Charity Shouldn’t Pay for Exorbitant Salaries

I read the Forward’s December 17 story “Women Continue To Lag Behind in Top Nonprofit Positions and Pay” with my mouth literally agape. While I always suspected Jewish communal leaders in top positions made a great deal of money, I was shocked to see those numbers put on paper — and frankly, I’m appalled.

Of course, none of us knows exactly what these community leaders do with their exorbitant salaries — where they donate or how much or how often — and I suspect, or at least hope, that the majority of them are generous with their philanthropy. But at a time when so many are in such desperate need, we’re not doing much to dispel stereotypes about ourselves when we send our leaders, however capable and extraordinary they may be, home with pockets this padded.

It would behoove Jewish communal leaders — and the Jewish community as a whole — to take a long, hard look at these salaries and determine whether they accurately reflect our Jewish values.

Both your news story on executive compensation in Jewish communal organizations and your accompanying editorial, “Our Money, Their Salaries,” bemoan the paucity of women in these positions and the disparity between the amount of their compensation and that of their male counterparts.

While these imbalances are to be deplored, far more significant is the indecent amount of these salaries. Nineteen of the individuals listed earn more than $400,000 a year! They manage nonprofit agencies, but their personal profit is way out of line for organizations that depend on voluntary contributions to pursue worthwhile objectives.

Thoughtful ceilings on salaries for Jewish communal executives would enable their organizations to spend more money on the purposes for which they were established. This is the primary lesson of your survey!

The writer was founding dean of Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

It seems that many of the heads of these otherwise laudable organizations (be they men or women) are, if not millionaires, at least earning considerably more than most of the people from whom they are asking donations.

While I in no way wish to impugn organizations doing very effective jobs for the Jewish people, when I am sending my hard-earned money to a charity, I would like to see some balance in how it is spent. Your survey makes me think that perhaps I should be donating to charities whose leaders’ salaries seem more reasonable.

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Charity Shouldn’t Pay for Exorbitant Salaries

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