Aleph Tikshoret Classes Launches Unique Initiative: The ALEPH Ethics Incubator – by Rabbi Debra Smith



Created and Directed by Rabbi Debra Smith
(AOP class of 2016)

Encouraging ethical practice is a critical way for the Jewish Renewal movement to prevent and discourage clergy misconduct. The newly created and launched Clergy Ethics Incubator will over time make available educational programs, full length professional courses, webinars, chat rooms, a resource library and research tools to help clergy and clergy related professionals carry out their work with the highest level of ethical standards.

The Clergy Ethics Incubator has been created by Rabbi Debra Smith (Reb Deb), ethics specialist, as a model to enable clergy and students at all levels of experience and training to acquire or augment the range of knowledge and skills necessary to maintain a safe level of practice.

The Ethics Incubator is grounded in ALEPH’s ongoing commitment to high quality professional education that encourages all students and practicing professionals to examine the ethical values and practices of their profession. Ongoing ethics education enables us to serve G-d and the public with the highest standards possible.

Rabbi Debra Smith is a member of the OHALAH Ethics Committee. As an ALEPH rabbinical student, she served as co-chair of the Student Ethics Committee and created and taught a monthly forum for AOP students called “Eye on Ethics.” Students attending the forum learned about issues related to power and boundaries in clergy practice, were given resources to further their learning, and developed a circle of colleagues with whom to discuss ethical issues and dilemmas in a confidential environment.

A social worker by profession, Reb Deb founded and served as Chair of the NJ Ethics Committee for the National Association of Social Workers for seven years. During that time she authored numerous articles on ethical practice in her monthly column, Eye on Ethics, published in the NASW- NJ Newsletter. She developed and taught numerous courses on professional ethics at Rutgers University School of Social Work Continuing Education and Professional Development Program. She headed the NJ committee to revise the National Code of Ethics for Social Workers and chaired committees to write several professional codes of ethics for mental health organizations in NJ. She has been an honored recipient of the NASW-NJ Trailblazer Award for her outstanding contributions in the field of ethics.

The Ethics Incubator will offer a variety of programs, including

  • short modules
  • professional continuing-education short-courses on topics related to ethical practice (from 1-4 sessions);
  • a full semester graduate/professional level course on Ethical Issues in Spiritual Practice;
  • an annual Ethics Forum to include a full day of ethics workshops by a variety of presenters, with keynote speaker;
  • the awarding of a Certificate in Clergy Ethics upon completion of a certain number of hours of continuing education work.

The first short-course to be offered by the Ethics Incubator is:

Ethical Issues and Dilemmas for Spiritual Leaders, Mental Health and Pastoral Counselors: Defining boundaries, Recognizing a Boundary Violation, and defining the Process of Personal Disconnection that Occurs in a Boundary Relationship.

Rabbi Marcia Prager says “It is easy. You have good boundaries, you are thoughtful, honest, upright, careful, and you trust your gut. If something not so kosher was happening, surely you’d know and back way off. But it is NOT easy. Sometimes the warnings are truly subtle, easy to explain in other ways. Sometimes we’re not so alert, and a situation begins to unfold that snares us before we realize. Careers are ruined, and sometimes lives. If you don’t believe it, ask any Ethics Board how many cases they’ve heard this year… and not just the ones that hit the papers.

Think of this seminar as a “sechel-supplement,” like a vitamin infusion for your ethics antennae. You invest in other health programs. This one is worth it. Join a small group of your colleagues as we explore the four traps, and then move with increasing depth and sophistication further into the complex landscape of ethics.”

NOV 29, DEC 6, DEC 13, DEC 20

Session by Session Topics:

1- Introduction to the course; Defining boundaries ; Recognizing a boundary violation; Defining the Process of Personal disconnection that occurs in a boundary relationship.

2- The four interconnected defining traits of a boundary violation: the secret; the role reversal; the double bind; indulgence of personal privilege.

3- Examples of each of the four defining traits of a boundary violation

4- Consequence to the relationship when a boundary violation occurs; Healing a boundary violations and barriers to healing.