January 2024: Code of Conduct Final Assessment

Dear Colleagues,

Our role as rabbis is to bring spiritual guidance, pastoral care, and learning to help bring meaning to our communities within our complex world. As we continue our ongoing work supporting Israel and addressing the rise of global antisemitism, we’ve remained committed to improving our ethical standards as rabbis so we can better support the communities that we serve.  

As you may recall, many months ago, the Rabbinical Assembly proactively undertook the important and sacred commitment to bring the Rabbinical Assembly’s Code of Conduct and our Va’ad HaKavod Procedures into alignment with contemporary norms and best practices so that safety and respect are at the cornerstone of all environments where rabbis and their communities interact. The Rabbinical Assembly engaged Sacred Spaces for their deep experience advising Jewish institutions on prevention of abuse, and their expertise in behavioral health, law, and Jewish education. 

We are pleased to share that the thorough assessment by Sacred Spaces of our Code of Conduct and Va’ad HaKavod procedures has been completed. Today we are releasing to all Rabbinical Assembly members and our wider community the full Sacred Spaces Assessment and Recommendations, (“the Assessment”) as well as their Executive Summary of this work (view Hebrew, Spanish).

The Assessment and Recommendations

In undertaking this assessment process, it was of utmost importance to the Rabbinical Assembly that we: 

  • Hear from a diversity of voices 
  • Listen with intention in order to learn from past experiences 
  • Take into account contemporary and evolving environments, barriers and biases 

Shamanu. We heard you. We committed to engage in covenantal listening that demands that we not just hear the words, but that we also turn that hearing into change in practice.

The Assessment released today is thus the result of the deep and impartial process undertaken over a 24-month period. The work included Sacred Spaces' detailed surveys and interviews with over 500 rabbis and members of the public who have been part of our Va’ad HaKavod process. It included a wide diversity of voices from North America, South America, Israel, and Europe, with the Executive Summary now being released in English, Hebrew, and Spanish. Sacred Spaces also conducted a diligent review of de-identified past cases to glean insight from past procedures and decisions. And over the many months, the leadership of the Rabbinical Assembly's Gender & Power Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, Va’ad HaKavod, and RA staff (collectively “the Task Force”) have had regular consultation and input with Sacred Spaces that reflect the perspectives of each of these committees’ diverse members and constituencies.

We encourage you to read the entire Sacred Spaces Assessment for detailed information about the methodology, findings and recommendations. The Executive Summary provides a more condensed version. 

The following are a few key takeaways from the Assessment:

  • The Code of Conduct should be updated to be more relevant to everyday interactions, reflect the tenor of times including the role of technology, provide more clarity to members about sexual misconduct and professional boundaries, and account for the diversity of Rabbinical Assembly membership. 
  • The Va’ad HaKavod processes and procedures should be formalized to create a standardized and trauma-informed approach to case handling for both complainants and respondents.
  • The work of the Va’ad HaKavod is sacred, and needs to have additional professional expertise and support to handle the complexity of ethics complaints. 
  • The Rabbinical Assembly will benefit from an enhanced system for record keeping and for tracking types of complaints received, including inquiries received by the Rabbinical Assembly that never reach the Va’ad HaKavod.
  • The Va’ad HaKavod should be for ethics cases only; administrative issues and violations of membership rules should be removed from Va’ad HaKavod jurisdiction.

We are pleased to report that certain recommendations that reflect standard best practices have been evaluated and already implemented prior to the release of this Assessment. For example: improved processes for complaint filing and tracking; expanded number of Va’ad HaKavod committee members, including members from outside of North America; increased use of external expert consultants to advise the Va’ad on investigation and determination processes and to help design restoration and accountability plans; and Rabbinical Assembly participation in high level cross-denominational training with the CCAR and RRA with the support of a grant from the SRE Network.

Open and Transparent Process

We expect to present the Revised Code of Ethics to the Executive Council for its consideration in July 2024. 

We will formally codify recommendations from Sacred Spaces into a Revised Code of Ethical Conduct and Va’ad HaKavod Procedures (“Revised Code of Ethics”). This will bring clarity -- for both rabbis and those served by the rabbinate -- of our expectations for ethical conduct and the details of the Va’ad HaKavod process. Our leadership task force is working in partnership with our attorneys and field experts to draft these documents, informed by the Sacred Spaces recommendations, and in accordance with broad legal requirements applicable across many jurisdictions. 

Recognizing that the Revised Code of Ethics will be a living document that will need ongoing clarification over time, the Code of Conduct leadership team will work on issues that require further listening, with careful consideration of halakhah and broader Jewish values. There will be opportunity for members to have input into those discussions as well.   

We will be developing a separate document regarding the professional and administrative commitments of Rabbinical Assembly members. 

Per the Sacred Spaces recommendations, this separate document will set forth the expectations of Rabbinical Assembly membership (for example, dues payments, administrative matters, halakhic issues, etc.) as distinct from the ethics matters that are the purview of the Va’ad HaKavod. Until the completion of this second document, professional and administrative complaints will continue to be addressed under our current systems.


We are profoundly grateful to every individual who voluntarily and courageously came forward during this review to share their observations, ideas, personal accounts, and in many cases, painful experiences. We acknowledge that over time, there have been moments when we as the Rabbinical Assembly failed in our aspirations to protect and respect all those with whom we interact, and we are very sorry. With deep gratitude, this sharing of experiences from diverse viewpoints has led to real change that will continue to make our rabbinate better and stronger for all of us. Still, we recognize that others may have chosen not to participate at this time for any number of reasons. Please know that our hearts remain open and we welcome, with full confidentiality if requested, the continued engagement of anyone with experiences to share or other information concerning these issues. Linked here is the Va’ad HaKavod confidential email address.

We also wish to thank the members and leadership of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Gender & Power Committee co-chaired by Rabbis Abbi Sharofsky and D’ror Chankin Gould, the Va’ad HaKavod chaired by Rabbi Daniel Pressman, the Strategic Planning Code of Conduct team led by Rabbi Elyse Winick, and the Executive Council for their steadfast commitment to this project, and their inclusive input that brought diversity of perspectives to this work. We are especially appreciative of Rabbi Sheryl Katzman who on behalf of the Rabbinical Assembly led this project day-to-day, as well as the efforts of other Rabbinical Assembly staff members.

We are very grateful to the SRE Network for the generous grant that helped us to pursue this project, and for their continued support as we move toward implementation. The wise counsel provided by our attorneys, Robert Jossen and the Dechert Law firm, for this project, and the complex daily work of the Va’ad HaKavod is an invaluable resource that benefits all of our rabbis and their communities. Finally, we appreciate the entire professional team at Sacred Spaces for earning the trust of those they interviewed and for guiding us through this process, resulting in improved policies and procedures that better the rabbinate for the benefit of all who we serve, and that better reflect our Jewish values.

L’ Shalom,

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO

Rabbi Harold Kravitz, President