As pandemic set in, Orthodox Union furloughed a quarter of its staff

The Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization for Orthodox synagogues and a major certifier of kosher food, laid off or furloughed 125 employees in early April — approximately a quarter of its workforce.

Most of those affected were furloughed, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the organization, which also runs programs for teens, college students and young adults with disabilities as well as synagogue-related services.

The move came early in the pandemic, before many other Jewish organizations were forced to impose layoffs or furloughs as the economy dipped. But by Passover, which began April 6, it became clear that much of the Orthodox Union’s work — particularly the in-person programming run by its youth department — would not be possible due to social distancing.

“Like many in the not-for-profit community, we have had to realign our staffing models and furlough staff to reflect the new economic and programming realities, particularly the reduction in programming and donation revenue and the change to virtual programming,” Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU, said in a statement.

The organization declined to comment on the number of furloughs and layoffs imposed.


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