Ethics Code for Jewish Leaders

As Jewish institutions create individual policies to prevent abuse within their domains, the leaders of these institutions are invited to make their own personal commitment to this work. The Sacred Spaces Ethics Code for Jewish Leaders represents the principles that underlie the best practices in policies designed to prevent and respond to institutional abuse of power. The Code highlights leaders’ fundamental commitment to creating environments that protect vulnerable populations from institutional abuse. Signing this code is not a public statement, but rather a personal commitment to the work ahead. 

At Sacred Spaces, we look forward to seeing a wide array of Jewish communal leaders—rabbis, principals, camp directors, Jewish non-profit executives, Jewish Federation leaders, and others— make their personal commitment to a safer future by signing our code.

I approach my task as a Jewish communal leader with a profound awareness that God’s image (צלם אלוקים) is embedded in every human being. This acknowledgement entails a dual commitment: to treat all people with the utmost dignity and to hold myself to the highest standards of behavior. Aspiring to the ideal that God is said to model in Psalms 84:12, I strive to be a source of “light and protection” (שמש ומגן) to my community, promoting transparency within my institution and guarding the welfare of its constituents.

I recognize that the authority I wield is not my own, but is rather entrusted to me by the community I serve; thus, I am duty bound at all times to exercise my authority mindfully and appropriately. I acknowledge the harmful physical, emotional, and social consequences that abuse victims have often suffered at the hands of those in positions of Jewish communal authority, and I personally pledge to use my own authority to help create safer and healthier communal spaces. Toward this end, I hereby publicly undertake the following commitments:

  • I will use my authority first and foremost for the good of humanity and the Jewish people.
  • I will maintain the honor, noble traditions, and values of the Jewish faith.
  • In following God’s call to build a “holy camp,” I will at all times avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing (מראית עין).
  • I will respect proper physical, emotional, and psychological boundaries between myself and anyone over whom I have authority or with whom I work.
  • I will not exert my power over others in ways that demean, harass, exploit, or otherwise cause harm.
  • I will respect appropriate boundaries between adults and children.
  • I will help my institution to develop robust policies for preventing abuse. These policies will specify behaviors that promote a healthy communal environment, thereby translating our principles and standards into a blueprint for daily action. I pledge to abide by my institution’s policies at all times.
  • I will acquaint myself with, and abide by, all local, state, and federal laws related to abuse, and I will abide by all codes of conduct governing my professional affiliations.
  • I will ensure access to independent, safe, and discreet reporting mechanisms for abuse and boundary violations, which will be made clear to everyone, at every level of my institution.
  • I will reach out for help if I feel temptation or confusion regarding my interpersonal behaviors and choices.
  • I will not stand idly by if I witness suspicious behavior in a colleague or community member; I will take concrete action as outlined in the policies of my institution.
  • I will not succumb to pressures to cover up suspected abuse.

I strive to cultivate the strength, wisdom, and humility to carry out successfully the sacred task of guiding others. Through the above commitments, I hope to help create a true sanctuary (מקדש) of safety and holiness for all that dwell within it.