Rabbinical School Code of Ethics

JSLI’s Code of Ethics

The designation of “Rabbi” is far more than a title or a job; it represents a life committed to the fundamental precepts of Judaism and a dedication to serving our communities with honesty, sincerity and with an ethical behavior appropriate to all human beings in this world.

To that end, we freely adopt the following ethical code of standards with the purpose of explaining our professional and communal behavioral principles.

I. Fundamentals of Jewish Morality

A. All human beings are created in God’s image and have within them a divine spark. Regardless of provenance, therefore, all people regardless of faith, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and creed are deemed to have a unique and limitless value.

B. The role of rabbi implies a covenant not only between us, as rabbis and God, but between us and the world we live in. This role encompasses elements of teacher, counselor, leader and protector. Even if we are not engaged in a professional role where each of these is present, they are always present in the minds of the people we interact with. We must constantly keep this plurality of our character in mind.

II. General Principles

A. We are symbols both within and outside of the Jewish community and must endeavor to set positive examples with our speech and behavior. We must, therefore, endeavor to avoid “ma-arit ayin,” the appearance of impropriety.

B. We must always act with integrity and with the best interests of our community at large, and/or the specific individual we are working with, at heart.

C. Rabbis are afforded a special place in an individual’s regard, we hold a sacred trust, and therefore we must respect a person’s confidentiality at all times. In the event that harm to self or others is involved, a rabbi must act in a fashion to protect life and prevent harm.

D. We owe ourselves the same respect and obligations that we owe to our communities. Our health, physical and mental should not be neglected, our family relationships must be nurtured, and our spiritual growth should be cultivated. It is incumbent upon us to remember that learning is a life-long process, not a goal.

E. Judaism has for centuries subscribed to the principle of “D’mal-chuta Dina” (the law of the land governs –i.e. secular law is binding). As rabbis we must uphold the law and be cognizant of the policies and practices that surround us. We need not to be neutral as regards politics, but neither should we allow a political opinion to sway our relationship with our community and/or individual members thereof.

III. Conclusion

Perfection is not a rabbinic goal, and we recognize that honest missteps are bound to happen; nonetheless, we must be vigilant with ourselves and each other to stay on the ethical path. If we are witness to a violation of this code or in personal violation of it, we must act to alert JSLI of the infraction, and if need be, take action to remedy it.

We must strive to hold ourselves accountable to these ethical precepts, and to sustain each other in upholding the sanctity and respect of the rabbinical tradition.

JSLI reserves the right to withdraw support for the Semicha/Ordination of any rabbi who is in violation of our ethical precepts.

Approved by JSLI Board of Directors March 29, 2012



13. The JSLI Code of Ethics is meant to guide the behavior of our students and rabbinic graduates and constitutes the Institute’s moral foundation. Where there is an alleged violation by either a student, graduate or employee of the Institute, the following process shall apply in keeping with JSLI’s commitment to Jewish Law and Justice as well as the precepts that underscore American Jurisprudential conceptions of due process.

  • Who may file a complaint: Any member of the JSLI student body, graduates of the program, JSLI faculty or staff, board members of JSLI, congregants of graduates, or family members of JSLI may file a complaint alleging that a member of the JSLI community has violated the JSLI Code of Ethics, hereinafter referred to as the COE.
  • Who may be a subject of a complaint: A subject of a complaint filed may be a student, graduate, faculty, staff or board member of JSLI
  • Filing Process: A letter specifying the exact nature of the offense must precede any investigation into a JSLI community member’s behavior for an alleged violation of the COE. The letter shall be addressed to the Dean of JSLI or a Board member and shall specify:
    • those facts which, if true, would constitute a violation of the COE;
    • the sections of the COE that were allegedly violated;
    • the basis for the allegations and whether the alleged violations are based upon information and belief and/or first-hand knowledge; and
    • the name and contact information of the person filing the complaint
  • Investigation Process: Once JSLI is in receipt of a letter as outlined in Sec. IV of this document, the Dean shall:
    • notify the subject of the allegations;
      • the process that shall ensue; and convene the Board to determine whether there are facts sufficient to proceed with an investigation and possible inquiry. Where the Board determines that there are sufficient facts to proceed to inquiry, the subject of the investigation shall be notified as to the Boards decision to proceed and whether the subject shall appear before the Bet Din. In making its determination to move forward, the Board shall use a reasonableness standard, whether reasonable prudent persons in reviewing the facts alleged would believe that the allegations are true.
  • When A Bet Din Shall Convene: A Bet Din shall be convened where potential sanctions are:
    • 1. Rescission of Rabbinic Endorsement or;
    • 2. Letter of Warning of Possible Rescission of Endorsement
  • Members of the Bet Din: The Bet Din shall be composed of three (3) rabbis drawn from JSLI community who have been clergy members for no less than three (3) years; have not taken part in the investigatory process and are *not members of the JSLI faculty, staff or board member. The subject of the hearing shall be entitled to make suggestions to the Dean as to the Bet Din Panel and one member of the Panel should come from the subject’s suggestions so long as that person meets the criteria enumerated in this section.

*For purposes of this document, “faculty shall mean any person who is a full-time member of the Rabbinic or Cantorial schools or has a long term contract with the Institute. Long-term shall mean a contract of three years or more.”

Individual Rights of the Subject of the Bet Din: The rights are as follows:

  • The right to reasonable notice of all allegations with factual specifications;
  • The right to sufficient time to prepare his or her defense, however said time shall not exceed thirty (30) days from notice as to the convening of the Bet Din and the allegations that support the inquiry;
  • The right to any and all documentary, tangible, testimonial evidence maintained by JSLI that shall presented to the Bet Din during its inquiry;
  • The right to confront his or her accuser(s) during the hearing through cross examination;
  • The right to examine witnesses and present evidence on his/her behalf;
  • The right to make an opening statement and closing argument
  • The right to a speedy disposition of the matter
  • The right to a written document from the Bet Din that specifies its findings of fact and conclusions
  • The right to have present a friend at the hearing, however there is no right to counsel.

Findings By the Bet Din

While hearsay is permitted as evidence, a finding of a violation that may result in either rescission of endorsement or a letter of warning, as defined in VI, the Bet Din’s determination must be supported by either first-hand knowledge of the violation(s) or circumstantial evidence supported by first hand knowledge.

Approved by JSLI Board of Directors April 30, 2012