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JTS Offers Parents Up to 8 Weeks Leave — Breakthrough Among Seminaries

The Jewish Theological Seminary has become the largest Jewish seminary in America to offer its employees fully paid parental leave.

The policy, which JTS announced in an email today, grants six weeks of paid parental leave to “primary caregivers” who have worked at the Conservative seminary for more than one year and eight weeks of paid parental leave to those who have worked there for more than three years.

“Secondary caregivers” who have worked at JTS for more than one year will be granted two weeks of bonding leave.

Rabbi Mychal Springer, who chaired the JTS committee that drafted the policy, said it was particularly innovative because it applies to couples of all backgrounds, whether they are straight or gay, birth parents or adoptive parents. The most important factor is whether the parent views his or her role as primary or secondary caregiver.

“This is a huge recognition of the seminary’s desire to support people in having families,” Springer said.

JTS’s new policy is a reflection of a growing movement in business, politics and society — and within the Jewish community — to establish better working conditions for families.

America is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a paid maternity leave law, leaving individual states and employers to decide whether to offer paid leave. As a result, only 13% of U.S. workers have access to paid parental leave.

According to data compiled by Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College is the only other major U.S. seminary offering paid parental leave. RRC grants four weeks of paid parental leave to staff members who have worked for more than two years.

Yeshiva University, home to the leading Modern Orthodox seminary, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, only grants its employees unpaid leave.

Meanwhile, the leading Reform seminary, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, did not respond to calls and emails asking for its policy. American Jewish University, which also ordains Conservative rabbis, does not offer paid parental leave. Hebrew College in Boston declined to respond.

Shifra Bronznick, president of AWP, said JTS’s new policy was extremely important: “Symbolically, it’s very meaningful to have one of the leading Jewish theological seminaries in the world adopt this policy, particularly since many of its colleagues and counterparts have not done so yet.”

Contact Paul Berger at [email protected] or on Twitter @pdberger

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