Temple Oheb Shalom’s Rabbi Steven M. Fink was suspended from the rabbinate on August 17, following more than three months suspension with pay, during which time the Central Conference of American Rabbis conducted an investigation following Oheb’s reporting of an alleged sexual incident with a minor that occurred years ago.
On August 19, Oheb Shalom president Mina Wender sent a message to congregants outlining the investigation, CCAR’s findings and how Oheb’s board is moving forward.
Guided by its extensive ethical guidelines, Wender said that CCAR’s goals include “maintaining safe and sacred communities served by rabbis who live up to the highest moral values.”
The CCAR’s months-long investigation was conducted “thoroughly and independently in accord with its procedures,” she said. The investigation included consideration of multiple claims of inappropriate conduct; interviews with more than 20 witnesses, some in person and some by telephone, including individuals supportive of Fink; review of written submissions, including submissions by Fink and by Temple Oheb Shalom; an interview with Fink in the presence of his legal counsel; and review of relevant documents.
Once the investigation was complete, both Fink and Oheb Shalom reviewed the findings and were able to provide additional comments and corrections. Wender said both Fink and the temple “were given the right” to appear in person before CCAR’s 14-member ethics committee. Fink did appear in person, but the temple did not.
“We learned late in the day Friday that following completion of its investigation and adjudication, the CCAR Ethics Committee voted to suspend Rabbi Fink for multiple violations of Section IB (Personal Responsibility, Social), Section IIA (Rabbinic Relationships, the Congregational Staff) and Section V (Ethics Guidelines Concerning Sexual Boundaries),” Wender said. “The CCAR Ethics Code states that unless otherwise directed, ‘a rabbi under suspension may not … engage in the practice of the rabbinate in any institution, including but not limited to congregations affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism.’ Specifically, the CCAR informed us that ‘As a condition of Rabbi Fink’s suspension, effective immediately, he must absent himself from all activities of Temple Oheb Shalom and any other Reform congregation unless otherwise approved by the EC.’”
The Oheb Shalom board is to meet to consider its next steps, after which it will release more information. Fink can appeal the decision to the CCAR’s Board of Appeals, although his suspension is immediate and would remain in place during any appeal.
“We are deeply saddened by these events. The past months have been extremely painful for so many of us in the Oheb family and have taken a toll on our congregation,” Wender said. “We appreciate hearing from so many of you over the past months on the future of our beloved temple and are continuing our work to solidify the vision of who we want to be as a congregation going forward.
“We want you to know how much Temple Oheb Shalom values your commitment to our congregation and community. Our top priority will always be to provide a safe and welcoming spiritual home for you and your families. Thank you for your ongoing patience, trust and support as we move forward together as a congregation.”
Interim Rabbi Marc Disick is currently spiritual leader of the congregation. Earlier this month, Har Sinai Congregation, in talks with Oheb Shalom for about a year over a possible merger of the two historical congregations, announced it was ceasing the merger process.
Fink is on CCAR’s list of Rabbis Expelled, Suspended or Censured With Publication.