As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a second half to my discussion of community scandal: What does a rabbi do once a scandal has broken in the community, spreading pain, gossip and hard feelings far beyond those people directly involved?
Here's what I plan to say to my group of young rabbis; what would you add? (Again, please omit all reference to actual events from comments, or I may need to delete them.)
When it's a scandal involving someone else
Minimize your public comments
* Remember the great advice I once received from a congregant: If only 10% of the shul knows about an issue, and you address it from the pulpit, you have now made it an issue for 100% of the shul. Make sure it's worth it.
* Showing you know the inside scoop never helps you, and can hurt you.
* People respect a closed mouth - and are far more likely to trust it when it does open.
Dealing with a shamed person
* Remember that for many people, you represent Gd
* You can offer friendship without offering endorsement, but it's best to do it privately
* Organize others to offer friendship, where appropriate
* Remember the good in the person; it should not be overridden
* Don't put the person in the spot, particularly by forcing a conversation before the person is ready
When it's a scandal surrounding your own error
What to say
* Full disclosure of the mistake
* Full, sincere apology - not "if I offended" or "for anything I may have said" [And if you think you are right, and the world thinks you are wrong, then you are outvoted and it's time to get objective counseling.]
* Don't attempt to justify it or explain why it's not as bad as people are saying
* If you must talk to the media, do it via press release to maximize the chance that your actual words will be heard, in context
Retreat from the spotlight
* The length of time depends on the harm done
* Never assume the worst is over
It's never safe to joke about it
* There is no statute of limitations
* It will never be funny to the victim