NEW YORK, Sept. 17 (JTA) — There are probably less demanding ways to earn a living, and certainly more lucrative. But being a rabbi is not a poor career choice either. Rabbinic placement officials for the four main religious denominations say salaries have kept pace with the general economy and remain highly competitive. And whether you´re a Reconstructionist or Orthodox rabbi, the pay scale is basically the same. Here´s the breakdown in salaries, according to officials in each stream: In the Reconstructionist movement, starting rabbis can expect to earn between $70,000 and $90,000 annually. More seasoned Reconstructionist rabbis earn between $80,000 and $200,000, with the most senior rabbis in larger congregations in major metropolitan areas commanding top dollar. Unlike the Reconstructionist or Orthodox movements, the Reform and Conservative movements limit inexperienced rabbis seeking solo pulpits to smaller congregations. Reform and Conservative rabbis right out of seminary are encouraged to serve as assistant rabbis first, usually for larger congregations with greater pastoral needs. Starting Reform rabbis can serve a congregation up to 165 households, and they earn a median income of $77,500. For Reform synagogues of between 166 and 300 families, rabbis with more experience earn a median income of $93,700. For synagogues of 301 to 600 families, rabbis earn a median income of $128,000. For congregations between 601 and 900 families, the median income level is $157,000; for 901 and 1,999 families, the median salary is $184,000, and for the most senior rabbis in synagogues with more than 1,200 families, the median salary is $218,000. In the Conservative movement, starting rabbis graduating from the seminary can expect to earn between $70,000 and $90,000 — also depending on size of congregation and the surrounding community. Midrange congregations of 400-600 families typically pay Conservative rabbis $100,000 to $125,000; congregations of 600 families or more pay around $150,000 and more; and the most senior rabbis in the largest synagogues earn $200,000 and more. In the modern Orthodox movement, starting rabbis can expect to earn from $65,000 in smaller shuls to $80,000 in larger congregations. An assistant Orthodox rabbi with a few years´ experience can expect to step into his own pulpit in a major metropolitan congregation at $100,000, while after five to 10 years that figure may climb to $120,000 to $140,000. As in the other streams, the most veteran Orthodox rabbis at the most major synagogues can expect to earn in the $200,000 range. The salaries cited by the movement include not just cash, but often some type of housing allowance; disability and health care; educational or travel allowances, and pension and retirement benefits. Rare these days is the congregation, of any denomination, that owns the rabbi´s house and pays for its upkeep. Contracts between congregations and rabbis also tend to begin with a two-year term and get renewed periodically thereafter.
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