On the rise in the United States, anti-Semitism seeps into the workplace

During a recent working lunch, Renee Fellman learned that someone didn’t want to network with her because she’s Jewish.

Fellman, who is a corporate turnaround consultant based in Portland, Oregon, was stunned — not by the mere existence of anti-Semitism, she said, but by the fact that her contact with it was so overt. .

“I doubt there’s more anti-Semitism today than 10 or 20 years ago,” said Fellman, who had previously had more subtle or hard-to-interpret experiences of discrimination, such as snubs. “People are just voicing it. It’s become OK to say it.

Across American culture, politics, and even business, expressions of anti-Semitism have got stronger during the last years. It is not just the high-profile statements made by the the rapper Ye and basketball star Kyrie Irving or politicians more and more comfortable until white supremacist groups. Incidents of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assault peaked in 42 years in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Anti-Defamation League. And there is evidence that discrimination seeps into the workplace as well.

A 2022 study published in the academic journal Socius survey 11,356 workers of all faiths found that more than half of Jewish respondents experienced discrimination at work – a higher percentage than any other religious group except Muslims. A small November survey of 1,131 recruiters and recruiters commissioned by ResumeBuilder.com had even more striking results: nearly a quarter said they wanted fewer Jews in their industry and a similar share admitted they were less likely to advance Jewish candidates. Among the main reasons cited for these discriminatory behaviors: the perception that Jews have too much power and wealth.

“This would seem to confirm our concerns that the growing anti-Semitism in our society is also spilling over into the workplace,” said Vlad Khaykin, national director of anti-Semitism programs at the Anti-Defamation League. “This suggests that contemporary workplaces can often be hostile to Jewish employees.”

Bloomberg News spoke with a dozen Jewish workers in industries as diverse as public relations and supply chain logistics, living in cities across the country. Many have expressed feelings of growing discrimination in their day-to-day working lives, including hearing anti-Semitic comments from colleagues or noticing that the ranks of Jewish workers are thinning in their organizations. Most did not want to use their name, fearing it would harm their careers or attract further harassment.

A Midwest communications executive says she experienced ‘amazing’ anti-Semitism in the workplace and was advised by Jewish friends and family not to tell anyone about her religion or work with organizations owned by Jews. Another diversity and inclusion coach said a non-Jewish employee allegedly put a face mask on his head like a yarmulke and sang Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song.” In another incident, this same employee used the phrase “Holocaust moment” to describe his group’s poor performance. He later told investigators that he believed his behavior was permissible because he did not believe there were any Jews present.

“It’s something in my mind. I’m afraid so,” said Andy Heller, a San Francisco real estate investor and entrepreneur. His fears were, in part, borne out by the findings of the ResumeBuilder.com survey: that some perceive Jews as money-hungry, cheap or power-hungry.

“Too much control, power and wealth — these are long-standing anti-Semitic tropes that have been used to justify violence against Jews,” said Rachel Schneider, a religious studies scholar at Rice University and one of of the authors of the Socius study. “Anti-Semitism is alive and well. We need to pay more attention to its presence in the workplace.

Heller said he felt responsible for countering the caricatures of the Jewish people by offering substantial bonuses, paying vendor bills promptly and in full, and generously tipping. “Some people can only interact with one or two Jews in their lifetime,” he said. “We need to do our part to make sure these touchpoints don’t advance stereotypes.”

“Anti-Semitism is alive and well.”

While American Jews as a whole have relatively high incomes compared to other groups — half live in households earning at least $100,000, compared to 19% of American adults — they span the economic spectrum. A Pew Research Center survey published in 2021 found that a quarter of Jewish respondents had difficulty paying for medical care, rent or mortgage, food or other bills. About half of American Jews said they lived “comfortably,” according to the survey, but 15% said they had just enough to meet basic expenses.

religious discrimination complaints workers at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are up from two decades ago. The figures, however, do not extend beyond 2021 and the agency does not specifically detail incidents related to Jews.

According to Jocelyn Samuels, vice president of the EEOC, the commission has filed a consistent series of allegations involving anti-Jewish discrimination over the years and she expects there has been an increase in the past two years . “When you have figures like Ye or Nick Fuentes or Kyrie Irving making explicitly anti-Semitic remarks, it encourages people to say things out loud that reflect centuries of prejudice and stereotyping,” she said.

The ADL runs an initiative called shine a light which helps organizations such as J. Crew, Airbnb and the National Basketball Assn. incorporate anti-Semitism education into their training and create resource groups for Jewish employees. Yet most workplace diversity and inclusion training does not explicitly mention anti-Semitism and instead advises employees to avoid harassment based on religion.

“I don’t know of any organization that deals directly and specifically with this,” said Tracey Levyco-founder of the harassment prevention company Impact Workplace Training.

Levy herself just added an example of office anti-Semitism to her own curriculum and advises organizations to do the same. In it, a worker expresses his support for a celebrity’s anti-Semitic remarks. When a co-worker expresses interest in reporting it to their manager or Human Resources, a co-worker encourages them not to, saying, “It’s better if everyone gets along.”

Levy advises employees to identify anti-Semitic behavior, inform their superiors and ensure that they report it to human resources. “The answer should never be to ignore it,” she said.

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