American leadership in the private sector plays a critical role in fighting all forms of hatred, including anti-Jewish hate, and promoting inclusive environments. Fostering greater sensitivity to concerns of Jewish employees can prevent antisemitism in the workplace and increase the sense of belonging of Jewish employees. Please note that the suggestions offered below are not exhaustive. There is always more that can be done.
The private sector has a pertinent role to play in fighting all forms of hatred, including anti-Jewish hate. That fight begins with understanding the problem as well as the rich diversity of the Jewish community, and empowering people to speak out. Education and training, including by incorporating understanding antisemitism within Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, can successfully promote an inclusive workplace and prevent discrimination against or harassment of Jewish employees.
To understand antisemitism, include these three pillars:
- Acknowledge Jewish peoplehood | Successful incorporation of Jews and antisemitism within DEI must recognize the diversity of the Jewish people. Jews reflect diverse racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds and express their identity in a variety of religious and cultural ways. The majority practice Judaism, or at least are culturally associated with Jewish traditions, but others are not. Many Jews are secular or atheist, but they are still Jews. At a time when antisemitism against Jews, including violence, is soaring, it is recommended that employers focus specifically on antisemitism in their education and communication as opposed to only including it within broader conversations about religious or interfaith understanding.
- Know antisemitism “looks different” than other forms of hate | While many American Jews identify as a vulnerable minority group, especially as antisemitism surges, Jews today collectively tend to be assailed for having too much privilege or too much power. This is what makes antisemitism different from other forms of hate: it rests on a conspiracy theory. Especially in today’s context of anti-racism and social justice movements, which deal explicitly with questions of power, companies must have a plan to address antisemitism specifically when Jews are attacked or face a double standard because of their perceived power. Double standards in the workplace not only are morally wrong but also expose the company to legal liability under federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws.
- Recognize Jewish ties to Israel | Many American Jews feel a historical, religious, or cultural connection to Israel, regardless of politics. Judaism as a religion is integrally tied to the land, to the city of Jerusalem, and other holy sites. Jews are from Judea (the ancient name for Israel) and have lived continuously in the region for thousands of years. Coming out of two millennia of persecution, not least the Holocaust, many Jews see Israel as the only place where they can live free from fear and persecution. While it is not antisemitic to criticize Israel, denying Jews’ right to national self-determination, calling for the elimination of Israel, solely focusing on Israel but no other country, and/or attributing to Jews actual or perceived wrongs by the Israeli government is antisemitism.
Responding to Antisemitism
Issue unequivocal condemnations | Company CEOs and senior leaders must speak out loudly and clearly against all forms of antisemitism. If an antisemitic incident or series of anti-Jewish attacks occurs, the company should publish a statement or resolution condemning antisemitism, at the very least internally, to the same degree that other forms of hate are called out. Corporate leadership should ensure antisemitism is called out unambiguously, unequivocally, and specifically. Unfortunately, it has become all too common for companies to issue universal condemnations of hate that fail even to mention the anti-Jewish character of the incident, or list antisemitism among a list of hateful “isms” when it was just the Jewish community targeted. For a template for employers, please see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) resolution and for a sample of an external corporate condemnation, please see MRC Entertainment’s powerful statement on Kanye West.
Create clear policies and practices on discrimination and harassment | As more companies engage in social justice issues, they need a firm policy that elucidates the company’s zero tolerance stance toward antisemitism. When providing examples of harassment in company policy and training, also include obvious and more subtle examples of anti-Jewish harassment. When providing training on conscious and implicit bias, include examples involving Jews. Such actions not only will help minimize legal exposure but will also help assure Jewish employees that their workplace is a safe space to express their full identity and that anti-Jewish bias has no place in the company.
Address harassment | Policies and training are necessary, but they are not sufficient. For cultural and legal reasons, management generally must respond to anti-Jewish harassment—even if there is no complaint or objection—if management sees, hears, or otherwise becomes aware of it, even if it was intended as a “joke.” All employees, managers, and non-managers alike, should also be given alternative ways to raise concerns, both internally and externally.
Listen to Jewish employees | Regularly connect with Jewish employees and seek their opinions and recommendations to create a culture of inclusion and respond to antisemitism. Honor the progressive principle of allyship and listen to their lived experiences. As with others raising concerns about bias, treat Jewish individuals alleging anti-Jewish bias with respect, take their complaints seriously, and investigate and take corrective action as appropriate.
Include Jewish employees in DEI | The “I” in DEI stands for inclusion and that means everyone. Acknowledge Jewish holidays and other important days and events to the Jewish community, such as Holocaust Remembrance Day or Jewish American Heritage Month. Invite Jewish employees to share their stories in the same way other groups are invited to do so. Accommodate Jewish religious beliefs, practices, and observances where reasonable and without an undue hardship. That is a legal duty. Bottom line: include Jewish employees in the rich mosaic of diversity.
Raise awareness | There is a need to infuse a greater focus on harassing conduct relative to Jews and Israel in official policies and training. Build awareness of Jewish concerns and unconscious bias about Jews. Actively counter harmful stereotypes about Jews.
Strengthen education on Jews, antisemitism, and the Holocaust | Companies should hold trainings on antisemitism for their employees. They can support Jewish employees by promoting employee resource groups, including one for Jewish staff; and they should consider issuing both internal and external statements when issues of antisemitism arise.
AJC’s Translate Hate, a glossary of antisemitic tropes and phrases, can be an invaluable tool for corporations as they train employees about antisemitism and sensitivity to Jewish issues.
Establish a plan | Create a plan that holistically addresses antisemitism. Antisemitism often increases during elections and political incidents, during Jewish holidays, and during flare-ups of issues in the Middle East. Be prepared for these patterns to provide additional support for Jewish employees, if necessary.
Be an ally | Even before instances of antisemitism occur, be an ally to Jewish employees. Provide support to Jewish colleagues in a similar way as other minority groups. While external and internal statements against antisemitism are critical, substantive prevention happens through maintained relationships. Allyship is an ongoing process.