Monday, December 31, 2012


Annually The Forward performs a service to us by presenting a Survey of executive compensation in Jewish organizations. This year, the survey appeared under the headline: "Who Won and Lost in Latest Survey of Jewish Communal Pay." You can find the entire Survey (with Links) at:

Some reflections are in order (and, I would appreciate yours):
  • When JFNA CEO and President Jerry Silverman published his very evocative list of Chanukah Miracles on December 10, shouldn't he have started with his own compensation?
  • I look at the list of federation CEO compensation and conclude that in too may instances there are CEOs who are over-compensated when one examines comparable communal financial outcomes. Sure, all federations have become complex businesses but one CEO's compensation and benefits shouldn't be based, should it, on what another CEO earns? But, there it is, in black and white. 
  • The introductory analysis of the disparity in compensation between men and women in comparable roles should be a source of shame in all of our communal organizations. 
  • That same analysis indicates that some of our organizational leaders have been allowed to engage in the same forms of patronage that we decry in our political leaders and would never permit in a business context -- hiring of spouses and children. Any responsible Board would put an end to these practices.
  • When a CEO is earning compensation let us say in excess of $400,000/year might they not be told that they will have to pay out of their own pockets for spousal travel or First Class airfare anywhere? Or is that too much to ask?
  • And, then there is this: Compensation Committees in so many of the listed Jewish Communal organization have clearly become almost incestuous populated by those who have the closest relationships with those whose contracts they are negotiating and those whose compensation they are determining. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the incredible amounts being paid to some of these executives. The pages of The Forward have included stories on one organization that lost its charitable tax exemption, saw its fund raising diminish and still, over a period of years, awarded its CEO major compensation increases while apparently terminating that CEO's critics, lay and professional. At other organizations, key lay leaders are often hand-picked by the sitting CEO for their presumed loyalty to that CEO -- they can be "counted on." In one community, the legend is that with no governance process, the outgoing Board Chair unilaterally negotiated an employment contract extension with his "friend," the current CEO  who had presided over a multi-year series of campaign and personnel failures and then presented it to "his" Board as a fait accompli. Is it any wonder that our communal instruments have lost our donors' trust.  
  • There seems to me to be a chutzpah factor in so much of this picture of  executive compensation.  In too many places the comparisons with large law firms rings true: there is "disparity index" between the highest  paid professionals and not women alone -- everyone, or almost everyone, else
Thanks to The Forward for the public service.

And a wonderful 2013 to all.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The lack of females in not just CEO positions but in overall upper management and well-paying positions is embarrassing.

Leaving clerical workers aside (we really shouldn't, actually, since they're overwhelmingly female and underpaid), what do you suppose the average male salary is at JUF (Chicago) compared to female?

Judging by the 2011 Form 990 for compensation, I see only 3 females among the top 19 (and none in the Top 10). And many of the males have been there for a LONG time.

As much as critiques of JFNA are on the mark regarding gender, individual Federations have much, much work to do here, too.