JTS Undergoes Another Round of Layoffs, With 15 Employees Losing Their Jobs in June

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 14, 2010, issue of July 23, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Jewish Theological Seminary of America underwent broad layoffs in late June, despite the chancellor’s earlier indication that no further layoffs would be forthcoming.

Just weeks after announcing a new strategic plan that emphasized reducing costs and creating new revenue streams, JTS, Conservative Judaism’s flagship seminary, has terminated 15 administrative employees in an effort to balance its 2010-2011 budget.

The latest round of layoffs comes five months after the school announced the elimination of the position of cantorial school dean, held for 12 years by Henry Rosenblum. At the time, Arnold Eisen, the seminary’s chancellor, told the Forward that he didn’t foresee further job losses. “I don’t anticipate other structural changes that will result in job cutbacks, no,” Eisen told the Forward in February.

Of the school’s new strategic plan, which, at that point, had yet to be unveiled, Eisen said, “It’s not necessarily going to result in clear-cut losses of positions.”

Eisen declined to be interviewed for this story. When asked whether the statements he made in February are contradicted by these latest cuts, he did not respond directly, but did e-mail the following statement: “JTS has always worked in a cost-conscious manner and we were therefore able to achieve a balanced budget for the 2010–11 fiscal year with relatively modest further cost reductions. That doesn’t mean, however, that there weren’t some difficult decisions — there were. Especially difficult was the reduction in force of 15 employees.”

He went on to say that JTS’s financial position as a result of the balanced budget would enable the school to move forward with its strategic plan.

The June layoffs were spread across seven administrative departments, including the library, the development office, the accounting department and the registrar. Thirteen of the eliminated positions were full-time; two were part-time. According to Elise Dowell, JTS’s chief communications officer, none of those who lost their jobs were senior administrative officials.

The JTS board thought it was important that the seminary enter the 2010–2011 year with a balanced budget, according to Robert Rifkind, a board member. “Sure, one wishes one had all the money in the world, [but] we’re realists and we know that we don’t,” Rifkind said.

Historian Jonathan Sarna said that the emphasis on the institution living within its means was a sign of a trend toward increased fiscal discipline across the Jewish institutional world. “The optimism that once allowed governing boards to permit institutions to maintain deficits and dip into their endowments has given way across the Jewish world, I think, to a sense that very conservative accounting practices have to be maintained and a ‘no risk’ policy needs to be introduced,” said Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.

This is the second consecutive fiscal year in which the seminary has cut jobs for budgetary reasons. In 2009, the seminary laid off 27 people and levied pay cuts on others. At the time, Eisen took a 10% pay cut.

JTS currently employs 241 faculty and staff members.

Contributing editor Debra Nussbaum Cohen contributed reporting.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com, and follow him on Twitter @joshnathankazis.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.