From our blog on May 11, 2021:
As we absorb the news about the violence in Israel, our hearts ache for our friends and loved ones who are affected. We will offer special prayers for Israel this Shabbat during Friday evening and Saturday morning services.
This email was sent to the Temple congregation on April 28, 2021:
Yesterday, Central Synagogue in New York sent a letter to congregants, outlining what it describes as multiple allegations of “sexual predatory behavior” by Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman when he was Central Synagogue’s Senior Rabbi from 1972 to 1985. The allegations include one case alleging “sexual contact with an underage teenager.” According to the letter, Central Synagogue engaged an outside law firm to investigate and the allegations were found to be “credible.” The allegations predate Rabbi Zimmerman’s tenure as Temple Emanu-El’s Senior Rabbi from 1985 to 1996.
While we have no indication of misconduct during Rabbi Zimmerman’s tenure as Temple’s Senior Rabbi, or during his return later in 2017 as ongoing Scholar in Residence, we are responsible for acting on the information now available to us. Accordingly, upon receiving this new information, Temple Emanu-El terminated Rabbi Zimmerman’s employment.
As you may be aware, Rabbi Zimmerman resigned as president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2000, after an investigation by the Central Conference of American Rabbis Ethics Committee concerning inappropriate “personal relationships.” According to the Central Synagogue letter, the current allegations contain details that were not released at the time of the 2000 investigation. Had we known in 2017 the full extent of the allegations described in Central Synagogue’s letter, we would not have engaged Rabbi Zimmerman.
In 2021, we are thankfully in an era of greater transparency and accountability related to matters of sexual misconduct. We also recognize that those abused by clergy have not always been supported or believed when they reported the abuse. We pray this has never been the case at Temple Emanu-El, in the past or currently, but we are taking additional steps to make sure that any inappropriate behavior can be safely reported and properly addressed.
Our Board’s Executive Committee has authorized retaining an independent law firm with specialization in these matters, Arcadi Jackson LLP, to conduct an independent review of our past and present practices, to gather facts and to report them to a special committee established by our congregation’s President.
Most importantly, we wish to ensure that anyone who wishes to report misconduct, past or present, will feel safe in doing so. We have therefore established multiple channels for reporting, including contacting our clergy, our Executive Director, our President, our Director of Member Support, and our independent outside counsel. Not all violations of safety and dignity constitute violations of the law; our clergy and leadership are here with open doors and open hearts for any of these difficult conversations as well. You will find contact information for each at the bottom of this letter.
We write this letter to you in affirmation of the ideals of human dignity and ethical behavior that lie at the heart of our Jewish tradition and our historic congregation. We write with a sense of humble recognition: no community can be called sacred until we feel it is safe.
With this process and every day, we are pledged to the vital and unfinished work of making Temple Emanu-El a place of sacred encounter.
Rabbi David Stern Beth Gold Meredith Fried
Senior Rabbi President Executive Director
Contacts for Reporting
- Ann Marie Arcadi, Arcadi Jackson, 214.865.6537
- Temple Clergy, 214.706.0000. Clergy may also be contacted at their own email addresses.
- Beth Gold, Temple President, 914.715.7110
- Meredith Fried, Executive Director, 214.706.0000, ext. 130
- Meredith Pryzant, Director of Member Support, 214.706.0000, ext. 122