Julie Guilfoyle
Mental Health Therapist, Writer and Victim Advocate

Victims Appeal to the Ohio Attorney General to investigate CCAR and The URJ

“The first two CCAR/URJ Ethics victims that I spoke with told me that the rabbis on the CCAR ethics committee were evil.  Hearing it from both of them was jarring, but I wanted to believe that things had changed.  I now know that I was unequivocally wrong.”  

If you know of a CCAR or URJ case or issue that you would like the Attorney General’s office to review, the links to file a report are below or you can email:

Ohio Attorney General                                                           New York Attorney General

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The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and The Union for Reform Judaism (The URJ) have long been accused of covering up for and quietly moving rabbinic offenders and mistreating victims seeking their help.  CCAR’s Wikipedia page contains a list of articles detailing unethical behavior by both CCAR and the URJ, including an article that details the CCAR “Ethics” Committee secretly naming themselves “The Well-Oiled Zipper Committee.”  The CCAR Ethics Committee apparently chose this secret moniker for themselves because they found their covert mission of secretly moving rabbis caught in the act of sexual misconduct, humorous. 

The CCAR “Ethics” Committee has also long been criticized for operating in secrecy and mistreating complaints and victims who sought their help.  In 2021, CCAR, The URJ, and HUC were publicly called out for this behavior.  All three agencies initiated independent reviews by independent law firms.  The findings were not flattering and all were implicated by these investigations.  The three agencies issued public apologies and made promises to reform their agencies, work together, and make amends for their failures.  

At least two of those agencies are now accused of failing to make significant changes and have been reported to the Attorney General’s offices in New York and Ohio by multiple victims.  Both the URJ and CCAR are accused of failing to follow state-mandated reporting laws, engaging in covering-ups for and moving offending rabbis, mistreating victims, tampering with evidence, coercing victims into silence, discouraging victims from reporting to authorities, interfering with legal investigations, among other serious allegations.  Four people from three different states have come forward and provided information for these investigations.

As both the URJ and CCAR are nonprofit agencies, the Attorney General has jurisdiction.  The Attorney General has broad authority to investigate and sanction nonprofits that are violating state laws or causing harm to victims in their state.  “State attorney generals are tasked with investigating and, when necessary, initiating legal actions against charitable organizations.”  The CCAR and URJ investigations started in the State of Ohio and the Ohio Attorney General in Ohio has broad investigating power to compel both the CCAR and the URJ to comply with investigations into their actions.  

Despite the URJ and CCAR’s public self-congradulatory performances professing change and reform, both agencies continue to mistreat victims of rabbinic abuse, have refused to help those who have reached out to their Ethics Committee, and both agencies continue to protect rabbinic & synagogue abusers by their actions and willful inactions.   Both agencies also retain “gag orders” on current victims involved in their “Ethics” and “Restorative Justice” programs. One CCAR victim has recently told CCAR that they feel that “CCAR has me tied and gaged and is sitting on me while the rabbis assault me.  It is a joint effort at this point!”  CCAR uses its “confidentiality” rule to protect rabbinic abusers’ reputations and to scare victims into silence while making public duplicitous statements that this policy is to protect the victim’s identities.  The victims’ experience of the “ethics reform” is hardly the trauma-informed approach that CCAR’s Executive Director stated that the Ethics Committee was committed to employing, and all of the victims referred to in this blog post state that they were traumatized by the process and felt mistreated by CCAR and the URJ. 

In December of 2023, one victim informed the CCAR Director of Rabbinic Ethics that she was going to file ethics complaints against the CCAR Ethics Chair and the case manager for mistreatment and refusing to follow the ethics code in her case. The Director stated by email that “as a matter of policy,” the “Ethics” Committee (EC) had complete discretion to handle cases and would reject any complaints filed on the EC members.  He also stated that there was no option for an independent review if a victim felt mistreated or if a case was handled unfairly.  The victim’s emails showed that the “Ethics” Committee followed through on its promise to reject the complaints despite the complaints containing obvious violations of the “Ethics Code.”  For example, the victim requested to file the complaint anonymously, but the CCAR “Ethics” Chair sent a report to the rabbi that clearly stated that the victim filed the complaint.  Multiple requests were made for a copy of the policy granting the EC “complete discretion” not to follow the ethics code and to reject complaints without evaluating them for validity.  No response was received by The Director of Rabbinic Ethics or any member of the “Ethics” Committee.

The victim no longer believes that the Ethics Committee has or ever had any intention to ethically investigate her abusers, much less appropriately deal with her mistreatment by the Ethics Committee itself, and therefore initiated the referral to the Attorney General’s office to address the synagogue’s alleged financial crimes.  The AG complaint has since expanded to include an investigation into the actions and inactions of CCAR and the URJ.  Three other victims have come forward to request that the Attorney General’s Office look into their cases.  Two are victims with closed cases from other states.  The New York Attorney General’s office has be alerted to these issues.

Two petitions are currently on, calling out CCAR and the URJ.  One with nearly 900 signatures and one with nearly 400 signatures.  

In conclusion, this lack of a safe and solid ethics process makes Reform Synagogues unsafe.   It is the hope of these victims that the Attorney General will force CCAR and the URJ into creating a transparent and fair ethics process, a balance of power, an unbiased review for all participants who feel mistreated, and ongoing external oversight.  Without these components, CCAR and the URJ are working in a secret vacuum with no accountability.  We all suffering as a result of that unbridled and unchecked abuse of power. 

If you know of a CCAR or URJ case or issue that you would like the Attorney General’s office to review, use the links below to file a report, or you can email: 

Ohio Attorney General                                                                  New York Attorney General

About the Author
Julie has been working as a therapist with abuse and trauma victims for more than 25 years. She began her career working in the areas of child behavior, child abuse, and abuse investigations. She worked as a forensic interviewer and served as an expert witness in abuse and trauma. She trained CPS workers on forensic interviewing, investigation, and interviewing ethics. She brings a unique view to women's issues, victimization, trauma, and ethics. She has recently developed an interest in Jewish ethics. Her background in abuse issues, advocacy, ethics, and investigations work drives her pursuit for justice, fairness, and transparency in the world of Jewish ethics.
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