This doesn’t actually appear to be new news, but Arieh Lebowitz of the JLC sent it along, and it is rather interesting. The Jewish Chronicle (which describes itself as ” The world’s oldest and most influential Jewish newspaper, the London-based Jewish Chronicle…”) ran a story last summer about the Rabbinical Council of the Provinces encouraging its members to consider joining a union – apparently an interfaith clergy union.
Some of the benefits?
Some regional rabbis, he said, “have been taken aback by some of the things that have happened to rabbis in London, including losing their jobs”.
But he stressed that the appeal of a union lay mainly in the “wide range of services it can provide, which include looking at contracts of employment, updates on employment law, as well as benefits such as cheaper insurance.
“There is also the facility of accredited representatives who, in the case of a dispute, will be there to assist and advise. Some rabbis will be trained as accredited representatives, which will mean not only helping colleagues but also members of other faiths. So a rabbi may help a priest or imam, and vice versa.”
…Unite could help with training, for example in health-and-safety issues, as well as give guidance on terms of employment. Looking forward to welcoming more rabbis, he said: “It was quite clear [from the conference] that many had problems with their synagogues at different times, which could have been more easily resolved had we been there. We could stop a lot of the bickering and bullying.”
Apparently, “‘A number of rabbis already belong to Unite,’ said Rabbi Daniel Levy, of the United Hebrew Congregation, Leeds, and RCP chairman. ‘And a considerable number have expressed interest in joining.’”
I think that this is a fabulous idea. Now I know most of you are thinking, “What? Doesn’t my rabbi already belong to that.. whatever it is? Union thingy?”
And, yes, in the USA, and some other places, too, rabbis in reputable movements do actually have organizations to which they belong. But the truth of the matter is that these organizations are pretty darn weak, and generally don’t give much help to lots of situations that a strong union in trades would help with.
For example, the Conservative movement’s model contract asks for two months maternity leave (which for lots of good reasons that I won’t go into here, I believe should be parental leave). Yet we know from the study that came out not too long ago that most rabbis do not get this in their contract. In fact, I have heard of numerous occasions where the congregation has offered -to this, and to other kinds of what is, in fact, a matter of remuneration at the bottom line- “oh, the model contract is just for situations where there’s not a good relationship.” Well, guess what, that’s ridiculous. That’s an attempt to turn a matter of compensation into a personal matter.*
Super-typical for things pertaining to women, but it does happen to men, too. This is clearly something that a strong union could help with. There’s lots of other examples. I’m sure that your rabbi could come up with a few if you ask him or her – if they dare, since they know perfectly well if they complain, whatever they say could come up against them during the next contract negotiation.
Okay, some I’m pretty interested in this interfaith union thing. We have all the stuff in place – lots of interfaith clergy organizations and boards in place, each one composed of members who themselves have their “unions” and assemblies. Let’s get some teeth into those puppies…. And think how much it would do for interfaith relations if the imams and priests went on strike with the rabbis for the ministers.
I know the USA is so anti-union you couldn’t get half the rabbis in this country to agree to it -more’s the fool they- but I can dream can’t I?
*NO, let’s be accurate, you just don’t want to set up a system in which parenthood is treated as important as opposed to optional personal entertainment or something – even though the Jews are always moaning about how we aren’t reproducing enough, we still can’t get congregations to treat even their clergy in a way which will allow them to realistically reproduce at even a replacement rate, let alone more.