May 12, 2009
Our Torah commands sanctity in the marketplace and workplace as in the home and synagogue. From Biblical times to the present, Jews have been summoned to a life of ethical behavior and social responsibility, of respect for both ritual practice and the rule of civil law. This tradition acknowledges the legitimacy of property rights as well as business profit, but simultaneously challenges us to fulfill principles of just conduct, even when faced with serious financial challenges.
It is naturally the responsibility of synagogues as central Jewish institutions of assembly, and of Jewish day schools as centers for teaching Jewish knowledge and imbuing Jewish values, to implement and practice exemplary public policies that demonstrate and promote the centrality of these values.
Recently the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has begun issuing a series of guidelines delineating ethical business practices for employer and employee, market and consumer, in an effort to educate and inspire sanctity in earning a livelihood, as in the entirety of our religious lives.
This effort to educate and inspire recognizes that a person�s past impropriety does not irrevocably define his path. Consequently, we fervently hope that individuals who have become associated with questionable activities will find ways to rehabilitate themselves and engage in the sorts of meaningful acts of teshuvah that will demonstrate to the community's satisfaction that they have put these activities behind them. However, until such acts of honest contrition take place, other courses of action, symbolic as well as substantive, are required.
Therefore, be it resolved that we must vigorously educate and demonstrate to our laity and our day school students and parents, especially in our trying economic times, that the Torah mandate for ethical behavior and social responsibility is paramount.
We call upon synagogues to review longstanding policies and publicly reaffirm among their membership that ritual kibbudim, leadership positions and public honors and recognitions should be conferred only upon those whose reputations for honesty and ethical conduct comport with these values.
Ritual kibbudim include leading services, opening and closing the Aron Kodesh, ascending to the Torah, and raising the Torah and rolling it closed.
Leadership positions include serving as gabbai, synagogue officer or board member, or otherwise occupying a position of honor in the synagogue administration.
Public honors and recognition include receiving special mention at synagogue banquets and assemblies, and having names assigned to synagogue facilities or inscribed in places of honor.
It is understood that moral turpitude may come to light only long after it has been committed. In some cases, allegations of corruption may defy judicial clarification for months and years. In such circumstances, the synagogue should take all of these steps immediately upon its verification of past corruption.
We further call upon synagogues to place an enhanced premium on according meaningful honor - honor in synagogue ritual, honor in selection to serve in synagogue governance, and honor in other aspects of public synagogue recognition - to individuals whose financial standing may be modest but who, by their own exemplary conduct and noble deeds, bring honor to their synagogues, their communities, and to the Torah and G-d of Israel.
We call upon other Jewish institutions in our land to adopt and execute policies similar to those we urge above for synagogues and Jewish day schools.