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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.

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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13 Responses to “Female Rabbis Make Less than Male Counterparts, But Some Fare Better”

  1. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Has The Jewish Press lost its Torah marbles? There's no such thing as a female rabbi, just as there is no such thing as a female heavyweight champion, or a female NFL football player. There are many women who are very knowlegable in Torah and are excellent teachers, but they are not rabbis, nor would these women ever consider themselves rabbis. Get with it guys!

  2. Yori Yanover says:

    Calm down, Tzvi. We use the formal term regardless of what we think about the validity of it. If you ask Rabbi David Hollander, there's no such thing as a male Reform rabbi either. And if you want to be strict about it, since the interruption of S'micha in the 5th century or thereabout, there are no rabbis in the world at all, only people with diplomas from better and worse academies.

    You're the last person I'd expect to go all PC on me. I don't think the pope is God's representative on earth and I still call him by his title. I wanted to report about salary discrepancies inside an organization that governs the religious affiliation of 2 million Jews. What would you have me do? Not report it? Or pick a title that so obviously conveys my bias it renders whatever I say meaningless?

  3. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Firstly, my remark wasn't directed at you or anyone else personally. Secondly, if you are bent on calling these people rabbis, then please call me Rabbi Tzvi, and call your local grocer Rabbi, and your barber Rabbi. As to what to actually call them without giving away your personal bias, or without hurting anyone's feelings, you could call them "female leaders of movements pretending to be Judaism," or something to that effect. In my opinion, conferring the title rabbi upon them, whether male or female, gives credence to something we are trying hard in Israel to prevent.

  4. Yori Yanover says:

    It's an intriguing thought, albeit on the cumbersome side.

    First, you should know that in my shul on East Broadway, Chayim Schlieifer, may he live to a 120, whenever you call him "Rabbi" he answers: "Du bist alayin a gonnif" — you're a thief all by yourself.

    Second, all I wanted to do was track amazing changes in the Reform movement which the very people who paid for the survey aren't able to see. I'm facinated by this movement, which by all accounts should have disappeared ages ago, and yet, there they are. I think they're turning into female-led earth religion groups.

    The salary thing, and the fact that some positions there are staffed only by women these days, is more meaningful than your and my brawl over what to call these ladies.

    We should sit and drink some day. What's your poison?

  5. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Anything you can pour over ice cubes.

  6. Rc Fowler says:

    Where in the Bible does God ordain women to be rabbis? it doesn't!

  7. Rc Fowler says:

    Quite right Mr. Fishman!

    What a blessing to live in Yerushalayim!

  8. Rc Fowler says:

    Where in the Bible does God ordain women to be rabbis? he doesn't!

  9. Yori Yanover says:

    The process of S'micha, ordination, is, indeed, prescribed to men only, starting with Moses who ordained Joshua, who in turn ordained the sages. That process, which is connected to the revelation on Mt. Sinai, was interrupted in the fifth century as the rabbinic center in Israel was extinguished. It was never resumed. And so, no one who receives an ordination today, man, woman, child or favorite appliance, is a rabbi in the biblical sense.

  10. chavazlotkin says:

    We’re talking semantics here. If you call someone “rabbi”, it doesn’t make them a rav. It’s similar to saying that two men can be “married” to each other. They can make a commitment to one another, but it’s not a marriage. Yet they insist they want to call it that. And the reform “rabbis” insist they want to be called “rabbi.” Okay, we have a choice. We can avoid using the term in connection with them, or we can use it and find a different word for those who we feel deserve the title. I would suggest calling those last either “rav” or “rebbe”, depending on their hashkafa.

  11. Davide Shalome says:

    Is the JP still Jewish? These women do not even keep the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach (they publicly accept homosexuality) let alone the 613 a Jews is commanded.
    I was once asked by a female clergy person if I recognized her as a rabbi, and I said no less than your male counterparts. It turned out that she liked the answer and introduced me to her husband, I said to him Sholom Aleichem rebbitzen which he did not appreciate, later this woman told me that her husband was a goy.
    If I would be the editor I would have used the headlines" Egailtarian Reform movement discriminates in pay level of women".

  12. Rc Fowler says:

    Thank you for your cogent reply Mr. Yanover!

  13. Yori Yanover says:

    How do you "publicly accept homosexuality?" The halachot of mishkav zachar are in the first chapter of Sanhedrin and they deal with an actual homosexual act, strictly by two men. How could you possibly see a woman rabbi engaged this way?

    What you describe is expressing a political opinion in favor of homosexuality, about which the halacha of homosexual prohibition has nothing whatsoever to say.

    On the other hand, we do have a prohibition of malbin pnei chavero b'rabim — publicly humiliating a person, which you did; as well as lo tekalel cheresh — you can't curse a deaf person, which could include joking at the expense of one who doesn't understand Hebrew.

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