May 19, 2022

Celebrating Jewish History Month


Episode Highlights

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Emily Goor and Robyn Carney talk about Jewish Heritage Month. They dive deep into their own experiences of being Jewish in a predominantly Christian culture. They also give tips on how to avoid tokenism and support cultural groups that exist in every company.

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Episode Transcript

Hi everyone and welcome to a Talent Insights video. Today Emily and I are getting together to talk about one of the two historical items for this month. So it is both AAPI month, which we’ll talk about later.

And right now we’ll talk about it being Jewish history month. Right. Yeah. That’s what I hear. It’s Jewish heritage month in the US so yeah. Excited to come on here and chat with you my DEI queen. Yes. To introduce ourselves, I am Robyn. I work at Hirewell with many, many hats, and Emily is one of our extremely talented recruiters who also wears many, many hats.

We just all like hats here at Hirewell. We do. We look very good in hats. We do. We do. And we specifically look very good and Kippahs. Yeah, Kippot right? Both. I did not pluralize that right. Getting off to a great start talking about my own heritage by- you’re doing great. Well, no, I’m excited to come on here and talk because so frequently we’re talking about

DEI in the workplace. I feel like a lot of the times though, when we’re talking about DEI in the workplace, we’re talking about increasing diversity of gender, of race and I’m not saying that that’s everyone, right. But I do feel like that can generally be kind of the top two things that people focus on is diversity of gender and race.

Would you agree with that? I feel like frequently DEI as a topic gets very conflated with one or the other. When you’re talking about DEI, you’re only talking about race in modern America, which like is obviously an extremely important topic. And I talk about it extensively and will continue to do so. And also gender in the workplace, which again, also a very important topic, but a lot of the times something that kind of gets hidden is a lot of the other marginalized communities.

Some of which we’ve talked a little bit extensively in other places. For example, we did a speaker series last year on the disability community. There’s a lot of protected groups, and one of the things that we have a hard time I think talking about is religious diversity in the United States. We have a hard time talking about it, but I also think that sometimes we conflate religious diversity with ethnic or racial diversity.

Yes. Yeah. I mean, it kind of becomes like a talking point of- not even a talking point, just assumptions of like who must observe what based on skin tone or looks or names or that kind of information. When you really, you just don’t know. Like my last name is Carney and I’ll make the joke all day that I’m, you know, a Jewish woman who has a very strong Irish last name, like that’s just part of American heritage. It’s like things like that happen. When you’re having a conversation about religious identities in the United States, it’s important to be aware of ethnic and racial issues where they overlap and they become part of the conversation

and also remember that we are talking in the context of a very Christian society. The calendar is based around the Christian calendar. So even if you are yourself not Christian or you were raised in a Christian household, but you don’t participate or you were not raised in a Christian household or like however, you are a member of American society.

You still get Christmas off, right? Or it’s a big deal that you don’t get Christmas off. Like, oh, I have to work on Christmas? Even I once had to work on Christmas and I don’t celebrate Christmas and it was like, oh, I have to work on Christmas. Yeah. That’s so interesting that you say that because I think about- we’re here talking, I’m a Jewish woman too and that’s been one of my biggest challenges about being Jewish at work.

I’ve been in the professional world now for gosh long- 10, almost 10 years. And the high holidays, right? And it’s second nature. Like of course you get Christmas off. Like people even acknowledge, like some people get like good Friday off, heading into Easter. The high holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

If you’re not familiar, we’re happy to chat about those holidays all day long. But they are the high holy days, they’re the holiest days of the year for Jewish people. And I’ve become better in my later years about communicating with managers about the importance of those holidays for me. But it was definitely some that took getting used to for me because when I was younger, even though I went to a public school, I think because I guess there were a lot of Jewish people in our community

we just had those days off. Yeah. So it was interesting to then, like you said, realize as you get older that our calendar does revolve around like a Christian calendar and then to try to communicate in the workplace the importance of those holidays to me and to my community without feeling- I don’t know, to be honest, I was like always kind of nervous to bring it up at first.

So my first like corporate job, I was very lucky to have a boss that was raised Jewish, so he knew. I didn’t have to like tell him anything. It’d be like, I’m taking next Tuesday off. And you’d be like, okay, makes sense for Yom Kippur. Don’t bring your hungry self into the office and be mean to everybody because I am so mean when I fast.

When you’re talking about like trying to have a conversation with somebody where you’re saying, I need this day off, you’re also suddenly in the position where you hold all the weight of explaining why that day is important. And that is something we’ve talked about is that like a lot of times with marginalized communities, whether it be marginalized religious groups or ethnic groups or cultural groups, the weight of that conversation gets put on the person who is marginalized rather than on the person who isn’t. So you’ll sit down and say okay, next Tuesday is Yom Kippur and I need it off. And not everybody is happy to talk about repenting for sins like you and I are. Sometimes when I ask for the day off, I’m like, I need this day off.

Do you want the history lesson that goes with it? Because I’m ready to give it and I’m excited, but yeah. Not everybody feels comfortable and also not everybody feels comfortable having that conversation to begin with or even asking for that day. But they might be missing like important religious holidays.

And this is Jewish heritage month, right? So we’re talking about Judaism right now, but that extends to all religious groups, right. Ramadan just ended last week or earlier this week as we’re recording. But having that conversation of like saying okay, this is an important holiday and this is what I need in order to celebrate this holiday in the way that is important and valuable to me as a person who practices a religion, like whatever religion that might be. And I agree, but I think we’re lucky that like- I’m lucky that I was very easily able to take Yom Kippur off this year because our company is good about acknowledging other things and things of that nature. But it’s interesting what you said that the burden shouldn’t fall on those people.

Like the burden shouldn’t necessarily fall, which is funny because we’re the ones that are sitting here talking about this. So here we are. But the burden shouldn’t necessarily fall on, like you said, the folks that are coming from those marginalized communities. I think a lot of it is about

just like awareness and if you are going to be focusing on creating a diverse team and include like religious diversity on your team, it’s important to make sure that everybody feels like comfortable and feels included. Right. When you’re talking about inclusion, it’s a lot more than just like, thinking about okay, how am I being like racially sensitive?

How am I being like, sensitive to somebody’s gender? How am I being sensitive to somebody’s like personal experience? It’s also taking a step back and just remembering that there are things going on in that room that people might not be wanting to talk about, right? What was the number you pulled-

the percentage of the us population? It’s literally crazy. Which is so funny because you and I, both, we were saying, grew up in again, like I went to public schools my whole life. It’s not like going to like a private Jewish school. But I just, I think we grow up so in our own bubbles and then when we grow up and leave our bubbles, things surprise me.

So this number surprised me, I’m not going to lie. Like I think the number was that there was like 7.6 million Jews in the US which is like 2.4% of the entire US population. I’m like, there’s more humans in LA where I live than there are like Jews in the country. So it’s interesting. While again, the burden should not fall on Jews to do the explaining of like why these holidays are important and things like that in the workplace. At the same time, I don’t want to say that Jews are different, but I think we are very proud of our heritage. And like when somebody asks me, I’m like excited to explain.

And so I think that there’s fine lines because there are so few of us that I almost feel like, wow, it is our responsibility. Like let’s spread the news about being Jewish. I feel responsible and feel proud and like want to shout things from the rooftop. At the same time, it shouldn’t be my burden either. Does that make sense? If you are in a room where your manager is like taking into account there’s going to be days off that Emily takes, that Robyn takes that are going to seem like they’re just days in the middle of the week, but they’re important days, you know?

And if I say like, I told you the story about, I had to sit Shiva and it was like my first time going to sit Shiva and I had no idea how to explain to somebody what sitting Shiva meant because it’s part of the grieving process, for those who don’t know what Shiva is. And I was just like, I’m grieving.

So I literally just don’t know how to have this conversation. So having somebody in the room who is at least aware that that’s going to be something that gets brought up just to say, okay take the time you need. And it’s not just to talk about taking breaks from work, right?

It’s not all about PTO. It’s also about creating environments where you’re aware that there are multiple holiday seasons, right? When you send an Easter email out the whole company, don’t just say Easter. Say like happy holidays because it’s usually around Passover. Take a look at any of the major religious groups in the United States,

see what holidays they all celebrate and send out those emails, even if you’re not sure if anybody at that company- at your company or in any group that you might be in are celebrating that. It might just be a good way to kind of create an environment where anybody who’s joining feels welcome. I definitely have made a lot of jokes about growing up in East Coast suburb, in my teen years.

I’m not going to get it into my life story, but I did spend a chunk of my teen years in a very like Jewish neighborhood. And then I decided of all places to move to the Midwest. So I feel like I left the bubble I was at. Just like whenever I get into a situation and somebody says like, oh yeah, you’re Jewish,

right? So you’re going to be celebrating Hanukkah? I’m like, yes, I am going to be celebrating Hanukkah. Thank you. Well, I think it’s interesting what you say too, like about trying to explain Shiva to somebody or like sometimes I have a difficult time explaining the importance of the high holidays, like the importance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because there’s not always something to compare it to,

if that makes sense. You can’t be like, oh, sitting Shiva is like X in Christianity or like Yom Kippur is like X for- there really aren’t any parallels. Yeah. Saying Rosh Hashanah is new years doesn’t have the same, like we’re not all going to stay up until midnight to get drunk. It’s not the same- not the same thing.

It’s not a religious holiday. And also like, sometimes it’s like when you’re in this situation where you’re trying to figure out parallels- yeah- I don’t know how people who are not Jewish mourn. Like, I’ve never been in that- like I’m Jewish. So I mourn in the Jewish way, you know? Except no, I do know how my dad’s family is Catholic.

So I do know the Catholic way, but it’s kind of like, so how am I supposed to have this conversation when I only know one side of the coin and the other person knows the other side of the coin, and we’re both assuming knowledge of each side of the coin. It can be really hard, you know? There’s no direct parallels.

It just, if something’s important, it’s important. Yeah. I think it’s great what you said too just about if we’re really thinking about, you know, if somebody’s watching this, what can they take away from it? If you’re creating a religiously diverse team, what are some things that you can do to make sure that all members feel

comfortable or feel included. And yes, we’re talking about this from like the Jewish lens, just because one, we’re Jewish and number two, I guess, first and foremost- flip those. But one, it’s Jewish heritage month, right. So that’s why we’re talking about it from this lens. But I think something that you said that so simple-

I don’t want to say that it’s not that hard because of course everything is hard. All of this is a challenge, which is why we talk about it so much about DEI. Yeah. But like simple steps, I guess, that you could say. Acknowledging holidays, like you said, like that’s so simple. I mean, Google calendar probably has- actually, I’m not sure if Google calendar doesn’t have Passover on it, then we probably need to talk to Google.

We need to have some conversations there. We got to talk. But that’s the whole point is like I can tell you a hundred percent Easter is on Google calendar. Christmas is on- I cannot tell you with certainty that Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Yom Kippur, et cetera, are on Google calendar.

I’m actually not sure about that. So maybe we should have looked into that before we filmed this. I mean, maybe. I’m trying to think. So like I know Ramadan just ended. Holi was a couple of weeks ago. Yeah. I mean, that was definitely not on the calendar. I live by my Google calendar, so I would know. But I think like that’s the point

that just goes back to what we were saying about our society revolves around a Christian calendar. So like I’ve just looked up- like I do not, I don’t think Passover is on the calendar. I’m now looking up Yom Kippur. Like, don’t think that these things are even on our Google calendar.

Yeah, I put it on my calendar, but it’s not there. Well, I do think those are simple steps that companies can take to make sure that everybody feels included and feels comfortable. Like how nice it would feel to not have to be like, “Hey, just a reminder, like this is next week.

It’s the holiest time of the year.” How nice would that be if like your company acknowledged it first? Hey, I remember this is next week, anybody- and again, we want to avoid tokenism, right. So like calling Robyn out, calling Emily out as like token Jews. Hey Emily, why don’t you enjoy Yom Kippur next week?

Take the day off. Yeah, exactly. And I know sometimes it’s not super evident what religion people identify with in the workplace. So I think like you said, I think a simple step to take is just acknowledging as many holidays as you can, whether or not you know for sure

that somebody is celebrating. Just like taking the time in the same way that you would acknowledge “hey, hope everyone has a happy Easter. Hey hope everybody has a Merry Christmas.” And it’s not to water down those, like, you don’t need to be like Merry everything. Yeah, acknowledge Christmas.

Of course. But I think at the same time, acknowledging the important holidays from other spaces I think is like a super, super simple step that people can take in the workplace. Yeah. And to build off of that, if we’re talking about acknowledging holidays, also making sure that you have very clear flex days like in your PTO like Hirewell. Quick Hirewell plug, we have unlimited PTO.

So like the high holidays are in the fall, so we’ll just take the month of September and October off or whatever it is. But like taking a moment to be like, okay, listen, this is our PTO plan. These are the floating holidays you get, or whatever makes sense. And just acknowledging and also make sure that when you are setting up plans, you are asking experts in the space, not individual people at your company,

right. Again, you want to make sure that if you’re like, okay, I want to make sure that I’m being aware of Jewish holidays, you’re asking a Rabbi, you’re asking somebody who is outspokenly Jewish on LinkedIn. You’re asking somebody who is a representative of the group that you want. Not the like one Jewish person who works in, like, I don’t know, in the tech

team who just quietly wants to take Yom Kippur off. Emily and I will be happy to explain it to you. If you have any questions we love talking and we’re experts in this space. I think that that’s a great point and that just goes back to like the burden should not fall on

like the person of the marginalized community. Yeah. Yeah. Talk to an expert, like talk to your doctor. I think that that’s a great point. And there’s people who are outspoken about things and like, we are two of those people, so we’re always happy to talk about things.

But I just, I think that those are a bunch of really, really good points. And I think a lot of it just comes back to when we think of diversity in the workplace, we do very frequently think about it in terms of gender, in terms of race. And sometimes, not in all cases, right?

But sometimes those things are more visible, right? Like when somebody says to you like, oh, well you don’t look Jewish. I get it all the time. All the time.

I’m like I’m sorry, what does a Jewish person look like? And like, of course we have stereotypes in our head, but I think that’s a tough one. I’m like, yeah. Do you want to see like my naming certificate? Is that what you want? Will that prove it? I definitely once had- I won’t name any names, but I once had a fellow Jewish coworker look me dead in the eye

after we had discussed that we were both Jewish and she said, “You wouldn’t get it. You’re not Jewish” but she forgot that I wasn’t Jewish because of this general energy. And I was like, girl. Yeah. I think like, again, it’s just like, there’s no need to make assumptions. If somebody identifies with the group and again, this does not just have to do with religion, but if somebody identifies with the group, I think questioning it-

that’s just not something that you should be doing, you know? And I’ve received different things “you don’t look like-” or like, ” oh, are both your parents?” and I’m like first of all, yeah, both of my parents and I’ll rif out all the things if I need to, but I shouldn’t have to.

Right? Like you should not have to defend your identity. And again, I think you and I are outspoken and we’re like happy and proud to defend our identity, but it shouldn’t be something where you have to like justify why you are something. Yeah. And I definitely have gotten the thing where somebody has tried, who is trying genuinely to understand me and where I come from will find out that my dad is Catholic and they’ll go, oh, “you’re half and half.”

And I’m like, no, I’m not creamer. Like I’m not creamer. That’s- that’s rich. That’s rich. Yeah. It is good for coffee, you know. It’s good. But I’m not. Like listen, like I’m Jewish. I’ve had a Bat Mitzvah. My mom’s Jewish and I was raised Jewish and some people who have one Christian parent feel differently than I do. And that’s also a different conversation for a different time. But if somebody looks you in the eye and says, I am Jewish, who are you to say otherwise?

Right. No, I think so completely. I think that just bringing that awareness and like acceptance to the workplace, I think that’s like a lot of- when we’re talking about takeaways from this conversation is like awareness and just avoiding tokenism and acceptance.

It’s just important to remember that, like you said, we grew up in bubbles. Everybody grows up in a bubble. So part of being an adult is learning how to interact with other people who have different bubbles than you do. And this is part of it. Yeah. And not only interacting with like people from other bubbles, but also making sure that even though somebody not from your bubble, they feel included and they feel welcome and they feel comfortable. Yeah. Because there’s nothing worse than like feeling uncomfortable in your own identity in the workplace.

Yeah. And if you feel uncomfortable in your own identity and your work and you can’t be your whole self at work, it leads to a cascading set of, I don’t want to say failures because that’s the phrase- cascading failures, but it does. If you’re not happy at work, it’ll lead to depression, burnout really quickly.

It’ll lead to having a lot of different issues with work. It’s just harder to maintain that emotional barrier if you don’t feel like you can be yourself. That’s definitely something to keep in mind. All right. Well, it was great chatting with you. I’m happy to chat about this all day long, so you might see us back.

But yeah. Again, I’m Emily, she’s Robyn. Robyn, you’ll pick up part two soon. Yeah. Alrighty. Thank you so much, Emily. We’ll talk soon. Thank you.

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