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Oheb Shalom votes to terminate rabbi accused of misconduct

Congregants at Temple Oheb Shalom in Northwest Baltimore voted Sunday to uphold the termination of a long-serving rabbi based on unspecified allegations of misconduct and ethical violations that arose in May, a spokeswoman for the temple confirmed.

In a statement, the temple said the past few months had been “difficult, stressful and divisive” and called the vote “the first step toward the healing that our congregation needs and deserves.”

The temple’s board of trustees unanimously voted to terminate Rabbi Steven M. Fink in August, the same month that the Central Conference of American Rabbis suspended Fink over what it said were a series of ethical violations.

Leaders in the Union for Reform Judaism issued a warning to Oheb Shalom – located at 7310 Park Heights Ave. in Fallstaff – not to break from the conference over Fink.

In a letter to Oheb Shalom Board President Mina Wender dated Oct. 19, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Chair Daryl Messinger wrote that the Oheb Shalom congregation “risks their own expulsion from the URJ” if it voted to maintain ties to Fink.

The congregation’s vote on Sunday was 515 to 91 to uphold the board’s decision, including proxies and in-person ballots, according to a statement from the temple.

Fink has fought the proceedings against him, claiming that the allegations were “completely false and fabricated” by backers of Rabbi Sarah Marion, because of his decision to oppose the renewal of her contract.

He has called the conference investigation of the allegations against him “not fairly or honestly conducted.”

Fink’s attorney could not be immediately reached Sunday evening.

The Oheb Shalom board has called the allegations against Fink “disturbing,” but has not publicly explained their nature. In an open letter posted online by temple congregants, they wrote that the situation was a “stark reminder in this time of #MeToo” that Oheb Shalmon’s members “are not immune.”

The national #MeToo movement has put a focus on sexual misconduct, assault and rape, and the widespread prevalence of such offenses across the country – including in business and entertainment industries, religious institutions, politics and everyday life.

Fink does not face any criminal charges in Maryland, according to online records.

Fink has served at Oheb Shalom since 1999, according to an online profile that has since been removed from the temple’s website.

Fink’s attorney, Andrew Jay Graham, said Fink wants Oheb Shalom to honor its financial obligations to the rabbi under his contract, while also recognizing the damage the organization’s public comments have done to his reputation.

Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.

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