Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Antitrust and Judaism - Are Rabbi Searches Anti-Competitive?

Posted by D. Daniel Sokol

Barak Richman (Duke Law) is spending his sabbatical year focusing on one of the most difficult issues involving any Jewish organization - selecting a Rabbi.  He has a very interesting op-ed in the Forward that asks Rabbi Searches Are Tough, but Are They Illegal?

Luckily, we have an excellent Rabbi and probably one of the few Rabbis who holds an MBA and hence can actually read a balance sheet.  I am on the board of our synagogue.  I have probably learned more about corporate governance in this context than I have from teaching corporations, which I have done for a number of years.  To my knowledge, there are no current of former antitrust specialists who are also Rabbis. 

For those wondering about antitrust and Rabbis (after all, this is the Antitrust and Competition Policy Blog), the best antitrust related Rabbinical article is by Dennis Carlton and Avi Weiss entitled The Economics of Religion, Jewish Survival, and Jewish Attitudes Toward Competition in Torah Education. Those of you up on antitrust policy will know that Dennis and Avi are not merely impressive academics. Rather, Dennis is the former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economic Analysis at DOJ Antitrust and Avi is the former Chief Economist and Deputy General Director of the Israel Antitrust Authority.

Update 10/14/2010

Apparently there is an ordained Rabbi economist who has written on competition issues.  Meet Professor Aaron Levine of Yeshiva University's Economics Department.  He holds a PhD in Economics from NYU and ordained as a Rabbi at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School.  Levine is the editor of the Oxford University Handbook on Judaism and Economics (Oxford University Press 2010).  The book comes out in November 2010.  It makes my list for the must have book for Channukah.

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The restrictions on rabbi placement always struck me as anticompetitive, but were rationalized to me as being no different than any other industry-wide labor agreement. However, I don't recall any instance where there was bargaining on the agreement by my congregation.

I haven't read the Carleton/Weiss article in a while, but even if there is open competition about teaching the Torah, within the Torah and Talmud, there is clearly a regulatory approach to markets. So, the people who certify butchers are kosher do not hesitate to refuse to certify a new butcher in a market if they think that the competition will be bad for the existing butchers. In modern terms, think of a supermarket in Skokie, Illinois that wanted to open up a Kosher deli in the store, but was told that the community couldn't support another outlet. The fact that the existing sellers charged high prices (suspiciously high and simiar prices) was not an important factor.


Posted by: Ted Banks | Oct 1, 2010 1:21:33 PM

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