Culture, Global, Politics, Religion, Sex & Gender

What's Wrong With This List?

As we reported last week, a group of 25 large Conservative synagogues calling themselves HaYom: The Coalition for the Transformation of Conservative Judaism has formed to pressure the USCJ [the congregational arm of the movement] into becoming a “synagogue organization that truly speaks to the needs of our congregations and community on every level, both here and in Israel.” Their founding and subsequent announcements were signed by the rabbis and presidents of 25 large Conservative synagogues. As we learn in their latest dispatch, these shuls were chosen “based upon the size of their dues obligation in order to create a climate in which the leaders of the USCJ would come to the table quickly and begin a dialogue.” We also learn that the shuls collectively contributed $25,000 to the new coalition. In other words, these are the shuls with the money, and therefore the power.
As fascinating as all of this might be to Conservative movement watchers, I found something else more interesting (and irritating, and unsurprising). Here’s the list of signatories to the new coalition (rabbi followed by president/s). What do you notice?

Rabbi Richard Camras Barry Wolfe
Rabbi Mark Cooper Barry Bearg Peter Drucker
Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove Steven M. Friedman
Rabbi Menachem Creditor Jeff Rosenbloom
Rabbi Alexander Davis Marshall Lehman
Rabbi Ed Feinstein Andrew Hyman
Rabbi Wayne Franklin Nathan Beraha
Rabbi Baruch Frydman Kohl
Rabbi Bill Gershon Hylton Jonas
Rabbi Felipe Goodman David Steinberg
Rabbi Bill Hamilton Noah Roffman
Rabbi David Kalender Edward Weiss
Rabbi Joseph Krakoff Brian Hermelin
Rabbi Harold Kravitz Judy Cook
Rabbi Alan Lucas Susan Zelman
Rabbi Jack Moline Evelina Moulder
Rabbi Joel Rembaum Diane Shapiro
Rabbi David Rosen Stuart Wilson
Rabbi Phil Scheim Carrie Orfus Gelkopf
Rabbi Michael Siegel Jay Goodgold
Rabbi Alan Silverstein Bill Lipsey
Rabbi Barry Starr Arthur Spar
Rabbi David Steinhardt Roger Leavy Fred Weiss
Rabbi Gordon Tucker Mark Zeichner
Rabbi Steve Weiss Dick Myers
Rabbi Irvin Wise Nina Paul
Rabbi David Wolpe Kurt Smalberg
Rabbi David Glanzberg-Krainin Fred Wolfson
Hazzan Jacob Ben Zion Mendelson
Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi
Hazzan David Propis

Number of men? 54. Number of women? 6. Number of rabbis who are women? 0.
If we take this list as even somewhat representative, even (or especially) just representative of large, American Conservative synagogues, women appear to make up a mere 10% of the top synagogue leadership and 0% of the clergy.
These are the rabbis and synagogues that pull the purse strings, get the PR, and wield power in the movement, such that congregations have any power in the Conservative movement anyway. And women appear to be largely absent from that scene.
It’s not, as some will say, simply because women have only been ordained in the Conservative movement since 1985 and therefore haven’t made their way to the “top” congregations yet. What are the barriers to women’s election/appointment to the presidencies of large synagogues? Grump.

11 thoughts on “What's Wrong With This List?

  1. It’s possible that it takes a while for someone to build up their reputation, from JTS graduate to senior rabbi of a large congregation, and that the 23 years since women have been ordained isn’t long enough to build that reputation…
    But I just don’t buy that.

  2. The lack of female senior rabbonim at these congregations links directly to the restrictions on affiliated Conservative rabbis regarding how long one must practice in the rabbinate before being eligible to lead one of these shuls. I expect that as more female rabbis reach their decade plus as rabbi, they will become a more substantive portion of this demographic.
    Further evidence: In the search for a new senior rabbi to replace one of the listed rabbis, out of 14 applicants, all were men; and this at a shul with female associate rabbis, a female president, and a history of feminist theology.

  3. Ok, just for fun, I’ve looked for the date of ordination of some of the rabbis on the list. I googled the first ten:
    Rabbi Richard Camras: 1992
    Rabbi Mark Cooper: 1985
    Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove: 1999
    Rabbi Menachem Creditor: can’t find a date of ordination, but an article from 2006 says he was 31 years old.
    Rabbi Bill Gershon: 1987
    Rabbi Alexander Davis: can’t find an ordination date, but he graduated from Grinnell college in 1991.
    Rabbi Ed Feinstein: can’t find date, but in 2006 he was 51.
    Rabbi Wayne Franklin: 1970
    Rabbi Baruch Frydman Kohl: Can’t find any info, except that he’s been married since 1970 and therefore is not young.
    Rabbi Felipe Goodman: No info, but an article from 2000 said that at the time he was 32 years old.
    So I don’t think it’s just that rabbis ordained after 1985 haven’t had time to become qualified for senior positions. There are rabbis on the list who were ordained after 1985.

  4. I wonder what the return on investement will be for this Hayom show and dance. $25,000 could have helped some yidden with Maot Chitim. It could have also been used for some Ramah scholarships too. Etc. Etc.

  5. 1. The number of women eligible for large congregations (10 years since ordination) is far smaller than the number of men.
    2. The percentage of eligible women who choose to apply to large congregations (which make time flexibility more complex) is smaller than the percentage of men.So fewer woman want to serve these large shuls.
    3. There is still some discrimination. Fortunately, it seems to be on the decline.

  6. What’s the point of leading a congregation when its numbers thin out because highly educated women choose not to have children.
    Women rabbis will be as barren as any other high powered career woman.
    —B.BarNavi: Please don’t ask stupid questions.

  7. At least two of the rabbis on that list are in Canada, not the USA. The Conservative movement in Canada tends to be much more “traditional”.

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