To The Editor,
Over the past week we have worked with Paul Berger and The Forward to respond to questions for his article, “When Reform Leaders Downplay Charges of Rabbis Behaving Badly.”
We are pained to see any abuse or misconduct in our community. Eric Siroka’s actions are completely unacceptable to us, and we are fully committed to the sanctity, safety and security of our communities and the importance of rabbinic integrity. We take ethical misconduct of any kind extremely seriously.
We are deeply disturbed that Siroka walked away from our ethics process. While an ethics process was pending, Siroka refused to cooperate with the investigation and submitted his resignation from the CCAR, which removed him from our adjudication. We responded by formally expelling him under our Code of Ethics. As a voluntary membership organization, the Central Conference of American Rabbis unfortunately does not have the power to “defrock” or remove someone’s rabbinic title or status. However, we can make a determination that someone is unfit for membership in the CCAR, as we did in this case.
After expelling Siroka, we notified all our rabbis and congregations of his transgressions, through our rabbinic network and our partner organizations, as part of our ethics policy. We are very disturbed that Eric Siroka continued to present himself as a rabbi to the community after he was no longer a member of CCAR or operating under our purview.
It is critical for CCAR members to adhere to the highest ethical standards for rabbinic leadership. As such, the CCAR has, over the years, continued to look at how to improve and strengthen our ethics protocols and notification processes. We will continue to do so, and we are committed to ensuring safe and sacred communities served by the highest-quality rabbis.
In particular, this situation and ongoing conversations among our members have raised questions about what more we might be able to do once a rabbi has been expelled. We are taking those questions to heart, and will continue to assess how we can handle these matters as swiftly and effectively as possible.
We urge anyone who feels they have been victimized by a rabbi to report it to us; we must hear from them to correct the injustice and help move them toward healing, and we applaud those who have already bravely come forward.
Rabbi Steve Fox
Central Conference of American Rabbis