CCAR Newsletter May - June 2017 - 4

Reflections of a Community Rabbi


Pearl Barlev

For almost 10 years I have been the Jewish staff chaplain and an interfaith chaplain for medical
and psychiatric patients in a 500+ bed state university trauma hospital in a major city. During
this time I have gleaned wisdom from serving this community across its spectrum of religious and
spiritual affiliations, beliefs, and ways of meaning-making. My Jewish experience brings language
and expression to all this. The hospital is a sacred place where "heaven and earth kiss" (Bava Batra
74a) and where spiritual transformation and physical realities can touch to bring reconciliation with
and relief from schisms encountered in living, often brought to the fore by sickness, loss, pain, fear,
and more.
Judaism teaches us to consider another person. ("If I am only for myself, what am I?"-Hillel, Pirkei
Avot 1:14.) We are individually and communally obligated to ensure that all have their basic needs
met, physical and/or spiritual. This ideal guides my work with those whom I encounter as I find
expressions of godliness in each of us and in our melded community. It is here I've almost met God
face-to-face, and seen the simple poetry of a soul's resilience.
To "love my neighbor as I love myself" (from Leviticus 19:17)
Is to give the best I've got
Whether that neighbor loves this woman Reform rabbi or not
Who listens to secrets when the soul can't hide,
And has sat on the floor with patients and cried.
And held hands with loved ones around the bed of someone who has died,
Who has "heard Catholic confession" and "paskened a Shabbos shaila"
even though each adherent admitted she officially couldn't do either.
She who enters into and walks beside terror and delights,
Of dreams destroyed and of new insights.
Some folk desperate for hurt to go away say:
"Rabbi, show me how to pray."
Others bow heads and recite the prayer "Our Father."
Not her prayer, not her theology, not an expression of her woman sensibility
But a prayer of shared vulnerability
And of something so much larger than we.
In our stories of living we move by on journeys like this
through places "where heaven and earth kiss."
May the One who blesses us with life and these liminal places
"Turn mourning to dancing" (Psalm 30:12) as we pass through these spaces.
And guide us and bless us all
With a healed body and soul.
"From my patients I have learned more than from anyone else" ("patients" used instead of original
word "students"-Taanit 7a). Their wisdom and inner light illuminate my way even as they come to
shine light on their own path. I pray that together we unravel mysteries where despair from pain,
newly afflicted or unattended for years, may be turned to possibility.
These are some of the reflections and prayers of this community rabbi.
Pearl Barlev MAHL, BCC, LA '07 is a Rapid Response rabbi for CCAR. She served on the editorial team of
Mishkan R'fuah. She anticipates publication of her essay "The Reform Movement's Tent of Healing" in an
upcoming CCAR collection. Pearl works at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and concurrently served as
part-time rabbi to Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community for 6 years.


We are proud to share that Women of Reform
Judaism (WRJ) and Women's Rabbinic Network
(WRN) have received significant funding from the
Jewish Women's Foundation of New York to
organize together an initiative to address the gender
wage gap that exists within Reform Movement
institutions in North America.
On average, women working full-time in the United
States are paid just 80 percent of what men are
paid (source: AAUW). In recent years, numerous
studies have shown that pay equity is just as much
an issue in the Jewish community. The CCAR's study
of compensation of Reform rabbis by gender (2012)
shows the pay gap exists for our women rabbis,
mirroring the pay gap for professional women in the
American workplace. Note that the CCAR is about
to release a new gender-based salary survey.
As mentioned in the column in past months, our
Reform gender pay equity initiative was kicked off
by a day of education and sharing, during which
leaders from all of our major Reform Movement
affiliates reported on results of internal salary surveys
and their interventions to narrow the gender pay gap.
Discovering areas of mutual concern, the participants
committed to implement effective interventions. Our
Reform affiliates have deepened their commitment to
addressing this disparity. The CCAR continues to be
an important partner in this justice work.
In the coming months, comprehensive tools and
strategies to address the wage gap will be
developed and integrated into every stage of Reform
Movement employment, engaging both employers
and employees. Leading experts will conduct
trainings and create resources for all stakeholders-
including congregation/institution boards, clergy,
and professionals of all levels.
For example, to address inequities that result from
the hiring process, women may be trained with
gender-specific negotiation skills, while at the same
time training will be provided for those responsible
for hiring to recognize their own biases. Reform
congregations and institutions will receive tools to
help them implement specific interventions, including
educating professional and lay leaders about the
wage gap, use of salary data to avoid under-paying
women, and using implicit bias inventories before
meeting candidates or negotiating contracts.
Over the next two years, participating Reform
institutions will convene periodically to evaluate
the impact of the implemented strategies. The
efficacy of these interventions will be assessed to
determine if they were successful in addressing
wage discrepancies based on gender. If successful,
thousands of women serving the Jewish community
will have increased economic well-being, and a
replicable model will be created that can be utilized
by other organizations and religious streams.
Working together, we can create a more equitable
community that truly lives its values of fairness and
justice for all.


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter May - June 2017

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