August 30, 2021: A Letter from Rabbis Lewis Kamrass and Hara Person: Announcing the CCAR Task Force on Ethics

Dear friends,

Now that the interview phase of our ethics investigation and review process has come to a close, we want to share next steps with you.

Our legal team, Alcalaw, has now begun the writing phase of the investigation. We are very grateful for everyone who has spoken to them during these months of the interview process. They have a considerable amount of material to review and consider, and it will still be some months before we have anything to share.

In the meantime, we are very pleased to announce the formation of the Task Force on Ethics. This task force of talented and thoughtful colleagues is made up of a diverse group of CCAR members. We are grateful to the chairs and all the members of this group for taking on this challenging but important work for the CCAR.

The Task Force on Ethics includes:

Amy Schwartzman, Co-Chair
Nicki Greninger, Co-Chair

Julie Bressler
Ken Chasen
Leah Cohen-Tenenbaum
Laurie Coskey
Seth Goren
Jackie Mates-Muchin
Steve Pearce
Jason Rodich
Matt Soffer
Rachel Steiner

Ana Bonnheim, ex officio
Andi Berlin, ex officio
Lewis Kamrass, ex officio
Erica Asch, ex officio
Hara Person, ex officio
David Kasakove, staff liaison
Missy Johnson, URJ, ex officio

This new Task Force on Ethics will help lead the change process that will ultimately lead to a new and updated ethics system. This group is charged with creating recommendations that will go before the CCAR Board and, as required by our constitution and bylaws, to the CCAR membership as a whole.

The CCAR ethics system, including our Code of Ethics, is a crucial part of how we uphold the rigorous standards for the ways in which Reform rabbis are expected to engage with their peers, their congregations, and their communities. The Code of Ethics and ethics system ensure our commitment to holding CCAR members accountable to the highest standards of rabbinic conduct and the moral values of our Jewish tradition. Both help fulfill our mission of accountability and maintaining the highest standards of rabbinic behavior.

This system is always evolving as times change and as we discern new insights about better ways to manage a complex system. You may recall that at CCAR Convention in March 2021, it was announced that we were embarking on an audit and assessment process of our ethics system, using outside consultants with specific professional expertise. Just when we were putting that process in place, we received serious allegations about flaws in our ethics system from the past. Based on those allegations, we opened up a rigorous neutral ethics investigation, led by a team of lawyers from the firm Alcalaw, who are experts in investigating sexual misconduct and come from a place of trauma awareness.

The results of their investigation will form the first part of our audit and assessment process, with the end goal of strengthening our ethics system and doing all we can to ensure safe and sacred communities. The outcomes and recommendations of the investigation will result in the need to make significant changes to our ethics system driven by this new Task Force on Ethics. Though they may be painful, we welcome the findings from this investigation because we are confident that they will support our original goal of undertaking a full audit and assessment of the system, to reckon publicly with our past, regain trust, and create a better future.

This will be a long, thoughtful process, and change will not be immediate. But we are committed to taking the time necessary to create deep, meaningful, and long-lasting change. The formation of this new Task Force on Ethics is a critical step in this important process.

Wishing you a sweet, happy, and healthy new year. Shanah tovah um’tukah.


Lewis Kamrass, President
Hara Person, Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis