Tag Archives: Jewish

Visible Markers of Difference

23 Oct

Recently I spent a weekend in the Crown Height, Brooklyn – a Hasidic neighbourhood.

As I walked to and from my friend’s apartment, I was surrounded by men in black suits, white shirts and hats or yarmulkes, and a few women in long skirts.

Despite being a person of colour who is used to being the only POC in a room, it was nevertheless a powerful experience to be and feel so obviously different as I walked along the street because of my clothing. I stood out.

I wondered what it must be like to dress the same as everyone else. And I remembered my high school uniform; the blessing it was for a kid who didn’t have the “right” clothes, and yet how stifling it was to my teenage self. I tried many ways to assert my individuality in that uniform.

I’m not equating a high school uniform with cultural and religiously significant clothing! These clothes and ways of dressing signify beliefs and a way of being. And of course Hasidic Jews are not the only ones who experience this. Hijabs and Turbans are two other examples that are also very visible. But I did wonder about the sense of community.

I wondered what it is like to share culture and religion so publicly, constantly, and consistently. I wondered what it was like to be so visibly part of a community, and to be IN that community – and by contrast what it was like to walk in other parts of the city. I also wondered if, outside of the community, this defining way of dressing may feel different if one is alone, or with a group of similarly-clad people. (I did see groups of Hasidic boys in the various subway stations on Friday). And I reminded myself that how it feels is likely impacted by how one is received by others.

When we are obvious in our difference, we can more easily become targets for discrimination and hate. Although for us, those markers may be sources of pride and provide a sense of belonging.

And as I walked, I also wondered what these markers don’t allow us to see because of the assumptions, stereotypes and prejudices that clothing can inspire – consciously and unconsciously.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                          Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion  www.annemarieshrouder.com

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Happy New Year!

3 Oct

Happy New Year!

If you’re Jewish, you know exactly what I’m talking about – Rosh Hashanah began last night at sundown. “Shanah Tovah!”

If you’re not Jewish, or don’t have any close friends (or family) who are Jewish, it’s possible that you had no idea. Or, like me, no idea until yesterday.

Which is amazing, if you think about it, because a new year’s celebration is a big deal.
But it happens all the time to holidays that are not celebrated by the dominant culture:

If you are Jewish, you likely know about Christmas and Easter…the big and commonly known holidays celebrated in North America. There are others, but you get the idea. If you’re not Jewish, likely you don’t know when Rosh Hashanah is, or Yom Kippur, or Hanukkah.
Because it’s not your holiday.

Notice a little disparity there?

You bet.
That’s because if you’re not in the dominant group, you have to know the dominant culture to get through the day (and life). But it’s not reciprocal. Because non-dominant culture information is not “necessary” information, and we live in a world that is inequitable.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest holidays in the Hebrew calendar. It is celebrated in the first two days of the Jewish month of Tishrei. And because the Hebrew calendar is Lunar, the dates for holidays such as Rosh Hashanah change every Gregorian calendar year.

(By the way, Rosh Hashanah is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur – so mark your calendar!)

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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Sign up for my weekly inclusion Insight, which always includes a challenge to help you see more.

Religious Accommodation

22 Mar

One of the things that I hear about a lot working with organizations is how difficult religious accommodation feels.

Passover begins next week and in the spirit of things, I thought I’d share a success story that I just heard about.

B&H is a photo, video and audio company in the USA. They have a superstore in New York City as well as an online store. And the owners are of the Jewish Orthodox faith.

“So what?”  you may say.
The ‘so what’ is that the store is closed for the Sabbath (Saturday in this case). In fact the store closes at 2pm on the Friday. This also applies to their online store: you can browse, but you can’t purchase anything on the Sabbath.
AND – and this is the really great part – the store and online store are closed for Passover (March 25 – April 2 this year). A whole 9 days!!

What a great example of how faith can be part of what is valued in a workplace and still have your company be profitable.  For those who are finding giving employees time off to observe (note: not closing their entire organization) as part of their commitment to inclusion, I say think again.

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copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion

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