September 9, 2022: CCAR Ethics System Progress Report #3

Dear friends,

When Alcalaw’s written report on the CCAR ethics system was released, we committed to sharing ongoing progress reports about changes and updates to the ethics system. We shared our first progress reports here.

In the seven months since the report was released, the CCAR has been working as diligently as possible—in a short time frame—to put into effect as many of the recommendations from that report as possible.

There have been some immediate changes that have already impacted the ongoing work of the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Process Review Committee (EPRC), having successfully proposed a first round of changes to the Ethics Code based primarily on the Alcalaw recommendations, is now working on a second round to be considered on December 8, 2022, at our next virtual business meeting.

The Ethics Task Force continues to work on developing ideas for long-term changes that will be proposed to the CCAR board, and then the membership as a whole, next year. The T’shuvah Task Force has created steps toward t’shuvah that include a ritual of acknowledgment for CCAR members, a public letter of apology, and in some cases, individual conversations of repentance.

Many of the recommendations in the Ethics Report have now been directly addressed and many are actively in process. All of this work is part of the CCAR’s ongoing t’shuvah

The following is an updated report of specific parts of the ongoing work.

Ethics Code Changes and Voting
A special sub-committee of the Ethics Process Review Committee (EPRC), led by Rabbi Tom Alpert, was formed to expedite changes to the Ethics Code and present them to the membership for a vote. The first round of proposed changes was shared with the membership in May 2022, and additional revisions were made based on feedback. These changes were voted into effect on June 9, 2022.

The next round of changes is currently in development with the subcommittee of the EPRC and will be voted on by the CCAR membership on December 8, 2022.

This next round of voting will be preceded by several informational sessions:

November 3, 5:30 PM ET;
November 3, 8:30 PM ET;
November 10, 10:30 AM ET

Overall Changes to the Ethics System
The Ethics Task Force, under the leadership of Rabbi Amy Schwartzman and Rabbi Nicki Greninger, is continuing to study the ethics processes and codes of different professional organizations, as well as religious membership groups. They are also consulting with experts in areas including restorative justice and mediation. At the culmination of this two-year process, they will bring proposals for changes to the CCAR board and then to the membership.

Among these proposals will likely be revisions to aspects of the Code and process that are outdated, as well as new systems and approaches.

Thanks in part to a grant from SRE Network, they will be meeting in person in December 2022 for an intensive retreat of study and work.

Conversations and Listening Sessions
During the course of the Ethics investigation, the Alcalaw legal team spoke to 140 people who came forward to share experiences, stories, and perspectives.

Additional stories were shared during the processing sessions, to which CCAR members were invited, immediately after the release of the report.

CCAR leadership and staff were also approached following the release of the Alcalaw report by those who wished to share stories privately.

The T’shuvah Task Force spent numerous hours speaking with forty-eight people directly impacted by the ethics process. These sessions informed the recommendations of the Task Force on specific steps for t’shuvah. The Task Force will continue to offer opportunities for those who did not come forward in the previous round.

Together, and while keeping details and names confidential where requested and appropriate, all of these conversations served as a way to meaningfully learn and reflect on what can be changed and improved in our process, our Code, our policies, and our approach. We are grateful to everyone who came forward.

We are planning another round of listening sessions to be held between Simchat Torah and Thanksgiving.

The T’shuvah Task Force, under the leadership of Rabbi Erica Asch, and informed by the listening sessions and conversations referenced above, completed their recommendations for the CCAR board in regard to institutional t’shuvah.
The CCAR membership was invited to participate in an Al Cheit ritual of acknowledgement on September 8, 2022.
A public letter of institutional apology will published in mid-September 2022.
In addition, CCAR leadership will be having conversations with individual survivors who came forward and requested follow-up opportunities for apologies and t’shuvah.

Inquiries and Complaint Intake
The CCAR has just hired Cara Raich as Ethics Advisor, Inquiries and Complaint Intake. This new position is a direct response to Alcalaw’s recommendations, so that the person initially explaining options to a potential complainant is not involved in the investigation or adjudication of complaints. The Ethics Advisor will now be the first contact for those wanting to bring forward a complaint, as well as for those looking for more information. 
Ms. Raich joins David Kasakove, CCAR Director of Rabbinic Ethics, in our expanding professional team responding to ethics concerns. As lawyers, both Raich and Kasakove bring extensive experience in ethics, and both have been involved in the Reform Movement as congregational lay leaders. 

More Education for the Ethics Committee
The CCAR is grateful to have secured funding from SRE Network (the organization that focuses on issues of gender-based abuse, harassment, and discrimination in Jewish workplaces and communal spaces) for additional high-level training with outside consultants for the members of the Ethics Committee. This funding is for joint training with the Ethics Committees of the Rabbinical Association (RA) and the Reconstructionist Rabbinic Assembly (RRA). This joint training will take place over the next two years.

Ongoing Learning
Together with our partners at URJ and HUC-JIR, we are offering a shared Movement-wide study opportunity this Elul. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, the author of On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World, is joined in conversation by Rabbi Jill Maderer on the topic of institutional t’shuvah. This study opportunity is available for communities to use as part of their Elul preparations, during the High Holy Days, or whenever they so choose. The recording is also accompanied by a discussion guide. This study opportunity is not itself an act of t’shuvah. Rather, this is a chance for all of us across the Reform Movement to learn and grow together as each of our organizations continues to move forward with our own work of t’shuvah.

We remain committed to continued learning and growth as an organization, a process that can only take root in deep self-reflection. We continue to approach, with seriousness and sincere resolve, the many recommendations that came out of the Ethics Report. Operating on the several parallel and concurrent approaches outlined here, this work continues forward with deep and thoughtful care. We have committed substantial resources and a significant investment of staff and volunteer talent toward the long-term goal of healing and repair. We ask for your patience as we continue with this essential work. 

We will continue to share updates as our work progresses.


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

Review the CCAR Code of Ethics and communications related to CCAR Ethics.