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Kosher Severance

 

I. Severance

Jewish law codifies employee’s rights, albeit allowing for many deviations based on local custom and explicit contractual agreements. Surprisingly absent from Jewish law is an obligation for severance pay on termination. While sources strongly encourage such pay as an ethical act, they do not compel it nor standardize its amount. However, local custom establishes such a requirement.

Over fifty years ago, R. Moshe Feinstein championed a severance of one month per year of service, succeeding in enshrining it in American Jewish custom. In an empassioned if brief new book, R. Naftali Zvi Frankel makes the compelling case that Jewish institutions must provide severance of one month per year. Hence the title of his book, Chodesh Le-Shanah (n.p., Kew Gardens, NY: 2012). R. Feinstein argued that while industry practices and secular law regulate most corporations, Jewish institutions must follow the one month per year custom.

II. Consensus

This is hardly controversial today. In a relatively recent article, R. Michael J. Broyde published a ruling of his, on behalf of the Beth Din of America, obligating a Jewish school to pay a terminated teacher severance of one month per year (“Severance Pay and Jewish Law” in Tradition, 37:4 Winter ’03 [PDF]). R. Broyde explains at length the source and binding nature of this custom. Similarly, R. A. Yehuda Warburg published a ruling on this subject by a beis din on which he served, in which he also accepts this custom as binding, absent explicit contractual language to the contrary (“Tenure Rights of an Employee and Rights to Severance upon Termination or Non-Renewal of a Labor Agreement–The Beth Din Experience as a Case Study” in Hakirah 12, Fall ’11 [PDF]). However, on inquiry I learned that at least one prominent Jewish school offers significantly less generous severance packages to its rabbe’im.

R. Frankel proves that this custom of Jewish institutions is undisputed. In a show of unity, R. Frankel solicited letters from rabbinic judges and halakhic authorities across the Orthodox spectrum, which constitute the bulk of the book. The letters vary widely but unanimously support R. Feinstein’s ruling, those from Israel generally explicitly stating their opinion about the US (Israeli law requires such severance so there is no question). Some letters explain at length while others offer only a few words. R. Ovadiah Yosef provides an encyclopedic review of responsa requiring such severance and concludes that since R. Moshe Feinstein required it and religious courts enforced it a number of times, it is established custom in the US and mandatory. R. Meir Mazuz of Bnei Brak replies with six words: “הוא מרא דאתרא באמריקה ורשכבה״ג, he is the halakhic authority in America and leader of the exile.”

R. Nachum Rabinovich begins his letter by pointing out that he does not know why he was asked, since he left America almost 50 years ago. He then says that severance is determined by secular law, which can be easily learned. However, if R. Moshe Feinstein and other rabbis established a severance of one month per year, it is a binding custom. R. Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg agrees that if this is the custom then anyone who hires Jewish communal workers (kelei kodesh, broadly defined to include rabbis, Jewish studies teachers, kosher inspectors and others) implicitly accepts the obligation. R. Chanoch Ehrentreu (formerly) of London writes that the London Beth Din requires severance of one month per year for kelei kodesh. I was impressed with R. Ya’akov Forchheimer of Lakewood’s refusal to issue a definitive statement without hearing both sides of a case. But he was comfortable stating that, in general, the custom is to award to kelei kodesh one month per year.

R. Aryeh Ralbag of the Agudas Ha-Rabbonim Beis Din, R. Gedaliah Dov Schwartz of the Beth Din of America and Beth Din Zedek of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, R. Moshe Kletenik of the Pacific Northwest Regional Beth Din, R. Chaim Kohn of Khal Adas Yeshurun and many others attest to their following R. Moshe Feinstein’s ruling on this subject. Authorities from Chassidic and Litvish traditions, from Modern and Charedi communities, from Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey, Toronto, Mexico City and elsewhere all agree that this custom is binding. We could try to find significance in the names missing in this book but they might have lacked the time or interest to issue a letter for publication.

III. Termination

However, I believe R. Frankel overreaches in another area. In explaining R. Moshe Feinstein’s position on severance, R. Frankel also describes his attitude toward termination. In short, R. Feinstein believed an employer may not fire an employee without cause actionable in a beis din. He argued that termination causes financial damage and must therefore be justifiable.

Additionally, R. Feinstein argued that the tenure implicitly offered to cantors applies to every Jewish communal worker in a position of authority. Cantors, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 53:25) rules, can never be removed from their positions without cause. Explaining “authority” broadly, R. Frankel quotes R. Feinstein as ruling that communal workers, including teachers and office workers, automatically have tenure even if their contracts are explicitly limited in time. R. Feinstein even ruled that a rosh yeshiva could not fire teachers due to a decrease in students nor a synagogue its rabbi due to fewer congregants.

While this was R. Feinstein’s position, it is by no means the only view. In terms of terminating a non-communal exployee, R. Aaron Levine argued that R. Feinstein was in the minority (“Performance Appraisal and Halakhah” in Dr. Yaakov Elman, Dr. Jeffrey Gurock eds., Hazon Nahum, p. 619):

The majority opinion regards the employee-at-will as subject to discharge without cause at any time. Occupying a position for a period of time does not create for the worker a presumptive claim (hazakah) to be kept on the job as long as work is available.[43] Notwithstanding that the employee-at-will enjoys no court-enforceable rights to continued employment, various moral principles, as discussed below, urge the employer to keep the employee-at-will on the job as long as the job title remains open.

A minority view is expressed by R. Moshe Feinstein (New York, 1895-1986). In his view, an employment offer for an indefinite period carries with it a commitment on the part of the employer to keep the hiree on the job as long as the job remains open. Unless expressly hired as a provisional or temporary worker, an employee hired for an indefinite period can be discharged only for cause.[44]


[43] R. Moshe Schick (Hungary, 1807-1879), Responsa Maharam Schick 2:152; R. Malkiel Tenenbaum (Poland, d. 1910), Responsa Divrei Malki’el 3:151, 5:215; R. Isser Zalman Meltzer (Russia, 1870-1953), Even ha-Ezel at Yad, Sekhirut 10:7; R. Abraham Y. Karelitz (Israel, 1878-1953), Hazon Ish, Bava Kamma, siman 23, p. 84.
[44] R. Moshe Feinstein (New York, 1895-1986), Iggerot Mosheh, Hoshen Mishpat 1:75-76.

Regarding communal employees, I do not know what view represents the majority of authorities or whether such a consensus exists. However, I note that R. Shaul Yisraeli (Chavos Binyamin, vol. 2 no. 65) rules that halakhic decisors without leadership roles, and anyone not involved in managing the community (hanhagas ha-tzibbur), do not have “authority” and therefore do not inherit positions nor (presumably, because the issues are linked) achieve automatic tenure. Additionally, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik is quoted as saying that rabbis who do not have their congregations’ support are required to resign (Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 267). I do not understand the basis of R. Soloveitchik’s view in light of the Shulchan Arukh (ibid.) and later authorities quoted in the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc., 86) and elsewhere. However, according to this report, he clearly did not agree with R. Feinstein that rabbis, perhaps only those with time-limits on the contract, have automatic tenure.

R. Yehudah Warburg writes (ibid., pp. 5-6), “Notwithstanding the view of R. Moshe Feinstein who argues that any employee cannot be dismissed upon the expiration of a contract period prior to a Beth Din’s determination that termination is justifiable, the consensus of most decisors is to recognize a yeshiva’s right to refuse to offer a new contract without any requisite need for a Beth Din approval. No distinction is advanced either in the Talmud, restatements or most teshuvot that a community and/or group is precluded from renewing a contract without a Beth Din’s definitive ruling… In fact, there are actual cases of teacher dismissals by communal institutions without recourse to a Beth Din judgment which were rabbinically sanctioned.”

It seems that R. Feinstein’s view on termination of an employee or even a communal employee in an at-will environment is a minority view. I am not sure whether his view on firing (or not renewing the contract of) a communal leader is majority but the report from R. Soloveitchik makes clear that it is not the unanimous view.

IV. Conclusion

The issue of severance is fairly straightforward. For this very reason, publishing an entire book on this subject is difficult because what is there to say? Yet R. Frankel succeeded in publishing an interesting and compelling book, proving that severance of one month per year is obligatory for Jewish communal institutions.

 

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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

47 Responses

  1. Gidon Rothstein says:

    Chodesh le-Shanah may not be controversial, but it should be. No Jewish institution puts away money for these circumstances, and it creates a disastrous situation when the time comes to part ways with an employee. R. Moshe ruled this way, as you note, 50 years ago, in a very different economic climate, particularly in terms of how Jewish workers were paid. There is no reason to think that this is a minhag avot that obligates the children, and the fact that no one has questioned it is not enough to say, well, that’s the way we do it. While dayanim all know of chodesh le-shanah, the people actually running Jewish institutions often do not; if they did, they would make explicit conditions in their employment contracts to counteract it, and if batei din ruled that wasn’t good enough, they would take other measures. It is a crippling, crippling custom with little reason or application in our world today.

  2. severence says:

    In Israel, (honest) employers set aside money each month, in a special fund, in order to pay “pitzuim” (chodesh -le-shana). The pitzuim are set aside with one’s pension- which is now obligitory for an employer to provide. It is standard, and expected both by custom and law. Furthermore, even when a worker leaves a job (i.e. not fired) it is customary for employers to give the employee the pitzuim which were set aside for him. The exception are workers who do not receive salaries but are payed per day of work- unfortunately it is common in some yeshivot to pay teachers this way- in order to pay them less, and to avoid providing social benefits (including pensions).

  3. Ben says:

    “R. Feinstein even ruled that a rosh yeshiva could not fire teachers due to a decrease in students nor a synagogue its rabbi due to fewer congregants.”

    Is there a complimentary source for how an institution with a, presumably, decrease in reveunes is supposed to pay these defacto tenured empployees?

    The European social welfare model is crumbling due to its cost structure. We need to learn from their experiance before we are victim to the same circumstances.

  4. emma says:

    (1) Am I right that chodesh lashannah applies only on termination, not voluntary retirement?
    (2) How often do schools actually pay this, especially to “klei kodesh” who are not rebbeim? How common is it to contract around, and does that vary by community?
    (3) When would this apply to an office worker? If it applies to those communal workers who don’t directly teach torah would it also apply to a general studies teacher in a dayschool?
    (4) related to Gidon Rothstein’s comment, is there anything to say about the fact that general expectations and sympathies re: labor and unions in america in the 50s/60s were different than now? When the general “minhag” outside the jewish community is shifting away from pensions and defined benefit post-employment payments, is the jewish community perpetually bound to sensibilities that are the product of an earlier era?

  5. IH says:

    It seems to me the more important book is the one that helps Rabbi and Lay-leadership to have a successful relationship.

    I understand that YU has recently started engaging RIETS students in these practical issues as part of their training. Anyone know?

  6. Hirhurim says:

    I think it is a mistake to frame this in terms of economic changes over the past 50+ years. Rishonim such as the Chinukh and Maharam encouraged giving severance. When you work as a teacher for pittance, you cannot save for retirement and have limited employment alternatives, nor can you realistically strike for better conditions. Mandated severance makes sense. It is also standard in most Western countries today.

  7. IH says:

    You seem to be conflating pension and severance.

  8. emma says:

    “I think it is a mistake to frame this in terms of economic changes over the past 50+ years. Rishonim such as the Chinukh and Maharam encouraged giving severance. ”

    I also encourage giving severance. The issue is the amount. My babysitter, for example, will get 3 weeks pay (plus some amount of accrued vacation) when we separate, unless for cause. I believe that is considered decent if not generous in her line of work. Chodesh lashannah can mean more than a full year’s pay. In what industry is that normal?

    “When you work as a teacher for pittance, you cannot save for retirement and have limited employment alternatives, nor can you realistically strike for better conditions. Mandated severance makes sense. ”
    Replace “teacher” with “janitor” and the same would be true. Should janitors get chodesh lashannah? If the argument is that american labor norms should not be changing to provide less security to lower-wage workers, fine, but then it should apply to more than klei kodesh, and ideally to private employers too?
    Also, the more benefits rebbeim get to make up for their “pitiful” salaries (eg tuition breaks) the less pitiful their actualy compensation becomes…

  9. joel rich says:

    Sounds like someone needs a HR/benefit and compensation consultant.
    FWIW in private industry the most common arrangement here is 1 week per year of service and it would be viewed as part of a total compensation and benefit package, likely no reserves held but put into annual budget process. Should be clear as part of employment even without a contract (e.g. employment handbook).

    KT

  10. emma says:

    lawyerly thought: how does chodesh lashannah interact with ERISA?

    (And is it legal to have a “plan” of this sort covering some employees but not others, based on a religious designation? I suspect yes on the latter but not sure.)

  11. emma says:

    “When you work as a teacher for pittance, you cannot save for retirement and have limited employment alternatives, nor can you realistically strike for better conditions. Mandated severance makes sense”

    Agree w IH that this conflates severance and pension, btw. Severance is supposed to tide you over until you can find something else. That’s why its on termination only, not retirement. Pension is to support you after you are done working. I asked above, but it seems chodesh lashannah does not apply on voluntary retirement, no?

  12. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    The Rav’s statement ay just be good advice, not a halachidirective. Gotta check that out.

    Also, note recent decision that salary’ icludes additional pay for specialhours, projects, etc.

    If one takes ‘chodesh leshana’ , must he agreeto waive state unemployment pay? (Yu has a similar policy for secular staff.)

    If this is a function oflow pay, that’s one thing,but do the owners / administrators of our institutionssubject to asimilar policy?

  13. IH says:

    Does the OU offer any services to its member congregations for Rabbi hiring and contract negotiation: e.g. consulting, or at least a “best practices” document?

  14. joel rich says:

    R’ Emma,
    It’s probably more a payroll practice than an ERISA issue. If it’s only males it could be a sex discrimination issue.
    KT

  15. Hoffa Araujo says:

    At least in the Province of Ontario, there are two issues when terminating an employee without cause:

    1) notice or pay in lieur of notice (whether strictly in accordance with the legislation or also subject to common law notice as imposed by the courts, which greatly expands the right of a terminated employee to receive notice payment);

    2) severance pay – on applies in certain circumstances.

    In Canadian caselaw and jurisprudence, generally there is the rule of thumb that one year of service = 1 month of notice or pay in lieu of notice. However, that rule of thumb is not the same in all cases and a review of Canadian labour and employment caselsw shows that the rule can be as high as one year of service = 1.3 months of notice.

  16. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    IH 1205pm — the RCA (or rather, RIETS rabbinic alumni (now known as CJF), which does “placement” for the RCA) has an arbitration clause (BDA) in its standard contract. while its pretty standard to use it, there is no check on if it used or not. (esp since rabbinic alumni has a habit of not protecting its own musmachim, since it wants to get the next placement.) of course, if its a limited term contract (which it seems all rabbis who have written contracts have, they may not be entitled to this “chodesh le’shana” beni. except those rabbis that claim they have a “lifetime contract”, and thus cannot be fired / let go without their con$ent.)

    in practice, i know of several cases where rabbis were let go, and the shul continued paying the salary (they wanted control over the rabbi not going to another shul. sounds wierd, but thats what happened several times. of course, those shuls had $ub$antial available assets.)

    i was actually (peripherally) involved in a teacher claiming chodesh le’shanah beni, from a yeshiva run by a leading RCA officer, who declined to go to the RCA’s bet din. the ad hov bet din / zabla had to force him to complly. surprisingly. perhaps cause it wasnt the RCA bet din, which does NOTHING for enforcement.

  17. IH says:

    MMhY — thanks, but I was thinking about this from the other side. Is the OU (representing congregations) helping its member institutions with the hiring process, contract negotiation and “best practice” management processes to mitigate the need for severance, as such? The RCA represents Rabbis, not congregations, as I understand.

  18. shachar haamim says:

    Severance – hourly and day workers are also entitled to notice pay and severance pay under israeli law if they qualify under the law.
    There is no legal requirement to set aside the severance funds in an account under the employee’s name. Some companies still put the severance funds in a general severance pay account and use the accrued funds not given to workers who resign to balance out actuarial defecits for other employees (e.g. ones who received raises and whose severance obligation is thus greater than what was in the account). The law now allows the employer and employee to agree that if the funds are in a named account and the employee is entitled to receive the funds in any event of separation (even for a resignation) then the employer need not “top up” the account for any shortfalls on termination (e.g. due to investment losses or due to raises along the way which leave a shortfall in the balance calculated on one month of most recent salary mutlplied by years of service)

    Hirhurim – what western countries are you referring to? In the USA as far as I know in most states there are no requirements for severance pay, no requirements for pension accounts and they are at will employment contracts. Very hard to suggest that severance pay in the USA can be requird halachically as it is minhag hamakom (unlike in Israel where severance pay as minhag hamakon pre-dates the founding of the State…)

  19. mycroft says:

    “Also, the more benefits rebbeim get to make up for their “pitiful” salaries (eg tuition breaks) the less pitiful their actualy compensation becomes”

    Who says they get “pitful” salaries?

    ” related to Gidon Rothstein’s comment, is there anything to say about the fact that general expectations and sympathies re: labor and unions in america in the 50s/60s were different than now?”
    Chidesh leshana was NOT general US practice in the 50s and 60s the most generous was week per year.

  20. Anon says:

    Shachar: I believe you are confusing minhag hamakom with “minhag hamedina” as used in choshen mishpat ie what the overall custom is with respect to our business dealings in the U.S. (i.e. the prevailing custom amongst the botei din to award severance establishes it as the minhag hamedina for choshen mishpat purposes). What the “minhag hamakom” of one particular subgroup within the U.S. is thus of no import as it in no way changes what the majority practice is aka the minhag hamedina. This of course should provide added reason as to why gidon rothstein’s comments are not only irrelevant and in large part factually incorrect, but also counter to Halakha.

  21. joel rich says:

    r’anon,
    what would be interesting is a study of historical evidence (e.g. sh”ut literature, batei din findings) of what Jewish practice was, and what local non-Jewish practice was, say starting from 500 years ago?

    KT

  22. Anon says:

    R’ Joel,

    I agree that would be interesting albeit wholly irrelevant to whether it is halachically the minhag in america nowadays. Do you disagree?

  23. joel rich says:

    R’Anon,
    That’s an interesting question – for example, if R’ Moshe said he pakined this way because this was the general practice (and it turned out that now we knew it wasn’t the general practice), would the fact that his psak then caused it to become the general practice still stand?
    KT

  24. Anon says:

    “if R’ Moshe said he pakined this way because this was the general practice (and it turned out that now we knew it wasn’t the general practice)”

    Let me take a step back: The basis for Reb Moshe’s psak was in Haanik Taanik Lo; the Chinuch, etc. THe chiyuv to pay severance was the Halacha according to Reb Moshe. That it is now incumbent on the Klal as the minhag hemedina in a choshen mishpat sense exists by virtue of the fact that the majority in American since Reb Moshe’s arrival in 1936 have accepted his psak as local custom. Thus, it is of no halachic import for America 2013 to know what was done 500 years ago somewhere else.

    Therefore, and with much respect, the premise that Reb Moshe may have paskined that way based on a misunderstanding of the reality on the ground is simply unworkable as a matter of history/

  25. ThePoint says:

    Rabbi Anon,

    I think it is clear that Gidon Rothstein was writing in some kind of a theoretical sense, he clearly didn’t mean what he wrote in a halachic sense.

    He actually articulates this conclusion quite clearly when he writes:

    “Chodesh le-Shanah may not be controversial, but it should be.”

    That has no relevance to Halacha.

    “No Jewish institution puts away money for these circumstances, and it creates a disastrous situation when the time comes to part ways with an employee.”

    That has no relevance to Halacha.

    “R. Moshe ruled this way, as you note, 50 years ago, in a very different economic climate, particularly in terms of how Jewish workers were paid.”

    That has no relevance to Halacha.

    “There is no reason to think that this is a minhag avot that obligates the children, and the fact that no one has questioned it is not enough to say, well, that’s the way we do it.”

    That has no relevance to Halacha.

    “While dayanim all know of chodesh le-shanah, the people actually running Jewish institutions often do not; if they did, they would make explicit conditions in their employment contracts to counteract it, and if batei din ruled that wasn’t good enough, they would take other measures.”

    That has no relevance to Halacha.

    “It is a crippling, crippling custom with little reason or application in our world today.”

    That has no relevance to Halacha.

  26. Anon says:

    The Point:

    Wow. I can only sincerely hope that was sarcasm. If so, well done. If not, there’s really no point/hope in responding to that.

  27. emma says:

    Mycroft,

    “Who says they get “pitful” salaries?”

    Gil referred to them working for “pittance,” which, while not the same as “pitiful,” is close enough. I used scare quotes for a reason though…

    ” Chidesh leshana was NOT general US practice in the 50s and 60s the most generous was week per year.”

    My point was rather that the idea that a worker has some “right” to lifetime tenure (an idea that i think is related to the idea that large severance makes sense, and which Rav Moshe apparently held acc to this post) made more sense in the America of the 50s.

  28. ThePoint says:

    Rabbi Anon:

    It was indeed sarcasm, however not in the pure original “Sarkazein” meaning of the word. I meant it in a more humorous light. I assume Gideon may wish to retract his comment due to extraordinary lack of halachic merit.

  29. I thank Gil Student for this article, (and I will try to find the book), and equally Gidon Rothstein for noting that if this is the Halakhah, we are not currently a halakhic community, and the replies which question whether this is an economically viable current halakhah (in other words, anticipated benefits rationally lead to discounted salaries – one cannot economically sustain a system which negotiates salaries on the assumption of minimal severance pay, and then pays 8.3 percent severance).
    My impression is that YU’s University-School Partnership now advises all shools to explicitly exclude chodsh leshannah in their employment contracts. This solves the halakhic problem, but accentuates the moral irrelevancy of the halakhah. We need something to say to schools that ask us how they can offer competitive salaries and create employment structures that conform to both the letter and spirit of Torah.

  30. joel rich says:

    and imho we need to let schools know that the default severance policy (if,in fact, this is the halacha) is much more generous than the host country standard (especially if it extends to retirement-which imho would make it an illegal ERISA retirement plan) so they can budget appropriately (which might require other cutbacks)

    R’ak’s general point is well taken and expands to how do we provide quality education in a mentshlich way at a price parents/society is willing to pay-a huge issue in us for many years. I bristled at a recent presentation by a university over how well things were going and then, oh btw, we haven’t given staff a raise or a 401(k) contribution in x years.
    KT

  31. Details says:

    Perhaps it would be constructive to compile a list of schools and/or institutions which aren’t currently complying with the majority practice of paying severance in the form of Chodesh Le-shanah. Maybe they simply don’t realize that they are violating Halacha, and would rectify their protocol if informed of the facts.

    Aryeh Klapper, do you have any proof or a reliable source regarding what you wrote of YU advising schools to not comply with Torah based severance? If so, what/who?

  32. Chaim says:

    Speaking as someone who is significantly involved in yeshiva education, the policy of Chodesh L’Shana, and implicet tenure while in theory sounds fair does not make any economic sence in today’s environment. Compliance with such a policy would be ruinous to our schools, and ultimately shuls and other communal institutions. To advocate otherwise would be a form of communal suicide.

  33. emma says:

    Details,
    I believe that by explicitly contracting around chodesh leshannah they are not “violating” halachah – at least per this post according to many authorities the contract takes precedence over the default obligation.

  34. emma says:

    “the policy of Chodesh L’Shana, and implicet tenure while in theory sounds fair does not make any economic sence in today’s environment. Compliance with such a policy would be ruinous to our schools, ”

    How many orthodox jews in today’s political climate agree with tenure for public school taechers? Do not nearly all of the same arguments apply against tenure for rebbeim? It is all well and good to protect teachers, but not at the expense of actually providing an education. (Similarly, in the post above, how could a school _not_ fire teachers if enrollment declines? Where is the money supposed to come from, and how is the supposed obligation to an employee more important than the obligation to the families that pay his salary?)

  35. milhouse trabajo says:

    Gidon is right on.
    it seems clear that a blind chok of paying so much as severance, especially in cases of termination for lack of available work (not enough kids in school to support 2 rabbeim) just does not work.
    if the Rebbe needs money, then there are communal tzedakah funds to take care of them, and if not, we should work to get that taken care of. but this rule leads to schools perversely keeping underperforming rabbeim on their roster while firing/losing women teachers and young energetic rabbeim who are paid too little/late due to the extra strain. And i must say it is quite suspect that this law has been embraced virtually only in the context of rabbeim (and not female teachers, who happen to get paid less at most schools)) while of course being created by the selfsame class. It would have been great if Hashem had added in the Lo Sasur part of Shoftim something to the effect that one must only go to the Cohen (and not the Shofet/rabbinical authority) when a question that clearly involves a conflict of interest/extra sympathy comes up, as it just doesn’t look right. It seems unfair for R’ Moshe (though maybe at his time things were different) to rule that his students (and himself) working in chinuch are granted a windfall that is simply not a general entitlement to other jews in other jewish professions.

    As an aside, does anyone have any experience or know of any Beis Din precedent for Chodesh lashana being imposed at a regular jewish company (e.g. B&H?)?

  36. Response/Comment? says:

    R’ Gil:

    Regarding what R’ Klapper wrote: Do you have a way to reach out to Dr. Scott Goldberg, Director of “The Institute for Yeshiva University School Partnership” for a comment to be posted on your site?

  37. I wish to clarify that I was not accusing the University-School partnership, or YU, of doing anything wrong by advising schools to contract around chodesh leshannah (assuming my impression of their advice is correct). Rabbi Student explicitly cites Rabbi Warburg as saying that this custom is binding “absent explicit contractual language to the contrary.
    It is furthermore not clear to me, likely because I have not yet read R. Frankel’s book, that chodesh leshannah is in fact the standard practice in any defined group, and therefore the default halakhah. I therefore think that it is in fact only responsible for schools either to write chodesh leshannah explicitly into their contracts, and lower salaries relative to institutions that don’t offer it, or else to specifically exclude it, so that they can’t be sued in beit din later by someone who signed a contract for a salary assuming lower severance.
    The point I was trying to make is that, since halakhah permits contracting around chodesh leshannah even if one assumes it is the default obligation, stating the halakhah does not tell schools what the right thing to do is. Creating unfunded pension obligations is immoral, and it’s not clear that most teachers would be willing to significantly discount their salaries for the sake of such severance, which they know cannot possibly be paid if the school becomes insolvent (see Enron et al). As other posters have noted. it may also be bad policy to make it very expensive for schools to fire longterm but incompetent teachers.
    A serious solution would be an attempt to set up a communal pension plan, or for day schools to provide a standard TIAA CREEF plan. Another would be to allow day school teachers to unionize. Again, my point is that it is practically irrelevant to state that halakhah requires chodesh leshannah, unless one can reasonably expect to create moral pressure against contracting around it, and practical structures that make both paying it and the expectation of it actually being paid reasonable. It says nothing useful to a school which wishes to both be competitive for good teachers and to treat them properly.

  38. Link says:

    R Klapper, I think RYGB (in the link above) has addressed at least some if your points.

  39. mycroft says:

    My comments on RYGBs comment on the Hirhurim discussion.

    “Chodesh l’shanah is the only protection that a Rebbe has against a system that underpays him”
    far from obvious to me that Rabeim are underpaid-certainly for the amount of hours that they work a year
    ” and can and does demote him, cut his paycheck and/or discharge him without due process.”
    I never knew that private US employers absent contracts to the contrary do not have an employment at will situation

    ” Just as a kesubah was instituted as a check on divorce, chodesh l’shanah serves as a check on the whim, caprice or malevolence of a supervisor, administrator or significant other.” kesubah is a lien against mans property in case marriage disappears-eg divorce or death-chodesh leshanah is just additional compensation.

    “Our system is very different from the public school system. Rabbeim are not unionized, have no grievance procedures, and no ombudsmen.”
    They have a Beis Din situation which certainly versus an MO school the Rebbe will very likely win.

    “It is shameful that YU’s University-School Partnership advises schools to preclude chodesh l’shanah in their contracts. This is simply exploitation.”
    chodesh leshananh is simply deferred compensation which the school may not have realized that they agreed to in the first place until they are no longer employing the Rebbe.
    “I am sure they did not consult the Roshei Yeshiva as to the advisability of this maneuver -”
    A RY is a REbbe -what side do you think they are likely to take.

    ” much less Ba’alei Mussar.”
    The biggest expert in Mussar that I ever heard was Rav Lessin ZT’L when he spoke in Yiddish I didn’t understand a word but do you think he would have been a good source on this issue
    “The ethical lapse is extraordinary. What happened – if nothing else – to v’asita ha’yashar v’ha’tov?!”
    maybe the ethical lapse is on the Rebbe who knew he was planning to get an almost 10% bonus on what the school believed that they were contracting to pay him. Whatever the parties agree to is fine-if the Rebbe Union wants to ensure chodesh leshanah put it in their contracts.

  40. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    mycroft — the unfunded pension issue is not particularly relevant. today, there are NO defined benefit plans in private sector (only govt has it, and thats … a political issue …).
    besides, the primary benefit of RCA membership (dues are extremely high; it is assumed any rabbi will negotiate it as a perk of his job. that would make a now relevant survey) is access to a very lucrative (401k type) pension plan.

    C-L is negotiated out — i’m sure any atty representing an institution / board will delete that clause. unless its negotiated back in.

    interesting the comparison with the ketubah — it is completely worthless today, both halachically and legally. i agree that it should be reformed to a definite contract (including actual USD (or EUR, NIS, whatever s “zuz”) value, actual formal signature (besides the eidim issue everyone ignores; makes good halachic discussion of various sugyot, but overall, irrelevant), choice of law clause (since couples inevitably move out of state, etc) option to include (appropriate) clauses, etc.) like the employment contract here. after all, a ketubah is just a contract with a subordination / mortgage clause.

    and the ketubah is not a check on divorce. try telling a woman (or man / estate will pay out) that all she gets in a divorce is $10 – $40,000 ( = various definitions of 200 zuz). its unfair to both sides, in the context of a “check”.

    and even if the money is put in a specific segregated account, it is subject to the credit standing of the institution. and tax implications.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Another link where the Sefer is sold:

    http://www.mysefer.com/product.asp?P_ID=6566

  42. mycroft says:

    “besides, the primary benefit of RCA membership (dues are extremely high; it is assumed any rabbi will negotiate it as a perk of his job. that would make a now relevant survey) is access to a very lucrative (401k type) pension plan”

    On what basis would a schul pay a Rabbis membership costs? to me it would just be taxable compensation-parsonage to the extent permissible generally makes sense no Income tax but there is SE tax associated with parsonage. My understanding is that the “401K plan” is funded with parts of a Rabbis salary-suspect leftover from days before all the 401K system existed. BTW it is likely that the RCA pension plan takes away from the moral obligation that a schul has to ensure that its Rabbis have income after retirement-even if money in account came from service to a schul that is not the last one the Rabbi served before retirement.

  43. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    mycroft — i wont argue. but its part of professional / association membership, (whose benefit is solely the rabbi’s.) and it is a perk of the job, just like law firms deduct license fees, and bar assn fees as a prof expense. as is the RCA annual meeting / OU convention / bar assn convention, etc. including air fare.

    regarding YU — i was told by a senior MTA board member at the time the board was reformulated / MTA was “rescued”, that as part of the “rescue” certain rebbeim who should have been retired years ago, but were kept on cause no one knew what to do with them (and they retained their cheap salaries) were to be retired as “be-kavod” befitting them.

    of course, 8% of a cheap salary isnt too much. gotta check the 990.

  44. mycroft says:

    “of course, 8% of a cheap salary isnt too much. gotta check the 990″

    Salaries of Rebbes are much higher than many think-especially considering the hours worked-well less than a 1000 a year.

    ” i wont argue. but its part of professional / association membership, (whose benefit is solely the rabbi’s.) and it is a perk of the job, just like law firms deduct license fees, and bar assn fees as a prof expense. as is the RCA annual meeting / OU convention / bar assn convention, etc. including air fare.”

    There well may be some Rabbis who get their Congregations to pay for such fees-I am aware of Rabbis who paid their own membership dues and their own convention travel fees etc.

  45. mycroft says:

    “of course, 8% of a cheap salary isnt too much. gotta check the 990″

    See
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/sunday-review/americas-productivity-climbs-but-wages-stagnate.html?hp&_r=0

    Is it really cheap-maybe compared to the top 1%. It is my understanding that during the past 10 years RIETS Rabbeeim/MTA Rebbes have received huge increases.
    I suspect their salary/benefits see YUHS from 990 for huge percentage of non taxable benefits is not bad at all compared to the vast majority of college grads and even those with graduate degrees requiring a lot of education.
    Certainly when considering yearly hours required for job not bad.

  46. Daily Reid says:

    […] ▪ Torah U-Mesorah leaders insist on severance for teachers, which we discussed a few months ago (link): Gilui Daas from Gedolei Torah Regarding Severance Payment ▪ Interview with Robert Avrech: A […]

 
 

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