AHR CODE OF ETHICS
Serving as a Secular Humanistic Rabbi means accepting the serious responsibility of modeling a moral and ethical life stance. We hold our members to a very high standard and are happy to make public our Code of Ethics.
--Adopted on June 15, 2005
As members of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis (AHR), we commit ourselves to the following Code of Ethics.
We pledge to live our lives as exemplary expressions of the most humanistic ideals of the Jewish people and of all peoples.
We pledge to act with personal and professional integrity in accordance with the standards of individual and social responsibility.
We pledge to conduct ourselves in ways that honor the value of healthy, honest, and egalitarian relationships in all our interpersonal contacts – inside and outside of our congregations and other movement institutions.
In relating to our AHR colleagues, we will encourage and support one another in living up to these standards with collegial concern and sensitivity.
For our failings large and small, we shall seek to correct our mistakes or misdeeds by breaking any patterns of misconduct, correcting misdeeds, making appropriate restitution, and asking for forgiveness.
A) PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY & CONDUCT
As rabbis, we accept the special responsibilities of being moral leaders. We must conduct ourselves as role models by exercising healthy self-control in our personal and professional activities, and by actively fostering the ethical, cultural, and spiritual progress of our communities and of humanity.
1) Healthy Self-Control
As human beings, we are all prone to inappropriate expressions of anger or disrespect. While we recognize that anger is a normal human emotion, we must choose carefully how to most appropriately express our displeasure, so as to model healthy self-control and respect for others.
Some are tempted to engage in unhealthy, destructive, or immoral activities, such as compulsive or addictive behaviors, or dishonest or exploitative misconduct involving economic or sexual behavior. As human beings, and particularly as rabbis, we must resist the temptation to pursue any of these activities, refrain from any problematic or addictive misuse of substances, and agree to seek immediate help for any such behavior pattern.
Finally, while we affirm healthy and egalitarian sexual relations, we must refrain from engaging in sexual misconduct which includes: any sexual contact with minors, students, or interns, with persons seeking our counsel or support, or with anyone vulnerable to abuse of rabbinic power; sexual harassment and intimidation; requests for sexual favors; and any verbal or nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature that has been communicated to be unwelcome. We must respect the boundaries of committed relationships. Any activity that raises moral concerns requires one to stop and seek moral counsel. As rabbis, we seek to guide and instruct our communities through our words and deeds, and we must, therefore, always act with healthy self-control.
2) Economic Activities
We will engage in only humanistic economic activities, and will actively work to prevent any improprieties – including, for example, nonpayment of just debts, theft, fraud, or other illegal economic activities.
We will perform our rabbinic role as a model of a right livelihood done for the benefit of ourselves, our families, our communities and movement, and for the benefit of the Jewish people and humanity. We will seek to create clear understandings and agreements regarding reasonable compensation and working arrangements with our congregations and with the non-congregants we serve.
3) Intellectual Honesty
We will seek, write, speak, and teach only what we know or earnestly believe to be true, and will correct our own errors as we discover these. We will respect those from whom we learn and draw ideas by properly citing or acknowledging all such sources, and by upholding copyrights.
4) Rabbinic Commitments
As rabbis, we must live up to all our commitments to officiate at specific ceremonies. If and when we are unable to fulfill such a commitment, we will diligently attempt to find a qualified substitute and to communicate about the change immediately with the congregant, non-congregant, or colleague involved.
B) CONGREGATIONAL SERVICE
We will promote the healthy development of Humanistic congregations as democratic and egalitarian community organizations. We will treat all persons with respect – whether they are congregants, other organizational staff, or members of the wider community, regardless of their socio-economic status, age, or other characteristics. We will respect the developed customs of the congregations we serve, even as we work with the congregants to promote the continued evolution of each community’s practices and culture.
We will each exercise our freedom of position and expression in ways that are responsible to the greater good and consistent with our movement’s philosophy. We will encourage leadership, by our own example, that is democratic and non-authoritarian, co-operatively shared, honest and accountable, constructively critical and self-corrective. We will encourage clear delineation of responsibility, accountability and channels of communication for rabbinical and other
We will promote adequate and sensible standards of financial and other support for all staff.
We will act in ways worthy of trust, and refrain from any abuse or exploitation of such trust. We will uphold the confidentiality of what others share with us in our professional role, except where otherwise required by law. We will give circumspect forethought to any and all potential negative consequences of our actions, and we will endeavor to minimize such impacts upon any person – upon all others, inside or outside of our congregation or movement, and upon ourselves.
C) MUTUAL RESPECT AND SUPPORT AMONG COLLEAGUES
1) Collegial Communications
To foster healthy collegial relationships among us, we will endeavor to support one another by sharing ideas and information, by offering each other assistance, by helping to develop the rabbinic program of the IISHJ, and, whenever possible, by attending annual AHR meetings and movement conferences.
We commit ourselves to acting respectfully and supportively toward one another.
We will guarantee the confidentiality of our interpersonal communications, provided that nothing within these indicates immoral or illegal actions. If we are aware that one of our colleagues has engaged in such actions, we will speak to him/her directly and try to help him/her stop the misconduct and appropriately address it. In public and in private, we will speak in only responsible and temperate ways of our rabbinic colleagues and of all other persons, at all times refraining from personal attacks, and malicious or frivolous gossip – any and all of which constitute lashon ha-ra.
All members of the AHR shall strive to treat each other with respect in both verbal and written communication. If and when conflicts arise between members, all parties shall strive to resolve these conflicts in a manner that is constructive. Members of the AHR shall strive to resolve disputes directly with each other in a manner that does not inflame the dispute but rather seeks resolution
2) Workplace Relations
Where AHR members work together or with others, we will, before beginning such work, seek clear understandings as to specific responsibilities, organizational accountability processes, and channels of communication. Once engaged in such work with such colleagues, we will work toward healthy co-operation and communication, and will renegotiate changing roles with respect, honesty, and clarity. Like all positive workplace and professional relations, rabbinic collegiality requires us to respect each other’s work and personal boundaries, and to refrain from destructive competition, authoritarianism, and disrespect of any kind. When working together, we each retain our responsible freedom of expression.
Relations between all rabbis will be egalitarian and mutually respectful. More experienced rabbis will give their less experienced colleagues appropriate opportunities and assistance as requested. A rabbi emeritus/a will be accorded appropriate respect, and will likewise respect a congregation’s current rabbi/s, policies, and liturgical practices.
3) Relations with Other Clergy
AHR members whose services are requested by a member of another community within our movement will first communicate with whatever clergy may be serving there. Similarly, we will not directly recruit members or staff from other congregations. When we disagree with or oppose other members of the clergy, publicly or privately, we will express our differences with or challenges to any such person only in respectful ways.
D) ADDRESSING VIOLATIONS
If and when one of us exhibits harmful moral failings, abuses his/her power, or engages in criminal activity, we colleagues will promptly and resolutely address such acts. When necessary, the AHR will investigate alleged misdeeds, conduct fair hearings, render just decisions, consider appeals, as well as administer appropriate correctives and penalties. The AHR will do this to protect any known or potential victims, and to defend the ethical well-being of our communities and institutions.
E) TIQQUN OLAM – CREATING A BETTER WORLD
Clergy have historically played key roles in improving social conditions through advocacy and activism, on the one hand, and through helping to develop community practices and institutions that address human needs. As Humanistic rabbis, we affirm that human problems are solved by human action, not supernatural intervention. Saving humanity and the planet can only be accomplished by our own human efforts. We Humanistic rabbis must therefore use our leadership wisely and well to build effective strategies and institutions that can help the people in the communities we serve to meet their needs and to actualize their potential. This far-reaching work is the ultimate ethical mission of our movement.