Separate statements issued May 2 by Temple Oheb Shalom leadership and the synagogue’s former spiritual leader, Rabbi Steven Fink, made public a resolution to issues that began a year ago this month when Fink was suspended with pay following an allegation of sexual impropriety.
Following that, unfolded a year that included an investigation conducted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), Fink’s suspension from the rabbinate in August, a subsequent Oheb Shalom congregational vote Oct. 21 to support a board decision to terminate his contract and his expulsion from the rabbinate in December.
Throughout, Fink maintained that he was innocent, the charges bogus and the CCAR’s (the Reform rabbinic leadership organization) and temple’s processes and investigations unfair. In September, Fink’s lawyer Andrew Jay Graham, said Fink had been “defamed” and that “if a satisfactory resolution can’t be reached, we will be filing suit and we will have these issues resolved in front of a judge and jury.”
On Thursday, the Oheb Shalom board released a statement that said when Fink’s employment contract was terminated in October, he told the board he intended to “sue both the Temple and individuals who are part of our community.”
“Temple Oheb Shalom recently made the decision to resolve the ongoing dispute so that our congregational community can move beyond the painful events of the past year. We take no pleasure in agreeing to this settlement,” the statement said. “After lengthy deliberation, the Temple’s Board of Directors decided that protracted litigation is not in our congregation’s interest and settlement with Rabbi Fink now ends the conflict and disparagement that have distracted the Temple from our core mission.
“At every stage of this difficult matter, we have followed the law and have done all that we could to protect the dignity and confidentiality of those who came forward. We hope that our resolution today will provide Temple Oheb Shalom with much deserved peace and the opportunity to continue building on our strong history to create a more healthy and vibrant Temple community.”
For his part, Fink’s statement, also released Thursday, said that he and his wife, Sally Fink, had reached “a mutually agreed resolution between ourselves and those against whom we were prepared to assert our legal claims in court.”
“We agreed to settlement in the sincere hope that it will serve the best interests of the synagogue we both served for almost 20 years,” the statement said. Sally Fink was put on leave with pay from her position as Oheb’s director of lifelong learning on Sept. 4.
“The conflicts, the attendant acrimony, and the adverse publicity must end, once and for all. Sally and I have personally put the past behind us. We look forward to brighter, more peaceful times ahead. Sally and I must live the rest of our lives the best we can. We sincerely wish TOS and its present and future congregants peace, happiness and success in the years ahead. We will cherish the many memories of our time at Oheb Shalom.”
Meanwhile, a merger process between Oheb Shalom and Har Sinai, which was put on hold in July, “has been rekindled and is going well,” according to the temple.