By Kari Hofmaister Tuling
Recently, my colleague, Rabbi Jordie Gerson, wrote an op-ed regarding the most common type of erasure that female clergy encounter: the omission of title and withholding of respect. It is a large-scale battle, but one that is fought in small moments.
The article sparked a wide-ranging discussion among my colleagues in the Reform rabbinate. Many of the male rabbis who spoke up were interested in knowing what concrete steps they should take at this juncture. They were already aware that women face discrimination in myriad forms; they knew that the cumulative effect makes it more difficult for women to be hired, paid fairly, evaluated fairly and promoted. “How can we help?” they asked.
I responded: “You say that you would like to be an ally to your female colleagues? Thank you. Here is your to-do list.” The following list is a bit longer and more detailed than my original list, thanks to the input of several colleagues, male and female, some of whom are quoted below. If you are not a rabbi, feel free to adapt it.
1. Refer to every colleague as Rabbi Last-Name regardless of how cute or young or approachable or bubbly or fun she is. When I was a kid, I was the girl in your kindergarten class who wore dresses every single day, complete with frilly socks and mary-janes. As an adult, I still have a penchant for all things pink and sparkly. I also have a title – two titles, to be exact. Use them.
2. Pay women fairly. Across the board, women receive lower pay for equal work in Jewish institutions. This discrepancy is real and not the result of life-choices or career path; it shows up in nearly every kind of job.
I am happy to report that the Reform movement has decided to make pay equity a priority. Rabbi Mary Zamore, Director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network, writes: “We are proud to share that Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) and Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) have received significant funding from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York to organize together an initiative to address the gender wage gap that exists within Reform Movement institutions in North America.”