A Forward survey finding that only 14.3% percent of the top jobs in the nation’s 75 largest Jewish communal organizations are held by women ought to serve as a wake-up call. So should the finding that women leaders are paid only 61 cents for every dollar earned by male leaders. These employment and salary gaps need to be addressed not just because of individual unfairness, but also because of the communal imperative to ensure that the very best people are leading these important organizations.
Be fruitful and multiply. But if you work for a Jewish communal organization in America, you probably won’t be able to count on help from your employer. The dearth of family-friendly policies in Jewish organizations has to change if we are to attract and keep good employees and practice what we preach.
The ground shook beneath the Jewish world a few weeks ago at a synagogue in the Bronx. It happened quietly, not part of any noisy revolution — the person at the center of this historic change hardly looks or sounds like a rabble-rouser, not with her covered hair and modest demeanor, and her frequent praise of the mentors and authority figures in her life. But Sara Hurwitz’s conferral ceremony represented an earthquake of sorts, a fundamental shift in at least one small but influential sliver of the Orthodox Jewish world. The ground didn’t dramatically split wide open, but it trembled just enough to remind us that progress sometimes comes to those who are patient and willing to compromise, even if those compromises are difficult to accept. After years of serious study and service to her community, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Hurwitz was given the brand-new title of Maharat — an acronym signifying one who is a public leader, halachic decider, spiritual guide and Torah scholar.