Salary dispute prompts strike at Schechter Institute


JERUSAELM (JTA) — Employees of Jerusalem’s Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies are striking over a salary dispute.

The strike at the Conservative movement’s institution has been in place since the beginning of the month. The strike affects only the institute’s Israeli students. The overseas program, made up of students from the Jewish Theological Seminary, is exempt from the strike. 

The strike began after salary negotiations broke down over requests for the reimbursement of several months of a 10 percent salary reduction instituted in July 2009 following financial difficulties. Those difficulties came due to the death of a major donor, American billionaire William Davidson.

"We are not interested in causing the close of the  spring semester, and would be happy to go back to work as soon as a collective bargaining agreement is put together to the agreement of both sides," Paul Mandel, a senior lecturer at the institute and a member of the workers committee, said.

The institute receives no government funding; 70 percent of its operating budget comes from donations.

The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies offers a master’s degree in Jewish Studies designed for Israeli teachers, and sponsors centers and research institutes of applied Jewish studies. It is also home to the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, TALI Education Fund and Midreshet Yerushalayim.

"About two years ago, the Schechter Institute experienced a significant drop in income due to the worldwide financial crisis and the sudden passing of its single largest donor," the institute said in a statement issued at the beginning of the strike. "As a result, management was forced to temporarily cut salaries, acting in a manner similar to many Israeli non-profit organizations. It should be noted that Schechter management took upon itself the majority of the budget cuts."

The statement added: "The workers’ union has not responded at all to management’s desire to compromise, and has continued to maintain its extreme position on all issues."

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