Over the last forty years, Reform Judaism’s seminary, the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, has ordained almost 600 women rabbis.  There are currently a total of 2,000 Reform rabbis in North America.  For many years, those close to matters of rabbinic compensation have observed pay inequities between male and female rabbis who perform the same roles in congregational life.  The evidence of these inequities was largely anecdotal – until now.

CCAR Releases Gender Pay Gap Study

On June 20, 2012, the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s (CCAR) released its Study of Rabbinic Compensation by Gender.  The Study uses the 2010-2011 compensation data collected by Buck Consulting with assistance from the Reform Pension Board.  The Study analyzes base compensation only (salary and housing/parsonage) as the underlying data set does not include other benefits paid to rabbis (healthcare, pension, professional dues, etc.).  Comparing salary and housing/parsonage between male and female rabbis provides a clean, clear contrast.

The findings are disappointing but not terribly surprising – in most categories, women rabbis make less than their male counterparts.  The compensation discrepancies range from 7% to 20%.  These discrepancies are similar to the salary gaps found between men and women in the secular work world.  However, given the Reform Movement’s longstanding commitment to social and economic justice issues, one would have hoped for – if not expected – a different result.

Addressing the Rabbinic Pay Gap

The CCAR has pledged education and advocacy on the issue and those efforts began yesterday with an informative, thought-provoking teleconference with leading experts on gender and compensation.  CCAR Chief Executive Rabbi Steven Fox stated, “We are strong enough to live our values out loud and in public… The CCAR is sufficiently stable to self-reflect and not shy away from the difficult task that needs to be done.  We are rolling up our sleeves for the hard work ahead of all of us – rabbis and lay leaders alike.”  The newly-installed Union for Reform Judaism President, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, echoed the sentiments, “[W]e are deeply committed to helping congregations and other Jewish organizations affirm the equality of men and women in every regard: moral, spiritual and financial.”  Kudos to Rabbis Fox and Jacobs.

This is the first in a series of posts on this issue.  Having represented many female rabbis in contract negotiations, I plan to share my own insights in later posts.