The Stained Glass Ceiling

By Dr. Kerry M. Olitzky

Over 15 years ago, I participated in my first Hillel International training conference. I decided to approach the topic of workplace bias against those who were interdating or intermarried. Much to my surprise, over 60 staff members showed up. This followed my own experiences with family friends who had shared with me the experience with their children – as college students – who were prevented from staffing United Synagogue Youth programs because they were dating someone from another faith. As a result of these experiences and others, we launched a listserve at Big Tent Judaism called JProIntermarried as a way of giving voice in a safe environment to those working in the Jewish communal service field who were intermarried or interdating and felt that they were experiencing a workplace bias. Moreover, there were those who were afraid to come out as intermarried or interdating for fear of such bias and the prevention of career advancement.

Since much of this evidence is anecdotal, we decided to develop a research project and explore what we have named “the stained glass ceiling.” To determine the extent of what we perceive is a widespread phenomenon, we will compare the career trajectories of Jewish communal professionals in similar categories, locations, and career scenarios, who are either in-married or intermarried. We will look at differences in career advancement (number and level of promotions) and in compensation (salary range).

But this is more than an academic research project. As with everything else we do, we want to apply what we have learned. First, we believe that if there is indeed a widespread bias against intermarried employees in Jewish organizations, then this bias should be made public knowledge and stopped. At a time when intermarried Jews are poised to become a majority, including and engaging intermarried Jews is among the Jewish community’s top priorities. This is just as true for Jewish communal professionals who are married to or dating persons who are not Jewish. If some Jewish workplaces are less welcoming of intermarried Jewish communal professionals, then the community should know about it.

Please be in touch with me if you are interested in the project.

Dr. Kerry M. Olitzky is the executive director of Big Tent Judaism (formerly the Jewish Outreach Institute). His latest book (written with his son Rabbi Avi Olitzky) is called “New Membership & Financial Alternatives for the American Synagogue: Traditional Dues to Fair Share to Gifts from the Heart” (Jewish Lights Publishing). He can be reached at kolitzky@bigtentjudaism.org.