Shechter Protest 311.
(photo credit: Koach L’Ovdim)
In the midst of its academic year, some 70 employees at Jerusalem’s Schechter
Institute for Jewish Studies have launched an open-ended
Negotiations over pay between the workers union and the
management broke down on Thursday at the institution, which is funded primarily
by donations from the Conservative Jewish community in the US.
RELATED:Schechter Inst. employees ready to strike over salary cuts
very sad that we have to take such action, but I am hoping that the purpose of
this strike – to get back to negotiating table – will see some immediate
results,” said Dr. Paul Mandel, a senior lecturer at the institute and a member
of the workers committee.
According to Mandel, the workers have been
holding onand- off negotiations with the institute’s management after salaries
were cut by up to 10 percent last year, following the death of its largest
donor, American billionaire William Davidson, and in light of the global
At the time, more than half of the 120-strong staff felt
that the cutbacks were unjustified and that an alternative solution to the
institute’s financial troubles could have been found. Backed by the Koach
L’Ovdim (Power to Workers Union) organization, roughly 80 staff members secured
a commitment from management to reinstate salaries once donations for the
current fiscal year were secured.
In March, it was announced that the
William Davidson Foundation had donated $500,000 to the institute, which
provides recognized graduate courses in Jewish subjects to more than 600
students based in Israel, and workers were informed that their salaries would be
Mandel said that while the staff welcomed the move, they also
wanted to ensure that the losses incurred during the months of reduced salary be
reimbursed and that management accept a collective staff agreement in order to
prevent such a situation arising again.
“The management has rejected
that,” said Mandel, adding that for the past month negotiations have gone no
“We have to get back to the negotiating table, but it must be a
table with a realistic offer,” he said.
“We were strung along for a year
where money was taken from our salaries and we are demanding that money back,”
Mandel said. “We hope to start a new era with a collective bargaining agreement
so that this will not happen again.”
The staff plans to protest the
management’s failure to meet their demands in a demonstration outside the
institute on Wednesday afternoon.
The Schechter Institute, which also
operates the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, the Tali Educational Fund and
Midreshet L, said on Sunday that it was the workers union that had not responded
to “managements desire to compromise, and has continued to maintain its extreme
position on all issues.
“After a month of refusing to negotiate in good
faith, the workers union informed management on [Thursday] of an open-ended
general strike affecting all employees of the institution,” the institute’s
The response highlighted that the institute, while
recognized by the Council for Higher Education, receives no state funding and
70% of its operating budget comes from donations.
It also said that “even
after the cuts, salaries and benefits of Schechter Institute administrative
workers and faculty were still better than those of most similar
“Upon receiving a significant new donation in March, salary
cuts were canceled immediately, as was promised by management,” read the
response. “A strike now, at the height of the academic semester, affects many
students at Schechter, the majority being teachers in schools throughout the
country, with a small proportion of overseas students. We apologize to
all our students for the inconvenience this strike will cause.”