Jun 15, 2004
Each member of the Rabbinical Council of America is committed to conducting himself according to the highest standards of Halacha and morality in all aspects of his professional and personal life. While a breach of such standards may be subject to the review and the action of the standing Beis Din HaKovod (Vaad HaKovod), we view as particularly heinous, intolerable and as a gross Hillul Hashem, those actions which are abusive or exploitative in nature or which violate the trust and power of the rabbinate. These heinous behaviors include any form of sexual activity or sexualized contact with any person to whom the rabbi is not married or with any minor; lewd behavior; the exploitation of the rabbinic position for the purpose of gaining sexual gratification or sexual favors; abusive physical contact; abusive manipulation, through speech or other behaviors, of the power imbalance inherent in the relationship between the rabbi and any person with whom he has professional interaction. While all of these behaviors are reprehensible and intolerable, the jurisdiction of the Vaad HaTzedek includes, but is not limited to, any form of sexual activity or sexualized contact with any person to whom the rabbi is not married or with any minor; lewd behavior; the exploitation of the rabbinic position for the purpose of gaining sexual gratification or sexual favors. These behaviors will be subject to review and appropriate action by the Vaad HaTzedek and may lead to the censure of a member or to expulsion from the RCA.
These guidelines are being established for the purposes of ensuring the proper investigation and a fair and unbiased hearing of allegations, to aid the victims of impropriety and to hold members of the Rabbinical Council of America responsible for improper behavior as well as to protect them from false allegations.
Policy and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Rabbinic Impropriety
A. If any person, an alleged victim or any person who claims to be aware of inappropriate activity of the type which falls within the jurisdiction of the Vaad HaTzedek, has a complaint against a member of the RCA for violation of one of the behaviors listed above, and contacts the RCA Office, he/she shall be directed to address his/her complaint to the Executive Vice President or his designee.
B. The Executive Vice President or his designee shall complete an intake form that will record the basic details of the accusation, including the name of the complainant and the name of the accused.
C. One copy of this form will be kept on permanent, confidential file in the RCA Office.
D. One copy of this form will be sent to the Complaint Assessors within 2 working days.
E. The Executive Vice President or his designee shall explain the process to the complainant and refer the complaint for assessment as prescribed in Point II.
F. The Executive Vice President shall refer any member of the RCA convicted of a felony to the Vaad HaTzedek for a determination of whether his membership should be terminated.
G. If allegations are made against the Executive Vice President of the RCA, all responsibilities herein invested in the Executive Vice President of the RCA shall be performed by the President.
II. Complaint Assessment
A. The Complaint Assessors shall be two individuals, male and female, not members of the RCA, who have training in the area of sexual abuse and who will be able to assess whether an allegation possesses sufficient credibility to be referred for complete investigation.
B. The Complaint Assessors shall contact the complainant within 5 working days of the receipt of the report of the complaint.
C. During this interview the Complaint Assessors shall:
a. Explain the process to the complainant.
b. Gather and help clarify the details of the complaint.
c. Obtain a written form of release from the complainant, the content of which will be determined by the Vaad HaTzedek in consultation with counsel.
d. Identify resources (e.g., confidential counseling, pastoral consultation) that are available to assist the complainant.
D. The Complaint Assessors shall determine the credibility of the complaint and whether it should proceed to the Fact Finding Team.
a. Should the Complaint Assessors find that the allegation is not credible and that no further action should be taken, they shall so inform the Executive Vice President of the RCA in writing.
(a) The Executive Vice President of the RCA shall promptly send a letter stating the finding to the complainant informing the complainant of the Complaint Assessor’s decision.
(b) A copy of this letter shall be kept along with the initial complaint form on permanent, confidential file in the RCA Office.
b. If the Complaint Assessors determine that the allegation is credible and that further action should be taken, they shall submit, within 5 working days after the initial interview, a written report of the allegation to the Fact Finding Team described in Point III.
c. In any case of doubt, or if there is disagreement between the Complaint Assesors, the complaint shall be referred to the Fact Finding Team.
d. Upon report to the Fact Finding Team, the Executive Vice President of the RCA shall notify the accused RCA member in writing.
(a) of the nature and substance of the allegations against him,
(b) that the allegations have been referred to the Fact Finding Team,
(c) of the details of the process of investigation,
(d) of resources (e.g., confidential counseling, pastoral consultation) available to assist him.
E. Any interference or intimidation of the complainant during any of these proceedings by the rabbi or by people acting on his behalf shall be viewed with great alarm and may be considered sufficient grounds to expel the rabbi from membership in the RCA.
F. Any interference or intimidation during any of these proceedings on the part of any member of the RCA is prohibited and may itself be considered sufficient grounds to expel the rabbi from membership.
G. As provided in the Constitution of the Rabbinical Council of America, Article III, Section 5, whenever proceedings under this article shall be commenced and the member against whom such proceedings have been instituted shall submit his resignation as a member of the Rabbinical Council of America, the proceedings, in the discretion of the Executive Committee, may either be continued or terminated. If continued, the Executive Committee shall proceed to a final determination of the issue and may publicize its findings, conclusions and recommendations.
I. The Rabbinical Council of America and each of the members of its committees shall at all times comply with relevant federal, state and local abuse reporting legislation. Even where there is no legal requirement to report, if, at any time during the proceedings, it is deemed by any of the members of any of the committees described herein that there is sufficient cause for immediate concern for the safety and welfare of alleged or potential victims, it shall recommend to the officers of the RCA to take immediate and appropriate protective action. The Officers may decide to take such action which may include informing the civil authorities, informing the institution(s) the rabbi serves, or informing the members of the community in which he lives.
III. Fact Finding Team (FFT)
A. The FFT shall be composed of five members appointed by the President of the RCA:
a. Two members of the Rabbinical Council of America.
b. One Mental Health Professional with experience appropriate to the case under consideration.
c. Two members of the legal profession with trial experience.
d. At least one of the members of the FFT shall be a woman.
e. All members of the FFT shall have appropriate training in the area of sexual abuse. The requirements shall be set from time to time by the officers of the RCA.
f. The five members of the FFT shall choose one chair from among themselves who shall preside at the hearings.
B. The Fact Finding Team shall, subject to the approval of the officers of the RCA, engage the services of an Evidence Gatherer to investigate the allegations of misconduct. Evidence gathering shall be conducted by a person or persons experienced in conducting criminal-type investigations. This may include other investigative professionals or agencies as the FFT deems necessary.
a. The EG shall interview the complainant, the accused, and any witness and shall gather any physical or documentary evidence. The EG shall compile a report of the interviews and of any evidence.
b. The EG shall have available to him/her confidential files of previously substantiated and unsubstantiated complaints, and any allegations that surface during the process of the investigation.
c. The EG shall prepare a report of his/her findings which it shall submit to the Fact Finding Team (FFT) and to the accused rabbi
B. The FFT shall evaluate the evidence presented to it and shall hold a hearing at which it will enable the accused rabbi to be confronted with any and all evidence and testimony against him and in which he shall have sufficient opportunity to defend himself, including presenting testimony and physical, documentary and other forms of evidence. In cases of alleged child victims, while preserving the right of the accused to be confronted by his accusers, the FFT will take into account the unique requirements of the situation and conduct itself appropriately and sensitively.
C. The complainant and the accused may be accompanied by a lawyer or an advisor when meeting with the FFT. These advisors may advise their clients during the hearing and may address the VHT at the discretion of the VHT.
D. The FFT shall hear from professionals as appropriate.
E. The FFT shall determine the facts in the case and shall submit a detailed written report of its findings, along with its recommendation for action, to the Vaad HaTzedek.
H. A copy of this report shall be sent to the complainant and to the accused and shall be kept on permanent, confidential file in the RCA Office and shall not be released by the RCA except as required by law or subject to the needs of the RCA.
I. If allegations have been made against the President of the RCA, all responsibilities herein invested in the President of the RCA shall be performed by the First Vice President.
J. If a case is under active investigation by authorized government officials, the RCA may suspend its procedures until that investigation has concluded. The RCA may take the results of the government investigation into account in reaching its verdict and may refer such findings immediately to the Vaad HaTzedek without reference to the FFT.
IV. Vaad HaTzedek (VHT)
A. The Vaad HaTzedek shall consist of three members.
a. The President of the RCA shall appoint a standing pool of seven RCA members to serve on the Vaad HaTzedek, subject to the approval of the Executive.
b. From this group of seven, the President shall appoint a chair of the Vaad HaTzedek, subject to the approval of the Executive. The Chair shall serve for a term of five years.
c. Two other members of the VHT shall be chosen randomly from this pool to serve for a period of three years. Every three years another two members shall be chosen randomly.
d. If a sitting member of the VHT is unable to serve in a particular case for reason of conflict of interest or for other reasons, a replacement shall be chosen randomly from the existing pool. If all members of the existing pool recuse themselves from serving, another pool of seven members shall be appointed, as above, and shall be selected to serve on the VHT as above.
e. All members of the VHT shall have appropriate training in the area of sexual abuse. The requirements shall be set from time to time by the officers of the RCA.
B. The VHT shall review and evaluate the report of the FFT.
C. Recognizing that there may not always be kosher witnesses or absolute proof of the allegations and recognizing the rights of both the alleged victim and of the accused, the VHT shall base its decision on omed ha-da’at (in the spirit of Shu”t Shevut Ya’akov, III, no. 142 quoted in Pithei Teshuvah, Hoshen Mishpat 15, no.9, and Rema, Hoshen Mishpat 35:14.), its good faith evaluation of the evidence and the statements of the complainant, the rabbi and all witnesses and evidence.
D. The VHT shall presume the report of the FFT to be true, and may not set it aside except upon clear and convincing showing of error or fundamental unfairness of the proceedings.
E. The VHT may either dismiss the charges or refer the case back to the FFT for further fact finding.
F. The VHT shall meet with the accused rabbi to discuss the findings of the FFT and may meet with the complainant and any witness it deems necessary.
G. The VHT shall offer the complainant the opportunity to make a statement.
H. Within 30 working days of receiving the written report of the FFT, the VHT shall make its determination regarding the allegation. Should the VHT need more time to evaluate the allegations, it shall request an extension from the President of the RCA.
I. Should the VHT, by a majority vote, find that the allegations brought against the accused member are unproven, they shall so inform the Executive Vice President of the RCA who shall send a letter to this effect to the complainant and the accused.
J. Should the VHT, by a majority vote, find that the allegations brought against the accused member are proven:
a. the VHT shall determine what action shall be taken against the member: expulsion or reprimand. Expulsion shall be effected immediately by the decision of the VHT.
b. where it deems it appropriate, the VHT may require that the member undergo counseling. A rabbi’s failure to comply with the requirements set by the VHT shall be reviewed by the VHT and be subject to further action by the VHT.
c. in setting a penalty, the VHT shall take into account the severity of the offense, whether the incident was a one-time offense or whether it is part of a pattern of behavior, the harm to victims, and the effectiveness of lesser measures to prevent future violations. Furthermore, the VHT shall take into account the principles of Kiddush and Hillul Hashem, Kevod Shamayim and Kevod HaBeriyot.
d. the VHT shall send a written report of its decision to the President of the RCA who shall take whatever steps are necessary to implement the decision of the VHT.
e. in all cases of expulsion, the President shall instruct the Executive Vice President of the RCA to notify the president, principal or any ranking supervisor or lay chair of the institution(s) or organization(s) which the rabbi serves; the chair of the Rabbinic Placement Committee; and the membership of the RCA of its decision. It shall also determine who else, if anyone, shall be informed of its decision.
f. in cases of reprimand, the VHT shall determine who shall be informed of its decision.
g. a copy of the decision of the VHT shall be kept on permanent, confidential file in the RCA Office.
V. These rules and procedures shall be effective for complaints received after adoption of these policy and procedures.