“Synagogues are contracting,” says Barak Richman professor of law and business administration at Duke University, “and American Judaism remains ossified in organizational structures that may have made sense in the 1950s but currently are unable to address contemporary needs.”
The “organizational structures” he refers to are the rules that “America’s rabbis implement . . . that are squarely illegal and are well outside any reasonable First Amendment protection.”
“When a synagogue wants to hire a rabbi,” he explains, it confronts a tightly organized labor market. Individual rabbis are prohibited from seeking employment independently, and instead are required to apply only for jobs through their professional associations. If they act independently, they are expelled from their associations. . . . Their collective dominance allows them to pursue full-employment policies, extract higher wages than other clergy, and stifle innovation and entry from would-be entrants. America’s synagogues suffer as a result.”
Professor Daniel Crane of University of Michigan Law School has agreed to engage Richman in a debate on Conservative Judaism’s process for naming rabbis on St. John’s University’s Center for Law and Religion Forum. To be continued . . .