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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776
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Female Rabbis Make Less than Male Counterparts, But Some Fare Better


Female Rabbi

Female Reform rabbis are paid less than their male counterparts, according to a new study by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. But when you look at the percentage differences, they’re a far cry from the normal disparities between male and female employees in other capacities in America.

At worst, a female Reform rabbi would make 20% less than male rabbi’s salary for the same position. The median salary disparity in the U.S. is 77%, meaning a woman makes 23% less than a man for the same job.

Except that the percentages are misleading. In the report you find that large disparity at the very top, among male and female rabbis who lead congregations of 600 members and more. There just aren’t that many female rabbis working those huge rackets – only 21, compared to 122 male rabbis. One can hope that over time, as more star female rabbis take over the really big temples, we’ll see those numbers get closer.

In smaller congregations they already are much closer. In mid-size congregations of 151 to 250 members, the salaries are virtually equal. The 68 male rabbis in the survey earn an average $101,574 a year, compared with $98,627 for female rabbis, a mere 3% difference.

Also, the average income of those highest echelon female rabbis, although only four fifths of their male colleagues, is still a staggering $154,954 annually. I wish that kind of money on all my Orthodox rabbi friends.

The figures turn around when it comes to associate rabbis. In temples with 400 to 600 members, the average income for a male associate rabbi is $91,838, compared to $101,560 for females, that’s an 11% advantage for the ladies.

Likewise in temples of 800 to 1000 members (yes, they exist). In those enormous congregations the guy associate rabbi makes only $100,796 a year, while the lady associate rabbi next-door makes $122,743, or 22% better.

In temples with more than 1801 members (that’s like a mega-church already, can you imagine just the size of their parking lot?) there are only female associate rabbis, six of them, actually, each averaging $175,342 a year.

In my own dealing with CCAR – I was on the editorial team of their new prayer book – I’ve come to recognize that the Reform movement is becoming very female-oriented, being led by increasingly more women, but, more importantly, attracting a membership that is heavily female. This is my impression and not the result of a scientific study. But it appears to me that these less prominent stats, about the growing mass of female associate rabbis, meaning leaders in the making, confirm my impression.

CCAR Chief Executive Rabbi Steven Fox told JTA that “the results were troubling but not surprising; it quantified that which we knew anecdotally. A salary gap in 2012 is unacceptable.”

Perhaps the good rabbi should read his own report more closely, because soon there’s likely to be a much better looking rabbi, probably in a pants suit, occupying his office and making about what he’s making.

Fox also said that “as the rabbinic voice of the Reform movement, we must take the lead on this issue. When we see data confirming that few women are serving large congregations on a full-time basis, we need to ask why and what we can do about that.”

But to this reporter it appears that those lady rabbis are quite capable of taking care of business all by themselves.

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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