Is There Gender Equity in Jewish Organizations?

The U.S. election season has put the issues of diversity and gender on the national radar. Now, a new book looks at gender equity through the lens of North America’s Jewish organizations, where 70 percent of professionals are women, yet few hold top positions.

In Leveling the Playing Field: Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life, three experts in organizational change provide strategies and tools for those who want to champion gender equity in the workplace. This new “how-to” book draws upon best practices in leadership theory and human dynamics to tackle gender inequity, a deep-rooted problem that has been discussed for years by Jewish leaders with little being achieved.

In the book, the three authors paint a compelling picture of gender bias in North America’s Jewish organizations, and explain why more equitable environments are essential to the success of these organizations and the long-term health of the Jewish community. Then, they present comprehensive strategies for anyone (executives, staff, lay leaders, volunteers) who wants to build an action plan for change within their own organization.

“Imagine how much stronger Jewish organizations would be if women truly shared leadership with men,” said co-author Shifra Bronznick. “Until now, there have been too many platitudes about closing the leadership gap, but few resources actually devoted to serious initiatives. Leveling the Playing Field will give people the tools to move the community from rhetoric to real change.”

The book tackles the issue of gender equity with an eye toward organizational effectiveness, making its lessons appropriate for any sector: “An organization with overwhelmingly male leadership, despite a majority of female staff, is not likely to be operating as a meritocracy and therefore is not taking full advantage of its talent pool.”

However, the conversation is particularly relevant to Jewish organizations, federations, nonprofits, foundations, and religious institutions, which have been slow to address the problem: “There are fewer women at the high echelons in the Jewish communal arena than in comparable organizations in academia, philanthropy, and the secular nonprofit sector.”

Using the most current studies and data from the Jewish world, the authors explain how recent efforts to address gender equity in the workplace, while encouraging, are still largely superficial and ignore the underlying factors that perpetuate gender bias (e.g., antiquated models of workplace success, unfair policies, inflexible environments and misconceptions about women’s potential).

Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life

By Shifra Bronznick, Didi Goldenhar, and Marty Linsky

Published by:
Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community

in bookstores April 7th


updated: read this Op-Ed piece by the book’s authors,

Action is needed to smash glass ceiling in communal world. Click here.

Like what you are reading? Would you like daily updates from eJewish Philanthropy? Please subscribe by e-mail or feed reader at the top of the page.