During the year that I spent in Jerusalem, at the Schechter Institute as part of my rabbinical studies, in 2000-2001, I learned that Schechter – the Masorti Movement’s academic institution in Israel – prides itself on the seriousness with which it approaches halakhah (Jewish law). I am surprised, then, to see the Schechter administration act in direct contradiction of halakhah.
A few weeks ago, the Schechter faculty returned to work from a partial, week-long strike after contract negotiations between employees and the administration broke down. A year earlier, the institution had unilaterally imposed pay cuts of 5-11 percent on employees, citing these measures as a necessary response to the financial crisis and more specifically, the death of the institution’s largest donor. Even while cutting employees’ pay, the institution continued with the construction of new academic buildings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. After the cuts, employees decided to organize a union.
According to Dr. Paul Mandel, a faculty member and union leader, Schechter did everything possible to stop the union. When employees sought to gather employee signatures to form a union, they used an employee list provided by the administration. But when they reported that they had reached the necessary percentage to form a union, Schechter produced new employee lists with names of former workers who were no longer on the payroll. The administration also publicly disparaged the union in an effort to dissuade employees from joining. And once the union was formed, Schechter allegedly paid tens of thousands of shekels per month to an consulting firm charged with breaking the union.
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