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As participants in our holy community – including members, lay leaders, clergy and professional staff (collectively “partners”) – we hold ourselves to the highest standards of personal and professional integrity, moral conscience, and social responsibility. This congregational code of ethics (“code”) articulates expectations for ethical behavior for partners and provides the structures and processes necessary to implement and enforce the code. By delineating expectations of all participants and identifying areas of potential ethical challenge, we strengthen both our sacred partnerships with one another and our holy community.

All temple partners pledge to be scrupulous in adhering to this code; we will hold both ourselves and our fellow partners to the highest standards. As a community, we implement this code in a manner that balances the principles of midat hadin (justice) and midat harachamim (compassion). Furthermore, this code is a “living” document; we will regularly evaluate the code in the light of experience, and, as appropriate, update the code.

Our Code of Ethics

I. Inclusivity and Respect

Every individual who enters our holy community is valued. Partners will conduct themselves and their relationships in an open and honest way, treating others with respect, dignity, and fairness in accordance with the Jewish value of derech eretz (decency and respect). To that end, partners will:

Conduct themselves with good manners and common courtesy.

Refrain from lashon hara (negative talk, gossip, and slander).

Refrain from derogatory speech.

Encourage open discussion, while maintaining confidences.

Express openness and willingness to engage with all other partners and support one another’s work.

II. Personal Responsibility

As partners in our sacred community, we must conduct ourselves according to the highest standards of moral behavior in our society. This means behaving at a level worthy of emulation and avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

A. Personal and Professional Integrity

As temple partners, we are expected to behave in a manner that brings credit to our congregation and to the community. This behavior includes, but is not limited to:

Conducting ourselves in an honest manner and being truthful in communications and conduct.

Conducting all financial affairs with complete honesty and integrity and refraining from financial impropriety (e.g., embezzlement, nonpayment of just debts, inappropriate use of restricted funds, or tax evasion).

Representing accomplishments and achievements accurately.

Considering the impact of accepting gifts (such as a clergy or staff member’s acceptance of a gift from a congregant; a partner’s acceptance of a gift from a synagogue vendor) and accepting gifts only in accordance with gift and conflict of interest policies on such matters, always being mindful of perceptions that such acceptance may generate.

Refraining from hiring or firing, rewarding or punishing staff or volunteers, and awarding or denying contracts based solely on personal considerations (e.g., favoritism, nepotism, or bribery).

Establishing and enforcing the appropriate procedures to protect the assets of the Congregation.

Staying informed of and providing accurate information on issues, practices, policies, rules, regulations, and laws that govern our work, professional, and volunteer activities – always striving to implement them in a forthright, fair, and equitable manner.

Reporting unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate internal and/or external authorities.

Recognizing, respecting, and protecting the intellectual property rights and contributions of others, including complying with copyright laws that govern how published materials are used and distributed.

B. Life Balance and Personal Care

For many, our roles within the synagogue include caring for others. We encourage partners to take care of themselves and stay attuned to their own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health needs. As a caring community, we strive to set an example and establish procedures that respect a healthy life balance for all partners, fostering an atmosphere that promotes respect and mutual support.

Partners should remain aware of warning signs in behavior and moods in themselves or others that could indicate conditions detrimental to our physical and emotional well-being, for example, inappropriate use of controlled substances or misuse of prescription drugs. If such misuse is recognized or identified, we have a responsibility to seek help immediately.

C. Social and Public Persona

Leaders of religious communities are held to a high standard of conduct. We are the faces of our communities and may receive heightened public scrutiny. Leaders’ behavior outside the synagogue, which may seem private, could affect not only our own reputations, but also that of our synagogue. We must gauge our actions accordingly.

A positive reputation, including our presence on social media, is one of the most difficult assets to establish and one of the easiest to lose. We should be mindful of when our personal communications could be misconstrued as representing the views of the synagogue or another organization, and we should refrain from communications that are inappropriate (e.g., obscene content and defamatory statements).

III. Personal Boundaries and Harassment

As temple partners, we must ensure that personal boundaries, including those related to romantic and sexual matters, are always respected. We also are responsible for responding appropriately to allegations or discovery of boundary-crossing by others.

Temple partners should never:

Engage in any act or behavior, even if it appears to be consensual, that exploits the vulnerability of another, takes advantage of a power imbalance, compromises one’s moral integrity, or creates an intimidating, offensive, abusive, or hostile environment.

Use a position or authority to intimidate, bully, or unduly influence others or allow other partners or guests of the synagogue to do so.

Engage in abusive, harassing, or bullying behavior or unlawful discrimination.

A. Bullying

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior, whether a single act or a series of repeated incidents. It can include verbal behavior (e.g., making threats, inappropriate sexual or other comments, and taunting), social misconduct (e.g., spreading rumors and exclusion), physical behavior (e.g., harming a person’s body or possessions), or cyberbullying (similar conduct using electronic media). Bullying often involves a real or perceived power imbalance, such as using physical strength or access to embarrassing information, a position in an organization, or popularity to control or harm others.

B. Sexual Harassment and Misconduct

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature. It includes, but is not limited to when:

Submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment or standing within the community.

Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual or decisions about community participation (whether or not there are direct economic consequences).

Such conduct has the purpose or effect, intentionally or unintentionally, of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or volunteer performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

These categories of behavior are inherently unethical and never acceptable in the temple community:

Sexual abuse, including of a child.

Sexual activity with a person who is legally incompetent or otherwise unable to give consent.

Physical assaults or violence, or any attempt to commit such acts.

Unwanted, intentional physical contact.

Possession of or sharing of pornographic or sexually explicit material.

Unwelcome sexual activities, advances, comments, bullying, electronic communications, stalking or invasion of privacy.

Direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of employment, promotion, or affiliation with the temple.

C. Reporting Abuse

We abide by the Jewish precept of “Do not stand idly by” (Leviticus 19:16). As partners in a Jewish community, we have an ethical obligation to protect victims of abuse or neglect when made aware of such circumstances, no matter where they occur. Partners are urged to act and report all reasonable concerns of abuse or neglect.¹ Partners with a professional obligation to report circumstances of abuse or neglect must follow applicable professional guidelines and laws.

IV. Inclusion and Discrimination

Temple partners must understand and appreciate diversity. We must establish an environment and policies that promote respect for every individual in our congregation and our community regardless of: ancestry, age, disability (mental, physical or emotional), genetic information, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, medical condition, military or veteran status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, financial means, or political affiliation.

V. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is among the most important congregational principles. Confidentiality involves preserving information, especially as it pertains to personal or private information about congregants, employees, volunteers, and business and financial data of the synagogue. Personal and financial information is confidential and should not be discussed or disclosed without permission. Even well-meaning disclosure of information revealed in confidence may have damaging results. Care should be taken to ensure that confidential conversations are not overheard and that any documents containing confidential information are not left in the open or inadvertently shared. Under certain circumstances, however, it may be necessary to share otherwise confidential information to avoid harm.

As special diligence is required for employment discussions, the community shall:

a. Protect information to which we have access by way of a “need-to-know” to support our professional roles in the congregation, including personnel information related to employment status or progression, compensation, performance management, etc.

b. Discourage the seeking of employment-related information about others.

c. Refrain from speculation about other partners’ personal situations (e.g., health, financial

difficulty, marital problems).

d. Refrain from sharing, even with family members, information obtained in confidence (e.g., in an executive session of a board meeting).

e. Establish and strictly follow procedures when conducting personnel searches, including, in the case of clergy, guidance from their professional organizations (e.g., CCAR or ACC). It is especially important to prevent inadvertent and untimely release of candidate names and prior employment details.

There are inherent challenges in using the internet, email, and social media, as well as texting and other electronic communications. Temple partners should demonstrate respect, professionalism, and good judgment when using any such technology. Special care must be taken to protect confidentiality when using social media (e.g., blogs, message boards, chat rooms, electronic newsletters, online forums, social networking sites, and other sites and services that permit users to share information and photography with others).

VI. Internal and External Communications

A. Social Media

The temple encourages partners to utilize electronic media for temple activities and welcomes the dissemination of ideas that electronic media make possible. Sharing temple-related content in a positive way advances our mission. But we must avoid posting impulsively or without verifying information from third parties before posting. In addition, partners must remain aware that what they do outside the temple could affect the temple’s reputation. Although social media offers extraordinary opportunities for communication and transparency, it poses challenges because of the difficulty in recalling erroneous, inappropriate, or otherwise concerning messages. Partners will:

Observe the other principles of this code when posting to social media.

Recognize that, depending on our role, we may be viewed as representatives of the congregation even when making a personal post. When necessary, partners should clarify whether they are making a personal statement or a statement on behalf of the temple.

Observe all copyright and trademark laws.

B. Email

Email communications must be handled carefully to avoid unauthorized or inadvertent disclosures of confidential information, for example, by leaving confidential information on computer screens. Viewing or sending pornographic jokes or stories using synagogue communications systems is prohibited.

C. Intellectual Property

Partners should recognize, respect and protect the intellectual property rights of the temple and others. This obligation includes obeying copyright laws governing how published materials are used and distributed.

VII. Conflicts of Interest

Temple partners should avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest. Those in positions of authority and influence, including members of the board, officers, and staff members, must conduct all congregational business in a manner that is morally, ethically, and fiscally of the highest order and can bear public scrutiny at all times. Decisions of the board, officers, and staff must always be guided by the policies of the synagogue and in its best interests.

Wherever possible, conduct should be based solely on the best interests of the temple under applicable laws and regulations. Actions should not be influenced by personal considerations or the appearance of such factors.

For our purposes, a “conflict of interest” means one or more of these scenarios:

1) A transaction in which a partner or a close family member has a direct or indirect interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome of any transaction or matter involving the temple.

2) Considerations or competing interests exist, real or perceived, for an interested partner, other than the best interests of the temple.

3) A situation in which a partner has a relationship with other parties that might reasonably be expected to affect the conduct of the partner in a manner inconsistent with the overriding duty he or she has to advance the interest of the temple.

When acting on behalf of the synagogue, a partner should never, without full disclosure and appropriate approvals from relevant temple leaders:

a. Divulge or release proprietary or confidential information about the temple, its deliberations, or partners.

b. Obtain personal advantage or benefit due to his or her temple position.

c. Use the temple’s property or resources for personal benefit.

A potential conflict of interest can be difficult to discern. It may arise in settings beyond the obvious business relationship setting (e.g., the acceptance of gifts, honoraria, royalties, or using intellectual property that belongs to the temple). Partners must consult others about any real or potential conflicts and assist one another to resolve any such conflicts.

VIII. Employment Practices: Hiring, Discipline and Termination

The temple must ensure employment practices and related decision making are undertaken in an ethical and legal manner. Those partners who engage in such matters have a responsibility to:

Conduct all personnel matters with integrity.

Implement hiring, discipline, termination, and other employment practices in a forthright, fair, legal, and equitable manner.

Establish and enforce the appropriate policies and procedures to protect the employees of the congregation, including fair employment policies, grievance reporting, and conflict resolution procedures.

Refrain from hiring or firing, rewarding or punishing, and awarding or denying benefits based on personal considerations, including but not limited to, favoritism, nepotism, or bribery.

Stay informed of, compliant with, and provide accurate information on issues, practices, policies, rules, regulations, and laws that govern our work, professional, and volunteer activities.

Report unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate internal and/or external authorities. Ensure rigorous adherence to effective procedures that respond to grievances, incidents and needs.

IX. Reporting Protections

The temple promotes compliance with this code of ethics, temple employment policies and

procedures, and applicable laws and regulations. Temple partners are encouraged to raise serious concerns about such violations.

Certain partners have a legal or professional duty to report certain cases of suspected, actual, or potential violations of law, regulations, policies, procedures, or codes, and to protect individuals against retaliation for reporting such violations.

In addition, partners may sometimes learn of situations that appear to violate or potentially violate this code. Partners must balance the responsibility of reporting suspected serious violations and avoiding excessive personal scrutiny of an individual’s activities.

A. Serious Violations

The temple shall maintain and widely communicate its open and safe policy for internal reporting of serious violations or suspected serious code violations to congregational leaders (lay or professional). Matters that must be reported under this policy include but are not limited to actual or suspected:

1. Abuse, neglect, or sexual harassment

2. Fraud

3. Theft or misuse of assets

4. Harassment of or improper retaliation against a person

5. Discrimination

6. Breaches of confidential information

7. Undisclosed conflicts of interest

The temple is committed to promptly investigating any reported violations and requires temple partners to assist in such investigations upon request.

B. Non-Retaliation

The temple will take no adverse action or other retaliation against any partner who in good faith reports a suspected violation of the code or assists in an investigation. Partners shall not harass, take adverse action against, or engage in any other form of retaliation against any person who makes a good faith report of a violation or suspected violation of law, regulations, policy, or procedure of the code. This policy applies to good faith internal and external reports to outside agencies with jurisdiction over the matter reported. This protection does not apply to anyone who deliberately makes a false accusation of a violation or suspected violation.

C. Addressing Ethical Violations

All temple partners shall be informed of this code whether, for example, by being given a summary document or told how to access the code on the temple website. A partner approached about a complaint should respond with sensitivity and compassion and should withhold judgment on guilt or innocence of all parties. Any complainant or potential complainant should be informed that the temple has a complaint procedure that can be obtained on the synagogue website or by contacting the temple president or executive director.

A. Reporting Complaints or Allegations

Complaints or allegations can be directed to any one or more of these congregational leaders:

Congregational ethics officer

Board president

Executive director


Specific temple leaders shall be identified as responsible for overseeing investigations and resolving all reported complaints and allegations about violations of this code and will advise the board president and/or the executive director of such matters. Confidentiality will be maintained throughout any complaint management to the extent reasonable and practicable under the circumstances and consistent with appropriate investigative and corrective action. Investigative and corrective actions will be appropriately documented.

B. Role and Structure of the Ethics Committee

A lay leader will be identified as responsible for receiving such reports and addressing alleged violations. This designated “ethics officer” will chair an ethics committee of three to five members of the congregation. The ethics officer and committee members should be congregants who demonstrate integrity, leadership, independence, and an ability to handle challenging situations in a diplomatic and confidential manner. Members of this committee will be recused if an allegation relates to them.

C. Investigating Alleged Code Violations

When an allegation is first reported to the ethics officer, usually the ethics officer should, whenever possible, immediately confer with independent legal counsel representing the congregation and with the temple’s insurance company. If the alleged ethics violator is a member of a professional organization with its own code of ethics (e.g., CCAR, ACC, NATA, or the URJ), the committee should consult with the ethics committee chair of that organization, to coordinate the congregation’s process with that of the professional organization, balancing the needs of the congregation and those of the professional body.

In circumstances of investigation of and/or consideration of a remedy for an ethics violation, the committee should be mindful that the congregation is a sacred community. Full consideration should be given to the goals of healing and reconciliation in determining how to proceed and what actions should be taken. This suggestion is not intended to minimize the importance or the consequence of violating this code. Rather, given the broad range of possible code violations, responses to such behavior should be proportional and sensitive to the fact that these are circumstances in which congregants are dealing with fellow temple partners.

Although there is no time limitation on a partner raising an ethics complaint or the temple investigating and/or addressing alleged violations, the age of an alleged violation and the respondent’s conduct in the years since may be considered in addressing the alleged violation.

D. Cooperation and Non-retaliation

The temple is committed to promptly investigating any reported violations. All partners are expected to cooperate with any synagogue requests to assist in an investigation. Harassment or taking adverse action affecting the employment or volunteer status of any partner who makes a good faith report of unethical conduct under the code is itself unethical conduct and violates this code. Good faith reporters and participants in any part of the complaint and investigation process should expect to endure no form of retaliation for their participation.

E. Confidentiality

Complaints and investigations about alleged or suspected violations of this code, and related information, will be kept confidential to the extent possible, consistent with the need to conduct an adequate and timely investigation and to prevent imminent harm. Information related to complaints and the parties involved shall be confidential; no one shall disseminate any information regarding a complaint or the facts and circumstances relating to such matters, except as necessary to conduct a fair, adequate and timely investigation, to prevent imminent and substantial harm to affected persons or the temple, or as otherwise

required by law.

No member of the ethics committee or other person involved in the investigation or made aware of the complaint shall disseminate any information regarding a pending complaint to any source outside of the investigation, including the media, unless legally compelled to do so.

Where the allegations raise the possibility of imminent and substantial harm, the synagogue president, in consultation with the ethics chair, may take such action as deemed appropriate. Legal obligations will supersede any procedures in these provisions.

F. Code of Ethics Review and Revision

Review and revision of the code is a recurring responsibility of the temple and is essential to ensuring the code’s currency and relevance, and to enhancing its accuracy and comprehensiveness. Modifications to the code may be proposed to the ethics committee by any partner. Revisions to the code shall be approved by the temple board of directors.


¹ Reporting is generally not mandatory for abuse that occurs outside of the synagogue, other than in circumstances involving abuse of a minor, which must always be reported. Reporting elder abuse also may be mandatory. Check your local and state/provincial laws for further clarification.

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