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Monday, December 29, 2008

My salary was published in a prestigious magazine, read by approximately 184,000 people

My salary was published, without my permission, in a prestigious magazine, read by approximately 184,000 people. The magazine printed two hundred salaries, gleaned from public records, with the expressed purpose of enabling readers to decide how their own salaries measure up.

I know they say even bad press is good press, but did they really have to go and tell everyone that I make less money than a paramedic or a tow truck operator? Jewish law teaches that we are prohibited from publicly embarrassing anyone. I guess the magazine editors didn’t get the memo.

Most of the time I have reconciled myself to the fact that I don’t earn as much as my peers and rabbinic colleagues. I’ve chosen style over money. I care deeply about my innovative work and because I created the Adventure Rabbi program, I get to set my own agenda and schedule. To me, that is worth making less money that I could in a traditional congregation directed by a conventional board.

Admittedly, at times I do resent my small salary and feel taken advantage of by people who think religion should be free and don’t want to pay for my time. But, that is my own internal struggle. It’s another thing entirely to have my salary aired for the public to judge.

Let’s face it; success in our culture is determined not only by how many digits we earn, but by how our salaries compare to other’s income. According to a Harvard study reported in the New York Times, given a choice, many of us would opt for an annual salary of $50,000 when others are making $25,000 rather than earn $100,000 a year when others are making $200,000. (Sonja Lyubomirsky, "Why We’re Still Happy," New York Times December 27, 2008, p. A19.) The actual income is less important than our comparative ranking.

The fact that the article gave my incorrect salary did nothing to dissipate my feelings of financial failure. Because the truth is that even my actual compensation package pales in comparison to that of a newly ordained rabbi, ten years my junior.

Why do I care? The truth is that the side of me who chooses lifestyle over money, still has not convinced the competitive high school side of me that the big house and the big investment portfolio and the big salary are not important.

I am trying to live according to my values. You would think that would be easy since they are mine, but sometimes it is a struggle.

My continuing effort is to align myself with what is truly important to me. It remains true that I would rather have an extra hour to walk in the woods or to play with my daughters, than to pursue a higher wage. I would rather have time to work on my new book, go skiing on a powder day, and still make dinner for my family almost every night of the week, than work more hours to earn more money. This is the choice I have made for myself.

Still, it is reassuring to know that if I decide my choice no longer works for my family or me, that at least according to this magazine’s report of what I earn, I could become a parking meter collector or public school teacher and get quite the raise.

- Boulder, Colorado, Dec 29, 2008


Blogger Amy Stoehr, BA, PCC said...

I just met you at Jeff Willner's service Tuesday and read your blog today, a reprinting of your sage and comforting words. Then I read this blog.

I feel compelled to tell you that I am grateful for the choice you've made, the authenticity with which you show up, and I pray more people in this world have the courage you show. I also pray that in time, financial rewards will follow your efforts as it appears to me, from my brief exposure to you, that you're beyond worth it!

All the best to you, Adventure Rabbi - keep shining!

Amy Stoehr

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