Temple Oheb Shalom has called a special congregational meeting for Oct. 21 regarding the potential termination of Rabbi Steven Fink’s contract.
In a letter sent to congregants, temple board president Mina Wender said that members may vote in person or by proxy on the board’s decision to terminate Fink’s employment in accordance with temple bylaws.
“On August 22 and September 26, 2018, the board of trustees unanimously voted to terminate the employment of Rabbi Fink as our senior rabbi for cause,” Wender wrote. “All past presidents and past chairpersons present at those meetings unanimously affirmed that vote. This action resulted from his violations of the ethics code of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) as prescribed in his employment agreement with Temple Oheb Shalom.”
The termination process began following allegations of sexual impropriety by Fink and his subsequent suspension from the rabbinate by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform rabbinic leadership organization.
Members were also sent a lengthy report detailing the board’s process, which synagogue spokeswoman Amy Rotenberg said “meticulously” followed CCAR regulations, Oheb Shalom bylaws and Fink’s own contract. The contract, Rotenberg also noted, includes a provision stating that a violation of CCAR ethics codes would be grounds for termination.
Accompanying that report was an FAQ addressing issues such as who can vote, what happens next and why details of the investigation by the CCAR were kept private.
Fink continues to deny all allegations and says the CCAR’s and Oheb’s processes are flawed, unfair and that he has not received “due process or real ability to defend myself.” He also alleged that there is a conspiracy by Oheb’s board to unseat him.
In a letter addressed to synagogue members, Fink stated his objections and called on members to vote “no” on his contract termination at the Oct. 21 meeting.
“You should vote NO, because the board’s and the CCAR’s unjust decisions both should be rejected,” Fink wrote. “I am still a fully qualified rabbi and my ability to perform rabbinic functions at Temple Oheb Shalom or any other Reform congregation is up to that congregation.”
In response to Fink’s claims he was not able to defend himself, Rotenberg said that the “appropriate forum for Rabbi Fink to have made his case and defended himself was the CCAR and then before the board of trustees of the temple. Those were the two proper forums and he had extensive opportunity in writing and in person to present to both of those forums.”
In response to Fink’s letter, seven past presidents and past board chairpersons of Oheb Shalom sent a letter to the congregation on Oct. 13 urging them to vote to ratify the termination of Fink’s contract. Under the CCAR suspension, Fink is barred from “providing rabbinic services to individuals or communities” and could not fulfill his responsibilities delineated in his employment agreement,” according to the letter.
The past presidents and past board chairpersons also said that not terminating Fink’s contract would “place a significant financial burden on the Temple.”