Column: Antisemitism exists in the workplace. Combat it through awareness and education
Imagine you are in your office and your co-worker mentions offhandedly that a client got “Jewed down” in a deal. What would you do?
Workplace diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives play a critical role in teaching professionals awareness about systemic bias and how to interact with each other. Missing from the vast majority of these initiatives is any training on antisemitism.
For those who believe antisemitism in the workplace is not a problem, consider this:
- Last year, Google was forced to remove its head of diversity from his position for antisemitic blog posts alleging that, among other things, Jews had an “insatiable appetite for war and killing.” Google reassigned him rather than firing him; he is now the director of STEM Education Strategy.
- Stanford University is currently being sued by two employees who contend that university DEI programs created a hostile work environment. Their complaint alleges that the sessions attacked Jewish employees for raising concerns about antisemitism.
These issues are not isolated, and their import goes beyond Jews in the workplace. Discrimination of any form, unchecked, is corrosive. Allowed to take root, its outcome can be devastating, as millions of families learned in the Holocaust.
As the grandchild of three Holocaust survivors, I am alarmed and dismayed by the lack of awareness of or commitment to combat antisemitism. But I am also determined.
At the root of these upsetting situations is ignorance. The cure is education.
Even well-meaning people make mistakes. Frequently, we see casual comparisons to the Holocaust, such as equating vaccine mandates to yellow stars, any tragic situation to an event that systemically murdered 6 million people or an opposing politician to a Nazi.
These words are harmful, and they minimize the suffering of my family and millions upon millions of others.
So, we must do better.
There is a profound need for Holocaust education in businesses. That is why The Florida Holocaust Museum, one of only three accredited Holocaust museums in the country, is finalizing a cutting-edge program designed for businesses across Florida. These sessions are intended to instill not only an awareness of antisemitism but also the will to confront it.
Moreover, through real stories of triumph and perseverance in the face of the worst of humanity, the program inspires all corporate employees to develop a special skill set that will undoubtedly improve workplace culture and help business leaders take their companies to the next level. I am heartened to report that businesses that are part of the initial phase have been giving the program rave reviews.
Already, Florida has proven itself a leader in requiring Holocaust instruction for public school children. But learning is a lifelong affair, and those of us committed to this work hope the business community will follow suit as antisemitism rises across the country and the state.
Antisemitism in the workplace is a problem that must be addressed. I am grateful to The Florida Holocaust Museum for taking on this important endeavor, and for using Holocaust education to inspire business leaders in a unique way that can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.
If you’re wondering whether combatting antisemitism within your business matters, you need this program more than you know. Every business in Florida can benefit from Holocaust education. Is yours ready?
Michael A. Igel, a third-generation Holocaust survivor, is chair of the Florida Commissioner of Education’s Task Force on Holocaust Education and board chair of The Florida Holocaust Museum. Professionally, he is a partner with the law firm of Johnson Pope Bokor Ruppel & Burns LLP.
Reprinted with permission from Tampa Bay Business Journal