Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Over the past several years I have become more and more involved
with Judaism. I’ve been actively and successfully engaged in the world
of commerce for decades. The people I work with are rationalists,
math and money thinkers. If I say I’m taking a Wednesday off for a
Jewish holiday or that I attend Torah study, they eyeball me like a guy
in a turban at an airport. How can I communicate that this is personal,
important, and that their skepticism or snide humor is both rude and
invasive. Or do I just call in sick?
In addition to being rude and intrusive, their behavior is also illegal.
More subtle harassment than laying a hand in the wrong place, it’s
hard to prove and to prevent if it comes in the guise of humor or
playfulness. A lot depends on your self-esteem and willingness to step
forward rather than retreat. Though calling in sick is always a decent
back-up plan, Judaism encourages integrity not lying. While your rank
in the organization might matter subliminally, I’ll bet a box of Bibles
your company has personnel policies that protect you from having to
listen to anti-religious nonsense. Some well-placed words in the ear of
your biggest tormentor will inevitably get repeated and folks will back
off. Ironically it doesn’t matter if that person is the supervisor or
secretary. This is one area where you are legally protected and where
you have someone with bigger clout to back you up.
Meet first with anyone who’s been rude. One on one. Simply. Stop by
their desk or office and say the equivalent of: Something you said last
week’s been bothering me. I don’t know what you grew up believing or
what your religious or spiritual practices are now. But my religion is
important to me on many levels. When you’re dismissive or think
you’re being funny, you’re really demeaning yourself more than me.
But I don’t like walking around with bad feelings towards a colleague
that I otherwise like and respect. So if you feel the need to be “playful”
tell me I’m having a bad hair day, but please steer clear of religion. If
you don’t I’m going to have to talk to the HR folks. Then have faith.