This resolution is significantly based on the work of the Women’s Rabbinic Network’s (WRN’s) Writers Circle who were instrumental in the creation of this resolution, and language was also drawn from the WRN Paid Family Leave Standard & Resource, https://www.womensrabbinicnetwork.org/Family-Leave. The CCAR is deeply indebted and grateful to WRN.
June 15, 2021
Creation is a holy act. Parental leave time ties us to the Divine within every human life. The first command that God gives to humanity is to “be fruitful and multiply.” Leviticus 12 describes a time after birth when the mother has designated time with her newborn child. No matter how an individual becomes a parent to a child, they need time to heal, to tend, and to bond.
We call for a season’s worth of time (12 weeks) as the minimum standard after the birth, adoption (of any kind), or fostering of a child. Paid time off to address important life events, like adopting, birthing, or fostering a child, cannot be a negotiable benefit in contracting, but should rather be a fundamental worker’s right, a fundamental human right, and a fundamental obligation of any community. All efforts should be made to treat it as such.
Jewish tradition acknowledges that human beings must choose among equally compelling obligations, such as working and caregiving. When faced with two competing commandments, the Talmud teaches osek bamitzvah, patur min hamitzvah, “One who is obligated in one commandment is exempt from another commandment” (B’rachot 11a). By financially and socially supporting parental leave, our Jewish communities allow parents—of any and all genders, who become parents through any process—to perform the obligation of care while being exempted from the obligation to work.
For too long, women, those who identify as female, and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) have disproportionately carried caregiving responsibilities within families, often at the expense of advancement within their professional roles. They have faced dire economic consequences when they have prioritized their children. Practices of negotiating parental leave only with married employees place an undue burden on workers who are not married or only with women. This practice must end, and the first step in rectifying this imbalance is to standardize parental leave in our communities.
The Talmud teaches, “All Israel is responsible for one another” (Shavuot 39). Just as all clergy and professional staff of synagogues and Jewish institutions spend their days caring for and supporting the Jewish community, it is the responsibility of Jewish institutions and communities to also support all staff members in their times of joy and in their times of sorrow. “Staff” extends to anyone who works in our institutions, in any capacity. Parental leave is a Jewish value and is one that must be acted upon with care whether after the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, for parents of any and all genders, including male, nonbinary, trans, and all other folks.
- Torah prioritizes the role of parents in building Jewish community;
- Reform rabbis value a Jewish community in which professionals and all employees look after lay people and lay people look after professionals and all employees;
- Jewish law provides for prioritization of competing values and obligations;
- COVID has shown the urgency for codified leave policies and protections as the need for caregiving has expanded exponentially;
And whereas women and others who bear children disproportionately shoulder the responsibility of caregiving, forcing them to step out of the workforce or to attempt to carry more responsibility than is reasonable, which results in:
- A short- and long-term risk to the job security for women and others who bear children;
- A dramatic, national rollback of the gains in the fight for gender equality; and
- A drastic decline in the mental, financial, and physical health for parents of all genders.
Therefore, the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolves to:
- Urge all Reform Jewish institutions (movement institutions, synagogues, schools, camps, etc.) to guarantee a minimum of 12 weeks paid parental leave for every employee, regardless of gender identity or presentation, sexual orientation, race, religious affiliation, or length of tenure. This leave will be set aside as paid for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.
- Encourage all eligible employees to use the parental leave afforded to them, trusting that their employers will honor this time. We similarly encourage management to refrain from any punitive action against those who do so—for example, in considering promotions—and to assist actively in the transition as an employee returns to work after leave. Professional and lay partnerships and leadership will be essential in managing the distribution of work while employees are on leave.
- Especially encourage men and other non-childbearing parents—in particular, white, straight, cisgender men—to model taking and prioritizing parental leave. Because historically lower-paid workers and women have been negatively affected by the pervasive devaluing of caregiving, systemic change in this area requires leadership to model taking and prioritizing leave, in practice and in our language.
- Hold ourselves to the highest standards of equity, refusing to penalize caregivers in the workplace for caregiving by limiting promotions or income, by making assumptions about who will take parental leave, or by commenting on or about any individual’s choices pertaining to such leave. For example, we will not call fathers “babysitters” when they take time to be with their children, and we will not assume that mothers will be the primary caregivers of newborns. Nor will we refer to parental leave as “vacation” or treat it as such in employment policies.