) who has been expelled from the CCAR for breach of this Code of Ethics and not reinstated.
1. When a rabbi has been disciplined for serious breaches of this Code of Ethics and has been suspended or expelled from the CCAR, our primary concern must be the safety of the individuals and communities we serve. The possibility of reinstatement must be considered in a context where the well-being of those who come to us for guidance and teaching is paramount.
2. While t’shuvah-rehabilitation is always possible, restoration to the active rabbinate may not always be possible for all who have been disciplined.
3. T’shuvah-rehabilitation and reinstatement require a fundamental change in behavior and understanding. Rehabilitation is a precondition for reinstatement, and whenever possible it shall be encouraged and guided by the EC.
4. To be eligible for reinstatement, the offending rabbi must have fulfilled the following requirements:
a. Unequivocal acknowledgment of responsibility for harm done to victim(s), the congregation or institution and the honor of the rabbinate, with specific violations and actions acknowledged;
b. An acceptable expression of remorse to those who have been harmed;
c. Resolve never to repeat any offense of this nature;
d. The making of restitution which may include expenses incurred by the victim(s) and/or other appropriate actions as mandated by the EC;
e. T’shuvah-rehabilitation counseling by at least two rabbinic colleagues appointed by the EC. T’shuvah-rehabilitation counselors shall meet regularly with the suspended rabbi to supervise, guide and monitor the rabbi’s progress (see Section VIII (“Ethical T’shuvah-Rehabilitation Counseling”)).
f. An appropriate course of therapy or remediation by a specialized professional approved by the EC. When a colleague is suspended, and sometimes when censured, there is both an intake and final evaluation by a qualified professional, other than the rabbi’s own therapist, chosen by the EC. Both evaluations are made available to the rabbi if he/she requests. A summary of the evaluation is sent to the EC. The rabbi is financially responsible for these evaluations.
5. Reinstatement of a sanctioned colleague shall require a recommendation by at least two (2) of the t’shuvah-rehabilitation counselors, a positive assessment by the professionals involved, and a decision by affirmative vote of at least two‑thirds (2/3) of the EC. Reinstatement is subject to any conditions the EC may impose. Notice that sanctions have been lifted shall be communicated to the rabbi in writing by the Chair of the EC.
6. Once reinstated to full membership, the rabbi may make use of the CCAR placement process. The Director of Rabbinic Career Services shall inform congregations considering the engagement of the rabbi of past complaints concerning the rabbi and of the rehabilitation that has been completed in accordance with the procedures described in Section IX (“Additional Provisions Concerning Notification”).
7. As a condition of reinstatement into the system of placement, the rabbi shall continue meeting with appropriate t’shuvah-rehabilitation counselors for at least an additional two years. When a rabbi has been suspended or expelled, and when suspension has been lifted, or where expulsion has been changed to suspension, notification shall be published in the CCAR Newsletter at the discretion of the rabbi.
f. Failure to Cooperate
1. If a rabbi fails to cooperate with EC due to a concurrent legal process, the EC may wait to adjudicate or impose sanctions until the legal process is completed.
2. If the rabbi resigns from the CCAR during the process of information gathering but prior to the adjudicatory process, the rabbi will be regarded as expelled and must apply for readmission to the conference in accordance with the procedure set out in Section V.E.2.d.4 above. Readmission must be conditional upon the resumption of the process of information gathering and the adjudicatory process. He/she must fulfill the requirements for teshuvah and rehabilitation as then determined by the adjudicatory process.
3. If a rabbi fails to cooperate with the EC during an Ethics investigation, the EC may impose a reprimand. If a rabbi who has been reprimanded fails to cooperate with the conditions imposed by the EC, the EC may impose censure. If a rabbi who has been censured fails to cooperate with the conditions imposed by the EC, the EC may impose suspension. If a rabbi who has been suspended fails to cooperate with the conditions imposed by the EC, the EC may impose expulsion.
g. The CCAR, through the CCAR Senior Staff and in coordination with the Chair of the EC, will carefully maintain a section of the publicly accessible CCAR website dealing with ethical violations.
1. A rabbi who has been suspended under this Code of Ethics, and whose suspension includes a prohibition against continued rabbinic work, will have their name listed on the CCAR newsletter, CCAR website, or CCAR member email as being a suspended member, as will those who have been given a publishable censure.
2. Rabbis who have been expelled under this Code of Ethics will have their name listed on the CCAR newsletter, CCAR website, or CCAR member email as expelled, and no longer a member of the CCAR.
h. No Time Limitations
There is no limitation period barring a complainant from filing a complaint with the EC or preventing the EC from investigating such alleged violations. However, the age of an alleged violation and the rabbi’s conduct in the years since may be taken into account by the EC in adjudicating the alleged violation.
VIII. ETHICAL T’SHUVAH REHABILITATION COUNSELING
The goal of the t’shuvah rehabilitation counseling team is to supervise, guide and monitor the rabbi toward t’shuvah rehabilitation. Discussions should lead to an awareness of the reality of what he/she has done and its impact on others. Awareness of the rabbi as an ethical role model and as one who must exemplify holiness should be emphasized.
In order to serve effectively as a t’shuvah rehabilitation counselor, it is important to maintain appropriate objectivity and confidentiality . The role of the t’shuvah rehabilitation counselor is not to be an advocate for the rabbi. In conjunction with the Chair of the EC, the t’shuvah rehabilitation counselors are responsible for helping the rabbi meet the requirements for reinstatement (an acknowledgement of responsibility, an expression of remorse, a resolve never to repeat the offending conduct, and the making of restitution) in terms of Jewish principles, values and traditions.
T’shuvah rehabilitation counselors are appointed by the Chair of the EC.
The t’shuvah rehabilitation counseling team will be composed of at least two, ideally three colleagues.
The t’shuvah rehabilitation counselors should meet with the rabbi at least every three months.
The EC will provide an orientation for the t’shuvah rehabilitation counseling team.
The t’shuvah rehabilitation counselors will remain in continuous contact with the Chair of the EC and submit written reports following each session with the rabbi.
If a new charge is brought forward before the EC while a colleague is in t’shuvah rehabilitation counseling, the Chair of the EC will notify the TRaC Team in writing.
IX. ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS CONCERNING NOTIFICATION
A. Information communicated in writing to the Director of Rabbinic Career Services shall include at least the following:
1. The fact that the person was censured, suspended or expelled on a particular date.
2. The general category and nature of the violation, and whether it involved children or minors.
3. The nature and length of the process of t’shuvah rehabilitation.
4. Either (i) the fact that the rabbi is not eligible for placement, or (ii) the date of reinstatement by the BOA or EC, or (iii) the fact that the process is still ongoing but that the rabbi has been made eligible for placement.
B. A written statement from the EC affirming that a rabbi who has been suspended, censured or expelled has now been reinstated should be retained in the files of:
1. The Director of Rabbinic Career Services.
2. The current EC Chair.
3. The Chief Executive of the CCAR.
C. When a congregational pulpit selection committee or other prospective employer decides to invite a candidate eligible for placement for an interview, the Director of Rabbinic Career Services will in writing communicate to the committee or prospective employer, with a copy to the rabbi, the information contained in the written report from the EC to the Director of Rabbinic Career Services described in section A. above. If a congregation or other prospective employer asks the Chair of the EC for additional information about the candidate, the EC Chair should ask the congregation or prospective employer to request a letter from the candidate authorizing the EC Chair to provide such information.
D. In case of adjudication in a single non-criminal infraction, after an extended period of time, the Director of Rabbinic Career Services, in consultation with the legal counsel of the Conference, the chair of the EC, and the Chief Executive of the CCAR, may refrain from communicating regarding the non-criminal infraction to the search committee of a prospective employer.
X. UNFOUNDED ALLEGATIONS
A. If, after information gathering and decision by the EC, the charge is considered to be without validity, the EC should remain mindful of the potential damage to the rabbi’s reputation and position by the mere lodging of such an invalid complaint. The EC should make every possible effort to restore the rabbi’s good name and stature.
B. If the information gathering team or EC finds that the complaint is mischievous, malicious or vindictive, the EC shall lend moral and practical support to the rabbi’s reasonable demands for apology from the complainant, vindication before the congregation/organization and/or placement elsewhere.
As members of the CCAR, we pledge ourselves to be scrupulous in our adherence to the foregoing statement of rabbinic ethics, and to hold others and ourselves to the highest standards. At the same time, we feel called to heal brokenness and in all we do to seek to balance midat hadin (principle of justice) and midat harachamim (principle of compassion)
As Adopted, March, 2003
Amended 3/31/2017, 4/1/2019, 3/17/2021
 The following abbreviations are used throughout this document:
- Board of Appeals (“BOA”)
- Central Conference of American Rabbis (“CCAR”)
- Ethics Committee (“EC”)
- Union for Reform Judaism (“URJ”)
 The duties of the Chair of the EC under this Section and the following Sections of this Code of Ethics may be delegated to another member or members of the EC pursuant to such rules and practice as the EC may develop.
 CCAR Bylaws, Article VII, Section 2.e.