Jews passing up medicine and law for more lucrative career in Mafia

December 17, 2010

In News

‘Forward’ survey finds idealism does pay; top executives can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Young college graduates embarking on a career in the not-for profit sector often encounter resistance from parents and peers.

“There’s no money in it,” goes the refrain. “Idealism doesn’t pay.”

But for better or worse according to a survey compiled by the Forward, that isn’t necessarily true. Top executives of Jewish organizations in the US can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Stephen Hoffman, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, leads the the list of Federation fund-raisers for 2009, – as he did the year before – taking home $687,043 per annum, followed by Marc Terril, president of Baltimore’s Jewish Federation, who earned $487,877 and Ira Schwartz, the chief executive officer of Philadelphia’s Jewish Federation, who came third with $472,191.

The fund-raising groups chart, however, was not entirely complete. The salary of Jerry Silverman, the head of Jewish Federations of North America, who came over from the private sector last year, was not disclosed.

His predecessor, however, made $575,000 in 2008.

Executives of Jewish advocacy groups and public services were also well compensated for their work. Anti- Defamation League honcho Abe Foxman banked $563,024 in 2009; US Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara Bloomfield, the top-paid woman on the list, was paid $542,654, and David Harris of the American Jewish Committee earned $499,061.

The highest salary on the entire list, however, was in the “religion and education” category, and went to Richard Joel, the president of Yeshiva University, who earned $853,651 in 2009.

While most salaries increased or stayed the same over the past year, nine of those who took part in the survey had their salaries cut.

One of the issues raised by the data presented by Forward chief editor Jane Eisner is the relative dearth of women at the top. Only nine of the 74 organization heads were female and on average they earned 67 cents to every dollar made by the men. Instead of getting better the disparity is getting worse: Last year there were 11 women on the list.

While the salaries may be considerably above that of the national average, which stood at $50,233, according to the US Census Bureau in 2006, they also reflect the size of the organizations and their budgets. Jewish executives work long hours, make big sacrifices to reach the top of the pyramid and many of them could receive commensurate salaries, or even higher ones, working in the private sector.

Large salaries for top not-for profit execs seem to be something of a double-edged sword: On the one hand they make pursuing a career in social activism more appealing, on the other it seems to undermine the idea of social-mindedness, which attracts people to the field in the first place.