The American synagogue, like so many other institutions, was dramatically affected by the economic downturn of 2008-2010. It had a deleterious impact on almost every area of synagogue life, as budgets were cut significantly all over the land. But rabbis, arguably felt the impact more than any other professional in the synagogue community, as congregations released, rather than renewed, assistant and associate rabbis, reduced full-time rabbis to part time, and canceled searches that were under way to provide assistants to senior rabbis.

Orthodox rabbis were less affected than rabbis of the other branches, as only a small number of those ordained had planned to enter the congregational rabbinate. But even Orthodox rabbis, especially those who wanted to make a career of teaching in Jewish schools, saw the opportunities shrinking and their career goals placed on hold. It is, however, in the other branches that the high unemployment took hold.

In the spring and summer of 2009, as Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform rabbis sought jobs, there were approximately three rabbis available for every opening. There were older rabbis whose congregations encouraged them to retire so that they could hire a young rabbi with a much smaller salary; there were assistant and associate rabbis whose positions disappeared when their contract expired as congregations sought to balance their budgets; and there were newly ordained and recently ordained rabbis who had not yet found jobs. When the dust settled, two out of every three non-Orthodox rabbis seeking a job in 2009 remained, at the end of the calendar year, unemployed, with little opportunity for meaningful or gainful work opportunities in the near future in their profession.

Marc Lee Raphael, The Synagogue in America: A Short History (New York & London: New York University Press, 2011), 205-206.

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