I expect to deliver a class this week, for young rabbis, on "Avoiding Scandal". It may seem like a relatively simple topic - don't do anything wrong - but I do have some thoughts based on my own experience, and things I wish I would have been told 17 years ago, when I was starting out.
Here are my major points:
1. You can't prevent other people from doing scandalous things, but you can institute policies for yourself, and your shul, to avoid or mitigate problems.
2. Financial issues
* Make sure that everything involving donations and tax receipts is on the up-and-up;
* Make sure you know how to file your own taxes and claim your deductions;
* Make sure you know the rules regarding Benevolent Fund tax receipts;
* Ensure that your shul employs people legally;
* Know your level of responsibility to non-shul institutions with which you are involved.
3. Sexual issues
* Never meet with women or children unless someone else is able to observe you;
* Keep your wife informed of your meetings, and have her as a check on your judgment;
* Make sure your shul has a sexual harrassment policy;
* Make sure that people within your shul administration are up on "today's norms", which are not the same as those of a generation ago.
4. Disputes between members
* Be clear that your role as an impartial mediator is clear to the participants;
* Know when you cannot be impartial, and admit it;
* When the shul is involved as an institution, make sure all roles and interests are clear;
* Know when you are out of your depth;
* Do not let yourself be bullied into taking on something you cannot take on.
5. Make sure all members of the shul administration know who is the shul's official spokesperson - and it may not be you.
6. When speaking publicly
* Don't talk too much; it's the last sentence that gets you into trouble;
* Don't assume that people will assume the best of you, or know what you meant
7. If you aren't sure whether it's ethical or right, ask someone.
8. You are a religious figure and a public figure, and so there will always be those who want to catch your mistakes. Don't make their job easier.
I would love to hear your comments - but please avoid mentioning any particular scandals, as that might force me to delete your comment.
I also have a separate component: Responding to scandal once it has taken place. Perhaps I'll post that next.