Answering the $54,000 Question

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It seems like the Jewish community’s glass ceiling is finally starting to crack. The steady stream of “women/family and the workplace” buzz that’s been taking up a significant amount of bandwidth on various news sites, programs, and at water coolers seems to have hit a nerve in the Jewish non-profit realm. There are clear problems with our current system. The recent release of the 2012 Jewish Communal Professional Compensation Survey highlights pay inequity across gender lines with middle management, as well as significant salary disparities between well paid executives and junior staff. The Forward’s 2012 executive compensation survey highlights these issues from a gender lens, focusing on disparities in executive pay in the Jewish community between male and female executive directors and CEOs. Mark Young’s recent piece further addresses issues of appropriate compensation and professional development within our communal organizations. These are topics that deserve to be addressed at length within the Jewish community; we can no longer afford to pretend that the needs of our communal workers don’t matter to the overall success of our Jewish community. Obviously pay is a significant issue when it comes to a Jewish organization’s ability to maintain a staff of intelligent, dedicated, and passionate employees. However, the buzz around these issues doesn’t just focus on pay - it focuses on ideas of work and job flexibility, of acknowledging the whole of employees’ lives, and of helping them to find a balance between the two for the good of our communities. The Jewish communal sphere has a long way to go when it comes to acknowledging the contributions of our professionals, both as professionals themselves and as mothers, fathers, and individuals who hold membership in the very community they are working for. We need to have transparent and respectful dialogue among professional staff and lay leadership to address discrepancies and to ensure that our communal organizations truly reflect our Jewish values, both in terms of mission and in terms of internal processes.

The David Project has made a real effort to engage with these issues. In December 2011, we held our first organizational culture retreat. Taking a page from Zappos' book, everyone on staff came together to discuss what we want our organization to represent, and decided on key Core Values (Creating Mishpacha, Advancing Life Long Learning, Embracing Change, Being Genuine & Open, Celebrating Zionism, Fostering Autonomy & Responsibility, Rewarding Success & Embracing Failure) that reflect who we are and what we value as a team. These Core Values have slowly infused every aspect of our organizational life, ranging from how we hire employees to how we evaluate programmatic success and failure. The values have given us a language to govern both our internal discussions, and also a way for us to grapple with the systemic issues facing Jewish communal organizations today. Our most recent venture is an evaluation of our personnel manual, with an eye to making the policies that govern our day-to-day working lives (including work-life balance issues like family leave and flexibility), reflective of the progressive, transparent, and exciting organization that we know we are. The David Project is committed to becoming a “place of choice” for Jewish communal professionals, a place where all employees are valued for the work they do and where employees are respected for the varying roles they have within the organization, within their families, and within their communities.