Gender Bias And Rabbis


Regarding “JTS Women Grads Struggling For Pulpits” (June 3), gender actually has very little to do with job placement today.

The truth is the rabbinate today is a question of supply and demand. Older rabbis are not retiring. Their pensions, if they have any, are worth half of what they once were. They need to stay in the rabbinate longer and cannot retire. Some are entering the rabbinate as a second career. Numerous Conservative and Reform synagogues have closed and merged. There is only room for one rabbi at many synagogues. Large congregations are firing assistant rabbis due to attrition.

While I do not deny that men may have an easier time finding jobs than women, I believe the job market is a disaster for all. Older rabbis, over the age of 50, are finding that if their contracts are not renewed they are considered too old for most pulpits. Some rabbis in dire straits have sought part-time positions with the hope of finding teaching jobs.

This situation exists in the Orthodox rabbinate as well. There are very few synagogues that pay a living wage and rabbis need several jobs. Ask any cantor, male or female, and they will tell you how difficult it is to obtain a position. Synagogues are asking cantors to do jobs such as executive director, sexton, etc., in addition to their cantorial duties. Yeshiva and day school jobs do not pay enough either, except for principal positions, which are few. This is the reality.