Wonderful Inclusion: How My Organization Went Out of Its Way to Remember the Jews

Posted: December 6, 2018 in Living and Life, Reflections, Social Activism
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Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays, one and all.

(For those curious as to what Hanukkah is about, I gave an explanation in the comments)

I’m going to try to keep this post short, though there’s a great temptation to write a thousand words or more. And that’s because despite how crazy this past week has been, its also been kind of uplifting. Why? Because my organization really showed me how much it wanted to make sure all its associates felt included during the holidays. And that included the Jews.

Now as many of you know, I am Jewish (this will be important in a bit). And as many of you also know, I work for a supply organization in a role called an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist. It’s kind of like HR, but we’re focused on promoting diversity, accommodating associates with disabilities, and combating discrimination and harassment in the workforce. It’s an important job, because a properly diverse and accepting workforce is one with a wide talent pool and a healthy mental state.

Okay, enough background. Let me get to the important part. On Tuesday, I was sitting having breakfast in my office when our Director of Operations (hereafter referred to as the DoO), a member of our regional executive staff, came to visit me. Which is pretty unusual. I see him on occasion around the building and we’ll chat, but I don’t interact much with the executives in my organization. You can imagine my surprise when the DoO came to talk to me, and understand my first thought upon seeing him: I’ve had this nightmare before, but I was naked in it.

Turns out, the DoO wanted to consult me. You see, I did a stand-up routine at a company talent show last year (yes, that happened), and it was centered around kosher cooking. Since then, I’ve gained a reputation as the resident expert on Judaism. With that in mind, the DoO wanted to know if it would be a good idea to have a menorah to represent Hanukkah at the Executive Open House, one of our organization’s annual holiday events when you can go through the executive suite and schmooze with the top brass. That event usually has a lot of tinsel and Christmas trees, but no menorah. And the DoO wanted to know if including one would be a good idea.

I said yes, that would be a wonderful idea, and I gave some other suggestions of things to include (dreidels, chocolate gelt, etc). I then gave him some ideas where he could find all those. Less than an hour later, I was asked to go shopping with him at the nearest place to see if we could find a menorah. I said sure, hoping to God I wouldn’t embarrass myself, and we went shopping. We found plenty of gelt, but they were fresh out of menorahs. One thing you need to know about my organization, though, we don’t do anything partway. So I got into contact with one of the local synagogues, which I knew had a gift shop with plenty of menorahs. After work that day, I went straight there and bought a menorah, along with a ton of dreidels. Mission accomplished.

The DoO and I with the menorah. So grateful for this kind gesture.

Fast forward to today (Thursday, if you’re reading this later on), I brought the menorah and dreidels in. We set it up first in the DoO’s office after he invited me up to the Executive Suite, and then later it ended up in a more public space when another associate brought in their menorah from home. And I have to say, it looked really good there too.

But through all this, I couldn’t help but thinking how wonderful it was for the DoO and the rest of the top brass to be thinking of my people. As many of you are aware, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and attacks lately, the worst being the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October. These attacks on my people have been tough on all of us. I’ve been feeling an upswing in anxiety since October myself. However, I’ve been trying to fight back by staying strong and filling the world with more good and kindness than they can fill it with evil. And this simple thoughtful gesture, while small, was huge in its impact, and I can’t help but thank the DoO for helping to put a bit of good back in this crazy world.

I hope it’s part of a greater trend to make the world a nicer place.

Happy Hanukkah, Followers of Fear. I hope this brought some light into your life during the Festival of Lights. I’m heading off to bed. Until next time (possibly this weekend), pleasant nightmares one and all.

  1. I only grew up hearing about Hanukkah. Do you mind sharing how you celebrate it?

    • Sure. Let me get back to you when I get home. I’m at work right now, and all I have is a phone to type on!

      • Thanks! I’m looking forward to finding out more about it. 🙂

      • Alright, for those curious, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday dating back to the 2nd century BCE (so anyone calling it “Jewish Christmas” is dead wrong about that). During that time, Israel, or Judea as it was known then, was ruled by the Syrian Greeks. In about 167 BCE, the ruling Emperor Antiochus decided to ban all religions but the Greek religion. Naturally, this upset the monotheistic Jews, and they started a rebellion led by the priest Mattathias, which was later taken up by his son Judah Maccabee, or “Judah the Hammer” (yeah, we were using wrestler names well before anyone else was). Despite smaller numbers, the Jewish rebels were able to use guerilla tactics to force the Syrian Greeks into submission and agree to reverse the ban.

        However, the major miracle occurred in the midst of the conflict, after the city of Jerusalem was liberated. Judah and the other Maccabee rebels went to the Temple, which they found was filled with idols and desecrated. They proceeded to clean it up and have a rededication, or “Hanukkah.” Just one problem: the menorah, at that time, was a seven-branched candelabra, was out, which is NEVER supposed to happen. Unfortunately, there was only enough holy oil to keep it lit for one day. Somehow though, the oil lasted eight whole days, allowing time for the production and procurement of more oil.

        This miracle is the basis of Hanukkah. For eight nights, we light a nine-branched menorah (one for each day, plus one candle with the specific task of lighting the others) to remember the miracle. We also eat fried foods such as potato pancakes and jelly donuts to remember the miracle of the oil, and play with dreidels, a top used for gambling games. Each side of the dreidel has a letter on it with a specific meaning, both for the game and for recalling the miracle, and were first used during the revolt to make Greek soldiers think the Jews were gambling rather than studying Torah.

        Oh, and gift-giving is also part of the holiday.

        That’s Hanukkah in a nutshell for you. Hope you found that helpful.

  2. That’s extremely helpful! I appreciate you taking the time to explain it. What an awesome event to celebrate. 🙂 It must have taken a lot of courage for those men to stand up for the faith like that.

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