I started my career in 1997. Every summer since then, the same thing happens: Some usually intelligent, sensitive and socially-proper colleague suggests that we hold an event, start a promotion, or have an important meeting on the Jewish holidays.
I am Jewish. My people have been persecuted since the beginning of time. The Holocaust killed more than six million people during my parents’ lifetime. We are now supposed to see each other? I for one think it is time for the Jewish holidays—our holiest days of the year—to be understood as off limits for work and play.
I understand that Jewish people in the world, country and in our city are a teeny tiny part of the population—about 2 percent. We are truly a minority and always will be. I also understand that since the Jewish holidays do not fall on exactly the same date annually, it can be a little hard to keep track of them.
Just remember they are always in fall, between September 1 and Halloween: First, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, celebrating the day that the Earth was born; then Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when we ask forgiveness for the wrongs we have committed over the past year.
We learned, finally, this year, that being a modern, informed and kind person means to see people’s differences, see their unique energy, recognize their trauma and help them heal.
I also do not expect anyone to do anything for me that I would not do for them. In this hyper-informed world we live in, where people’s birthdays, world holidays and national Love Your Pet Day are automatically programmed into our iPhone updates, isn’t it time to find out what this stuff means? Isn’t that part of simply being a good citizen now—finding common ground with our neighbors and understanding and respecting what is important to them, simply because that’s how we build a strong community?
I remember the first time our calendars were marked with Eid-al-Fitr. I didn’t put it in my calendar, and I didn’t (at the time) know what it was…but I figured that if it was important enough for Apple to add it to the calendar, I should look it up.
Turns out, one of my most important team members on a current project was going to be observing it, and it was to be properly acknowledged. I am glad I was curious; I connected with him for having gained the knowledge, and certainly did not pick that day for the event.
Since 1997, I have had to stand up for my Jewishness. Until 2020, my drill always was this: I would lower my voice, make my eyes appear solemn, and as politely and apologetically as possible, with excruciatingly careful consideration of my words, say “that day is actually a Jewish holiday, I think we should probably choose a new day.” I would always do this without indicating that it was a problem for me, and would couch my concern as something that might affect other people.
Reactions varied. Sometimes, they’d say, That’s okay, we will just go ahead without you. Or, Well, ugh, yes I guess we should move it. Or, But does that affect anyone here? Is anyone here Jewish? Or my favorite: the ones who forget year after year after year. (Even city government is no better: City Council is holding a stated meeting on Yom Kippur, September 16.)
That was then… but this is 2021. Our world now has DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) as a new corporate practice. Our world now has Walnut Street with two buildings burned down in civil unrest. Our world now has people put their preferred pronouns in email signatures. And our world now has a deep commitment to doing better for each other, with entire media outlets like this one devoted to simply doing better by our fellow citizens.
Nevertheless, last week it happened again. How about we circle back in two weeks? Same time? September 8 at 1?
Just no. No Zooms. No circle backs. No check-ins. No events. No deadlines. No soccer practice. No.
As summer 2021 comes to a close, I implore you to please take a step towards a more just, kind and peaceful city, nation and world, and respect the cultural, religious and personal sanctity of the Jewish high holidays.
This is 2021, people. We are different, as a world, as a country and especially as a city. We learned, finally, this year, that being a modern, informed and kind person means to see people’s differences, see their unique energy, recognize their trauma and help them heal.
So as summer 2021 comes to a close, I implore you, to please take a step towards a more just, kind and peaceful city, nation and world, and respect the cultural, religious and personal sanctity of the Jewish high holidays.
This year, it’s no longer ok to not know that your colleagues can’t, won’t and shouldn’t even be asked to meet for a quick Zoom.
If you are not sure if it’s okay, ask, as one of my clients did when deciding if we needed to move a weekly meeting. I was so beyond grateful to be seen by her, that I actually started to cry in the middle of the Zoom. This is how we do kindness and tolerance in 2021.
Still confused? Here is a little cheat sheet, that I pasted from Google:
Rosh Hashanah 2021 will begin in the evening of
Monday, September 6
and ends in the evening of
Wednesday, September 8
Yom Kippur 2021 will begin in the evening of
Wednesday, September 15
and ends in the evening of
Thursday, September 16
Mark them off, please wait for us. We will circle back with you right afterwards!
Thank you and L’Shana Tova (that means I wish you a Happy New Year).
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Header photo by David Holifield on Unsplash