Sisterhood Blog

How to Hire More Female Federation Leaders

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

Journalist Haviv Rettig Gur recently noted in ejewishphilanthropy.com that just two of the 19 largest Jewish federations in North America are headed by women.

This is worth highlighting, particularly as the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly gets down to business today in Baltimore (it runs through November 13). The presently dismal rate of hiring women at the top of large Jewish federations “paint[s] a picture of an institution out of touch with some of the key trends in today’s Jewish world,” Rettig Gur writes.

The issue in the organized Jewish world is not limited to federations, of course. In the most recent of its annual surveys of compensation in 76 national Jewish organizations, The Forward found “a picture of communal stagnation in gender equality, as the number of women in leadership roles remains at the same low level, and the gap between male and female salaries has grown even larger.”

That there are even two women heading the largest federations is a recent development. San Francisco’s federation appointed the first woman to head one of the “big 19” in 2010, and Montreal’s hired a woman at its helm last year.

To be sure, 48 out of North America’s 155 federations are run by women, though “the percentage drops precipitously when it comes to the large federations which raise and manage the lion’s share of the federation world’s funds,” he notes.

There are indicators, however incremental, that things are changing for the better. The JFNA and UJA-Federation of New York have adopted parental leave (paid or not is unclear in Rettig Gur’s piece, though it is a salient question) and now permit flexible work arrangements, two factors which will likely make it easier to attract and retain women to management positions.

And visibility for women in the federation system has grown, if the fact that about 40% of speakers and panelists at the current GA are women is any indication.

Through its campaign to make leaders more aware of the dearth of women invited to participate in panel discussions, the organization Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community has created a shift. Central to that initiative has been getting men on board by having key male allies decline invitations to speak until there are women on the panel.

The same thing has to happen on the larger issue of women at the helm of the largest federations and other Jewish organizations. Until men — male board members and professional staff — demonstrate a commitment to making change, nothing will markedly improve.

Much is at stake. As Rettig Gur wrote, “At the end of the day, whether federations can enable women to become leaders will speak volumes about their viability as institutions in the coming years.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, jfna, jewish women, jewish federation of north america, haviv rettig gur, debra nussbaum cohen, women

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.