The Central Conference of American Rabbis recently voted to suspend Rabbi Steven M. Fink, Temple Oheb Shalom’s spiritual leader since 1999, from the rabbinate due to alleged ethical violations.
In an email sent to congregants dated Aug. 19, 2018, Oheb Shalom president Mina Wender announced that the ethics committee of the CCAR, the national rabbinic leadership organization of Reform Judaism, voted to suspend Rabbi Fink due to “multiple violations” of its Code of Ethics.
Rabbi Fink and Ken Davidson, Oheb Shalom’s executive director, did not return phone calls from Jmore.
In a media statement released on Aug. 20, Oheb Shalom’s board of directors announced its members would “convene in the coming days to determine [the congregation’s] next steps” regarding the future employment of Rabbi Fink. (On the temple’s website, Rabbi Fink’s biography has been removed, although his sermons remain available.)
The CCAR’s 14-member committee found that Rabbi Fink was in violation of the code’s “Section IB (Personal Responsibility, Social), Section IIA (Rabbinic Relationships, the Congregational Staff), and Section V (Ethics Guidelines Concerning Sexual Boundaries).”
The vote concluded CCAR’s months-long investigation into the rabbi’s alleged sexual misconduct. The investigation was initiated in May following the report of “an improper incident of a sexual nature that may have occurred a number of years ago involving Rabbi Fink and a then teenager, who was a minor at the time,” according to a letter sent in May to congregants by the board of Oheb Shalom.
A native of Montclair, N.J., Rabbi Fink, 67, has been suspended with pay from Oheb Shalom since the alleged incident came to light.
In her letter to the congregation, Wender explained that the investigation considered “multiple claims of inappropriate conduct” and included “interviews with over 20 witnesses, some in person and some by telephone, including individuals supportive of Rabbi Fink; review of written submissions, including submissions by Rabbi Fink and by Temple Oheb Shalom; an interview with Rabbi Fink in the presence of his legal counsel; and review of relevant documents.”
Wender went on to write, “As a condition of Rabbi Fink’s suspension, effective immediately, he must absent himself from all activities of Temple Oheb Shalom and any other Reform congregation unless otherwise approved by the [CCAR’s ethics committee].”
Although Rabbi Fink may appeal the CCAR’s adjudication, wrote Wender, his “suspension is effective immediately and remains in place during any appeal. …
“The past months have been extremely painful for all of us at Temple Oheb Shalom. Our top priority will always be to provide a safe and welcoming spiritual home for our congregation. We pray for healing and peace for all involved in this difficult matter. … We are deeply saddened by these events.”
Last September, Oheb Shalom, which is located at 7310 Park Heights Ave., and Har Sinai Congregation in Owings Mills announced plans to explore merging. But Rabbi Linda Joseph, Har Sinai’s spiritual leader, recently wrote in her temple’s newsletter that the congregation would “cease exploration of a merger” with Oheb Shalom.
Interim Rabbi Marc L. Disick and Assistant Rabbi Sarah R. Marion, along with Rabbi Emeritus Donald R. Berlin, are currently leading services and pastoral care at Oheb Shalom.
This story will continue to be updated as information becomes available.