When it comes to mandated paid maternity or paternity leave, this nation has some catching up to do.
The United States is the only industrialized country not to mandate paid maternity leave. In the private sector, only 11 percent of employees have access to maternity leave.
A recent JTA report shows that although Jewish organizations also have to catch up in providing paid maternity leave, they are showing favorable growth. At the urging of the advocacy group Advancing Women Professionals, Jewish nonprofits are working to provide the paid leave.
AWP organized itself in 2010 with the goal of enlisting 100 Jewish organizations “as a catalyst for making healthy work-life policy the norm in our community,” according to its website. “Our ultimate goal is to make these same standards throughout the non-profit sector and American society,” it continues.
One of its “framing principles” reads: “By adopting healthy work-life policies, the Jewish community will enact its stated priorities around family, education, community and spirituality.”
More than 80 groups have been enlisted on AWP’s Better Work/Better Life list. To be listed, a Jewish nonprofit must offer at least four weeks of paid maternity leave or have flexible scheduling policies to make it easier for parents to care for their newborn children.
Twenty groups on the list, including the Jewish Federations of North America and the American Joint Distribution Committee, offer 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave for fathers, partners, and adoptive parents.”
But even though those groups have signed on, there still are no individual Jewish day schools enrolled. One school, Manhattan’s Rodeph Shalom School, affiliated with the Reform movement, is referred to as being in the “pipeline.”
And RAVSAK, a network of 130 nondenominational Jewish day schools, is enrolled.
So what we have is a start.
The Jewish communal world, which does so much good work for others, has to provide its own workers what they need to support the very ideals for which they are employed.
It all starts will families.
Let’s let the new parents of these families have the paid time they need.