Eighty-five percent of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish trope. That’s according to the Anti-Defamation League’s January 2023 report which also cited more than 3,600 antisemitic incidents were reported in the United States in 2022 — a new record high since ADL first started tracking this data in 1979.
Though the presence of antisemitism is unfortunately nothing new, conversations around how this bias and discrimination persistently shows up at work remains mute.
“In general, antisemitism itself is overlooked,” says Vlad Khaykin, National Director of Programs on Antisemitism at ADL. “And that's part of the nature of it. The way it's designed, the way it’s built, and the way it's structured is to convince the world that Jewish people aren't oppressed. They're the oppressors. And it really functions as a kind of misdiagnosis of our social, political, and economic problems.”
One in four hiring managers say they are less likely to move forward with a Jewish applicant because they believe Jewish individuals already have too much power and control.- Resume Builder
In fact, according to a 2022 study, 52% of Jewish respondents said they’ve faced discrimination in the workplace. A recent report from Resume Builder also shows that one in four hiring managers say they are less likely to move forward with a Jewish applicant because they believe Jewish individuals already have too much power and control.
This Jewish American Heritage Month, Khaykin shares how these ongoing tropes and stereotypes impact Jewish people in the workforce and how everyone can take steps to be a better ally in rooting out antisemitic policies, practices, and language at work.
Acknowledge Antisemitism Exists — and That It Likely Exists at Your Workplace
One of the first steps to addressing antisemitism in the workplace is acknowledging that it’s a current-day issue that Jewish people still face today — and that it’s likely an issue that exists in your workplace.
“People should understand that antisemitism weaponizes a different set of tropes, stereotypes, conspiracy theories, and ideas about Jewish people than what anti-blackness might look like or what misogyny might look like,” says Khaykin. While you may be able to recognize discrimination against one marginalized group, that does not mean you can with another.
A recent ADL report from January of 2023 found that 85% of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish trope, including that Jewish people go out of their way to hire their own; they have too much power in the business world; they don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind; or that they are more loyal to Israel than to America. These beliefs often creep into the workplace and impact hiring, promotion, and policies that naturally will make employees feel less included and supported.
What Allyship Really Looks Like
After recognizing the many different stereotypes that lean into antisemitism, Khaykin says it’s imperative for leaders to then center the voice of Jewish employees to see how antisemitism has impacted their career and how you can show up as an ally. One way to do this is to establish a Jewish employee resource group if you don’t have one already.
“ERGs are a great resource because if you want to get it right then you should listen to Jewish people and not assume that you know the kind of allyship that a community needs,” he says. But more than listening, Khaykin says leaders and other employees should also feel empowered to call out antisemitism when it happens and report any incidents of it to HR. If escalated to HR, Khaykin says colleagues and leaders should first consult with the employee facing the issue to see whether or not they want to be identified.
“Be guided by the Jewish community in terms of the kind of allyship they want and the solidarity they're asking for,” says Khaykin. “But don’t let it all fall onto your Jewish colleagues or employees because we can't solve antisemitism. It's not a Jewish problem, right? It's a problem of the non-Jewish world who primarily conceive, propagate, and practice antisemitism.”
Audit Your Systems
One of the keys to rooting out bias in the workplace is understanding that it’s not a one and done effort, says Khaykin. That’s why, he says it’s important for leaders to constantly audit their policies, practices, and shared language to ensure that antisemitism hasn’t creeped in.
A simple place to start is seeing whether you have policies that accommodate people who need to take time off for religious holidays or if you use inclusive language in your communications. If the answer is no, then it’s a sign that you need a full audit of your policies to ensure that you’re not unintentionally excluding some employees from being their full selves at work.
“At the end of the day, we need to act in those spaces where we have the most influence and identify the ways in which we are best positioned to show up,” says Khaykin. “I always say that nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. And that's true. We all have different ways in which we are best positioned to make a contribution to the fight. Some people have wisdom, some people are great speakers, some people have money to contribute, some people have connections to make, and some people are great organizers and can bring people together in coalition. Whatever is your value add, lean into that, and do the work in those spaces where you have the greatest influence.”
To learn more about how you can be a stronger ally to Jewish employees, check out ADL’s free “Antisemitism 101 for the Workplace” module here.
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