Program Materials
and Resources

Book Club for Sisterhoods

A book club could be a great kickoff event. If you’re looking for ideas for your first discussion, consider Lilly Ledbetter’s Grace and Grit. Ledbetter’s story has become one of the most important and prominent narratives in the current fight for paycheck fairness. Lilly Ledbetter worked for nearly two decades at Goodyear before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for the same work. The Supreme Court ruled against her in her suit against Goodyear, finding that she had waited too long to take action and, thus, had foregone the opportunity to raise the issue of her unequal wages. Subsequently, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a crucial step forward in the fight for equal pay. But the Fair Pay Act is not a complete solution, and Ledbetter is neither the first nor the last woman to face discrimination in the workplace. 

Ledbetter will be speaking at WRJ Assembly 2015 and receive the WRJ Jane Evans Pursuit of Justice Award. We encourage you to read her book, and discuss it with your sisterhood, congregation, and community using our discussion guide.

Educational Program for Sisterhoods

75 minutes
Set up: Screen, audio capability, projector
Equal Pay Living Talmud
Fact sheets on equal pay from the National Women's Law Center, the American Association of University Women

Set Introduction

(10 minutes)

  • Watch trailer for The Earning Curve (formerly The Pay Gap) (3 minutes)
  • Discussion (7 Minutes): What is familiar to you about this issue? Do you personally identify with the experiences or stories briefly shown?

Legislative History and Overview

(10 Minutes)

Text Study: Why Do We/Should We Care about Pay Equity?

(15 minutes)

Break up into small groups to discuss the Equal Pay Living Talmud.

  • What do you think are the critical messages from our tradition that we can bring to our fight to end wage discrimination? Are any of those values unique to Judaism?
  • How would you put some of these sources in your own words?
  • Can you connect some of the values here to other Jewish sources or principles?

Debrief Text Study

(5 Minutes)

  • What common themes and ideas came up across groups?
  • Did any groups have unique ideas? Share them with the larger group!


(25 minutes)

  • Break into groups of 5-7 to practice giving short lobby speeches, as though you were talking to an elected official about why you care about pay equity. Use resources from this program's background information, Jewish texts, and personal stories to connect the abstract issue to constituent's lived experiences.
  • Debrief experiences in lobby exercise as a larger group.

Brainstorm Other Sisterhood Programs & Projects

(10 minutes)

  • Brainstorm other programs and opportunities for sisterhoods, including in-person visits to elected officials' offices to share why equal pay is important to you. When scheduling your visit, determine Congress' upcoming schedule to see when your elected official will be in their home office. (Locate your Representative!)
  • Use the last few minutes to discuss upcoming pay equity programming.


Advance research may be needed prior to this discussion in order to gather information about synagogue policies and employee compensation.

Small Group Discussion

(35 minutes)

Consider the employees of your congregation: clergy, program and educational professionals, administrative staff, teaching staff, maintenance team, and any others. Divide them into categories to consider the needs and circumstances of each group. Are men and women in each cohort paid equally? If not, why? Perhaps they have served for different lengths of time or have different levels of experience, which might explain pay differences. But perhaps such experiential differences do not account for any pay gap. Discuss your findings as a group.

If an unexplainable discrepancy exists, how would you approach your congregational leadership to discuss it? What questions would you want to ask them? What information would you need to empower you to have those conversations? If time permits, take the opportunity to develop a list of questions to bring to congregational leadership regarding any pay inequities that may exist.

Practice having those conversations with fellow participants standing in as congregational leaders. What objections might they have? How would you respond to those objections?

Develop a plan to investigate your congregational practices and address any inequities you uncover.

Other Program Ideas for Your Sisterhood

Mentor female colleagues

By mentoring women entering the workforce, we can share our experiences to help them strengthen key skills and expand their professional networks. Mentorships can benefit women of all ages, helping them to improve negotiating skills and to learn ways to navigate biases against women who negotiate. The American Association of University Women, for instance, runs workshops to provide young people with tips and tools for negotiating salaries; WRJ women could get involved with AAUW or create a model program within their own synagogues.

Programs within your synagogue community for young women

Consider starting a program to provide leadership skills training and pre-college and career mentorship for young women in your synagogue. Building relationships with the next generation of women will help foster connections with WRJ before a young woman might join a synagogue on her own, and will also engage a broader, multi-generational community of women in your sisterhood’s efforts toward equal pay.

Pay Equity within the Jewish Community

Pay inequity remains a concern within the Jewish community. A recent CCAR salary survey showed significant disparity between male and female rabbis who are similarly situated in terms of congregational size and years of experience. The ‘glass ceiling’ in the Jewish Federation world is well known, indicating that pay inequity manifests not only in the form salary disparities but also in the form of a gender imbalance in leadership positions. WRJ women can take the lead in their community by ensuring their congregation examines its own paycheck fairness, and they can extend that investigation into other, local Jewish communal institutions. Highlighting these issues within the local Jewish press may be part of such an effort.