Category Archives: excessive salaries

The Salary Scandal in Jewish Philanthropy

This is an old story, and bringing it up once again, by an obscure blogger like me, is not likely to cure the problem. But please … why are these gentlemen (mainly) of the “Jewish civil service” paid as they are ?

In the chart above, I’ve pulled out salaries in excess of $500,000 in the world of Jewish philanthropy (see the excellent site of the Chronicle of Philanthropy), but this is just a tip of the iceberg of excessive payments to Big Shots, Jewish and otherwise. No more than one half of one percent of the American workforce receives this much (oops, I almost said “earns this much”). Ordinary people like you and me earn far, far less. We are regularly asked to contribute to groups like UJA-Federation, in the name of helping the less fortunate. Is there any rhyme or reason, or any decency whatsoever, in using our contributions to support the lifestyles of the upper one half of one percent ? There is not.

The apologists of such salaries invariably say that it is not possible to get “good people” to work for less. The same argument was advanced on behalf of the salaries and bonuses paid to the “good people” whose incompetence gave us the current recession.

Can you get “good people” to work for non-stratospheric salaries ? The President of the United States ($400,000), the federal judges ($170,000), officials of the Salvation Army ($216,000), Jesuit priests who lead major universities (room and board), all these seem willing enough to work for reasonable incomes. Moreover, scholars who have looked for empirical evidence to support stratospheric incomes have found none: there is simply no evidence that such salaries “are needed.”

As it happens, the highest salary at the Salvation Army is $216,000. That is one fifth of the salary paid to the president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles. On the other hand, the yearly income of the Salvation Army is $3,237,768,000, which happens to be fifty times as much as that of the Jewish Federation of LA. In other words, Sally Anne gets 250 times more value for her money than does the Jewish Federation of LA.

No, there is no valid argument “from necessity” for the high salaries at Jewish institutions. But in any case, whatever pragmatic reasons could be found or invented to justify such payments, the most important thing about these payments, in my view, is that they are unseemly.

Finally, I must hasten to add that certain payments to officials of elite universities are still more shocking than these abuses at Jewish groups. Please study the Chronicle of Philanthropy materials to which I have linked above.