A minority: Shoshana S. Cardin, first female to chair the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is one of the few
women to reach the top of the Jewish communal world. She chats here with Detroit's Mark Schlussel, left, and David Mondry.
moving into leadership positions at a
much higher rate than did previous ge-
But Ms. Levine, who went on to become
chairwoman of the National Jewish
Community Relations Advisory Council
(NJCRAC), believes that the progress
achieved so far amounts to little more
than window dressing.
"It has not been significant progress,"
she said. "Women who succeed have to be
exceptional. Rather ordinary, average
men continue to succeed in major organ-
Women, Ms. Levine emphasized, still
face an "ingrained pattern of resistance"
that stems from traditionally defined
beliefs about the role of women. (This can
be most clearly seen in Orthodox-oriented
agencies that adhere to the role models
put forth by traditional Judaism).
Mrs. Cardin added that what this all
shows her is the tenacity of an entrenched
"old boy network."
"When a position is vacant, (male offi-
cials) recommend people they know. And
there are relatively few women that they
can turn to in the higher levels of their
organizations," she said.
"When they see a vacancy, they need to
ask about women who are qualified —
and not necessarily women who are al-
ready in the Jewish communal field.
There are Jewish women in academia, for
instance, who could be asked to come into
the Jewish communal world."
For women who have chosen profes-
sional careers in the Jewish community,
progress has been spotty the past two
decades. While more women are entering
the field and moving into mid-level posi-
Jewish women still face
male bias in organizations
tions, financial inequities remain in
"The statistics we've seen suggest that
there still isn't equal pay for equal work,"
said Joel 011ander, executive director of
the Conference of Jewish Communal Ser-
"A lot of this is based on old stereotypes
of women as the second breadwinner.
There is still a feeling that you can pay
women less, and that they'll accept it be-
cause their needs are different. I'm sorry
to say that Jewish organizations fall into
Mr. 011ander also noted that starting
salaries in Jewish organizations have not
kept pace with similar positions in
government or the corporate world, and
that this tends to discourage women — as
it does men — from choosing Jewish
Another problem is the "occupational
ghetto" of human services into which
women have generally been slotted, and
where they have made their greatest
strides. Human services — aging, health
care, family concerns, youth and singles
programs — pay less and carry less pres-
tige than, say, positions that deal with
Soviet Jewry or Israel.
Since top American Jewish profes-
sionals are all individuals whose reputa-
tions were made in the international
arena, or in the fight against anti-
Semitism, women working in human ser-
vices agencies are less likely to reach the
big time of Jewish leadership.
"You cannot reach a position of top
leadership in the Jewish community
without having some credibility on the
big issues like Israel and Soviet Jewry,"
said one woman who has worked for
several Jewish groups.
A survey of Jewish
federations shows women
still lag behind men in a
number of key areas.
"But there's a strong tendency for my
male colleagues to assume that because
I'm a woman, I don't have the same
capability to understand these issues. I'm
okay, they think, when I'm dealing with
family issues, with social services.
"But I'm supposed to be out of my
league when it comes to foreign affairs,"
Gary Rubin, director of national affairs
for the American Jewish Committee, has
studied the issue of gender discrimination
in his own organization. Salary differen-
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS