The inherent right of all individuals to dignity and respect is a central Jewish value. Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) is committed to fostering the dignity, well-being, and safety of all of CBI’s employees, members, and visitors. It is central to the mission of CBI that all employees, members, and visitors experience our shul and the larger CBI community, on grounds and off, to be a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space in which all individuals are treated with respect.
In that spirit, we have prepared this document in order to outline specific policies and protocols regarding behaviors that violate these core values and put the safety and well-being of others at risk. These policies seek to protect children (under age 12), youths (ages 12-17), and adults.
2. Policy Statement
Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) seeks to create a welcoming and nurturing environment and has zero tolerance for actions that jeopardize the safety, health, or innocence of anyone, whether a minor or an adult. CBI prohibits abuse, harassment, and misconduct of a sexual or any other nature. This policy is applicable to any congregational activity or program whether on the grounds of the synagogue or off the grounds. CBI provides procedures (detailed herein) for employees, volunteers, board members, or any other victims of abuse, harassment, or misconduct to report such acts.
After investigation, if someone is found to have committed abuse, harassment, or misconduct, CBI reserves the right to terminate employment or membership, remove that person from volunteer positions, ban them from the facility, and/or pursue criminal prosecution. No employee, volunteer, board member, or other person, regardless of title or position, has the authority to commit or allow abuse, harassment, or misconduct. In that same spirit, we also recognize the harm that can come from false accusations. Therefore, if an individual is found to have knowingly made a false accusation of abuse, harassment, or misconduct, CBI reserves the right to terminate employment or membership, remove that person from volunteer positions, ban them from the facility, and/or pursue criminal prosecution.
3. Definitions and Examples
The following definitions and examples of abuse, misconduct, and harassment, which are all strictly prohibited, may apply to any and/or all of the following persons: employees, volunteers, members, or other third parties. Abuse, harassment, or misconduct may include, but are not limited to:
- Making lewd or vulgar comments, unwanted touching, and/or demanding sexual contact.
- Forcing someone to touch one’s genitals, buttocks, or breasts.
- Any sexual activity, involvement or attempt at sexual contact with a person who is a minor (under 18 years old). This includes any request for sexual touch from a minor.
- Sexual activity with anyone who is unable to give consent. This includes any request for a touch by – or to touch – such an individual.
- Physical assaults or violence, such as rape, sexual assault, abuse, molestation or any attempt to commit such acts.
- Watching, photographing or recording another undress or use the restroom.
- Unwanted and intentional physical conduct, such as touching, pinching, patting, brushing, tickling, kissing, massaging and/or pulling another’s body or clothes, or forcing someone to touch, pat, brush, or massage themselves or others.
- Exposing one’s genitals, buttocks or breasts to a child or non-consenting adult.
- Inappropriate contact, such as wrestling, between an adult and child.
- Showing pornographic or sexually explicit images, posters, calendars, or objects.
- Unwelcome and inappropriate sexual activities, advances, comments, innuendoes, bullying, jokes, gestures, electronic communications (e.g. email, text, social media, voicemail), intimidation, exploitation, exposure, leering, stalking, or invasion of sexual privacy.
- A sexually hostile environment, characterized as comments or conduct that unreasonably interferes with one’s work performance or ability to do the job or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
- Direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of employment or affiliation with the congregation.
- Bullying or cyberbullying, including repeated physical actions or gestures, written, verbal or electronic expressions, the use of slurs, negative stereotyping, or denigrating jokes that create a hostile environment at the synagogue for any person.
- Acting out in a way that materially and substantially disrupts the religious process or the orderly operation of the synagogue.
- Physical abuse, including deliberately using force against an individual in such a way that the person is either injured or is at risk of being injured.
- Emotional abuse, including harming an individual’s sense of identity, dignity or self-worth through verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, confinement, isolation, or threatening disproportionate punishment.
4. Reporting and Handling Complaints
Anyone with personal knowledge of or information regarding misconduct, harassment, or abuse is asked to report alleged abuse, harassment, or misconduct to the President or Vice President of the congregation. It is not required to directly confront anyone (e.g. the person alleged to have acted unethically) before notifying Board leadership. CBI will ensure that those named in the complaint of misconduct (the “respondent/s”), and those closely associated with them, will not be part of any investigative team. CBI will also ensure that those reporting misconduct (the “complainant/s”), and those closely associated with them, will also not be a part of any investigative team. CBI will also ensure that those who bring a complaint (the “complainant/s”) are protected from retaliation.
All members of CBI are asked to scrupulously avoid lashon ha-ra (“evil speech”) and rechilut (gossip), and not to engage in speculation about complaints of misconduct or abuse.
5. Investigation and Follow-up
CBI will take all allegations of abuse, harassment, and misconduct seriously and will promptly, thoroughly, and equitably investigate all allegations. The congregation reserves the right to utilize an outside third party to investigate if that seems appropriate. CBI will cooperate fully with any investigation conducted by law enforcement or other protective agencies. CBI will make every reasonable effort to keep the matters involved in the allegation as confidential as possible while still allowing for a prompt and thorough investigation.
The principles of accountability, upholding safety (physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual), confidentiality (to the extent reasonably possible), transparency (in dealing with the involved parties), and avoidance of conflict of interest will guide any actions taken to address an alleged incident.
The Executive Committee (“EC”) of the Board will, as needed, review allegations of misconduct, speak with relevant parties, and discern appropriate action, including but not limited to engaging an outside party to investigate. If a member of the EC has a conflict of interest, other Board members or members of the community may be appointed to a working group established for this purpose. Every effort will be made to protect privacy and avoid halbanat panim (“the whitening of the face,” e.g. shaming) for both complainant and respondent.
CBI will make every effort to tend to the well-being of those who are survivors of abuse, harassment, and misconduct: both the complainant(s) and others across the community who may be retraumatized when such allegations arise. CBI will also make every effort to tend to the well-being of respondent(s), until and unless respondent(s) is/are removed from membership.
6. Legal Reporting
CBI is committed to following state and federal legal requirements for reporting allegations or incidents of sexual abuse or misconduct to appropriate law enforcement and child or adult protective services organizations.
7. Anti-Retaliation and False Allegations
CBI prohibits retaliation against any employee, volunteer, board member, member, visitor, or other person who lodges a good-faith complaint of abuse, harassment, or misconduct or who participates in any related investigation.
Making knowingly false or malicious accusations of abuse, harassment or misconduct can have serious consequences for those who are wrongly accused. CBI prohibits making false or malicious misconduct allegations, as well as deliberately providing false information during an investigation.
Anyone who violates either of these rules is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or membership and criminal prosecution.
8. Potential Sanctions
Any employee found to have engaged in any type of abuse will be subject to disciplinary sanctions up to and including dismissal, as well as potential criminal prosecution. Any member of CBI or visitor to CBI found to have engaged in any type of abuse (whether of a CBI employee, or of another member or visitor) while on synagogue grounds and/or during a synagogue-sponsored program will be subject to sanctions, which may include temporary or permanent loss of membership or being banned from the shul grounds.
9. Decisions of the Executive Committee (EC) Regarding Allegations of Misconduct
The Executive Committee of the Board or, in the case of conflicts of interest, an ethics violation working group, will review the information gathered during a prompt investigation of any allegations of misconduct and make a determination of appropriate sanctions. The decisions of the EC will be final and not subject to any process of appeal.
10. Steps To Reduce Risk
CBI maintains a diligent screening program for prospective and existing employees, volunteers, and others who may have interaction with those employed by, associating with, or serviced by CBI. The congregation may utilize a variety of methods of screening and selection, including but not limited to job applications, personal interviews, criminal background checks, sexual offender registry checks, and personal and professional references. All employees and volunteers who work in a formal capacity with children are CORI and SORI checked; this includes teachers and kitchen supervisors.
This policy will become binding upon approval by the CBI Board of Directors and will govern congregational practice going forward.
Upon Board approval of this policy, it will be circulated to all current members. All prospective members will be asked to acknowledge receipt and understanding of this policy in their membership application, and will receive a copy of this policy as part of their new member packet.
One-on-one meetings: If individual study sessions or counseling with a minor are held, the door to the office or classroom should be kept open, if possible, and the meeting should take place within eyesight of the door. Parents must be made aware of such meetings.
Youth Training: In our Hebrew school we sometimes employ youths (between the ages of 12 and 18) as assistant teachers. They are both protected by and subject to these policies. Upon acceptance of this policy, CBI’s Education Director will review this policy with them and will continue to teach them best practices for interacting with younger children.
This congregational ethics policy draws on CBI’s Employee Abuse Prevention Policy (adopted by the CBI Board in December 2017), the communal ethics document from Young Israel Congregation of Sharon, the Unitarian Universalist movement’s Safer Congregations Policy, ethics materials from the Union for Reform Judaism, and others. It is intended to be a living document that can be updated as needed in years to come.
Adopted by the Congregation Beth Israel Board of Directors on September 18, 2019
Reaffirmed by the CBI Board on March 2, 2022.