Category Archives: Religious Diversity

Religious diversity in the workplace and interfaith projects in the community.

Policies, Faith, and Calendars – by Deborah Levine

When the Jewish New Year came in September this year, I got many questions about calendars and holy days from Human Resource departments. They wanted to know why the holiday occurs on a different day each year according to our secular calendar. And they asked about food associated with the holiday. Offering the traditional apples and honey for a sweet New Year was the easy part. Explaining the timing was the real challenge.

What should I write about religion and religious calendars in these contentious times? I know that many organizations and companies would prefer that the issue of religious diversity would disappear. But every year, thousands of religion-based lawsuits claiming a “hostile or offensive work environment” are registered with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

What can you do to avoid a hostile and offensive workplace when so many conflicts over religion are begun unintentionally? The bias is labeled “unconscious” when people think it’s harmless, and even fun, to joke about Jews and money, Muslims and head scarves, Sikhs and turbans. They’re surprised when people feel harassed. Isn’t it a right to exercise of their freedom of expression?

Some respond to the dilemma by insisting that no religious expression be allowed at all. Others consider that approach hostile and offensive to people of faith. How do you begin to negotiate between such polar opposites? The first step is for organizations to develop written policies around religion if they haven’t already. Without a written policy, every incident is a matter of debate and personal preference. It doesn’t take long for the resulting distrust and dislike to damage team cohesiveness.

Timing is every thing. Well-meaning companies may find employees disengaged and distanced by ill-timed scheduling decisions. Don’t hold a conference or essential meetings on a major holy day. And if you must, don’t penalize those who can’t attend. What happens when religious calendars aren’t respected? If employees aren’t able to spend time with their families on major holy days, they may feel undervalued and leave. The organization’s talent pool is diminished and it incurs the expense of replenishing it.

Consider your partners and vendors, too. For example: Don’t have a job fair on a day when diverse vendors can’t set up booths. If vendors aren’t able to observe their holy days, they may disappear. In that case, the organization not only loses needed vendors, but the communities that these vendors represent may remove themselves as customers. The organization now has fewer marketing options.

Ready to upgrade your scheduling strategies? A vital element of your company policy should be a multi-faith calendar. Religious calendars vary with seasons, months, and days. Do not try to guess the dates of major holidays. Purchase a multi-cultural calendar or get an online version, many of which are free to users.

While we may not share the same holy days, and many of us aren’t religious, respect for sacred time makes good business sense. Avoid insensitive scheduling and build credibility with employees, vendors, and customers onsite and online. Sensitivity generates good will year round. The trustworthiness you establish helps offset unintended mistakes. So check your calendars and enjoy a few apples and honey!

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For more information on calendars and religious diversity CLICK Religious Diversity at Work

Pandora’s Box of Hate – by Deborah Levine

Editor’s note: this article on anti-Semitism was originally published as an op-ed in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Russian President Putin got my attention when he suggested that Jews with Russian citizenship might have interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. “Maybe they’re not even Russians,” said Putin. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship – even that needs to be checked.” Putin reminded me why my great grandparents made the harrowing journey from Russia and the Ukraine to the United States. My ancestors weren’t the only ones. Between 1881 and 1924, over 2.5 million East European Jews sought to escape the relentless persecution and ghettoization. The slice of history was captured in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, but while Hollywood entertained, it didn’t fully show the history of anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe, or its ongoing ripple effect.

Continue reading Pandora’s Box of Hate – by Deborah Levine

Kwaanza Quest — Poem by Vincent Ivan Phipps

After the presents have been opened and our belly’s are put to rest,

On the day after Christmas, we pay tribute to the first fruits of the harvest.

Acknowledging the tradition followed by 18 million since 1966 from East to the West,

Understanding Kwanzaa’s guidelines is part of our growing culture quest.

Continue reading Kwaanza Quest — Poem by Vincent Ivan Phipps

You Are a Woman: Exploring the Mandate – by Lydia Taylor

Think like a woman, talk like a woman, walk like a woman because the mandate is ‘You Are a Woman’.  But how do I accomplish this?
In my previous article, I shared how I heard the words ‘You are a Woman’ during a time of prayer and meditation. In my pursuit of their relevance, I concluded that these words are not simply to confirm gender, but are a mandate urging women to make a difference in their communities and in the world. In that article, the reader is encouraged to discover how they may make an impact that will advance society and elevate those in their individual sphere of influence, whether great or small.

Continue reading You Are a Woman: Exploring the Mandate – by Lydia Taylor

The Atheism Challenge – by Terry Howard

‘Terry, I’m (gasp) an atheist!’  There was not a hint of anger in her during the entire time “Mary” and I talked that afternoon in the crowded sandwich shop. In fact, it was just the opposite. “Mary” laughed, we laughed, so hard and so much that out of the corner of my eye I could see icy stares from booths nearby “telling us” to pipe down so that they could get back to their business dealings, grandkiddos, tuna sandwiches, chips and lattes. Here’s the email “Mary” sent me the Friday before that prompted that late Monday meeting:

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Quick Reference Cards for Religious Literacy – by Deborah Levine

While leadership training will often include issues related to Diversity & Inclusion, few programs include instruction in religious diversity. Yet, cultural awareness, cultural competence, global leadership, and cross-cultural communication are embraced as the tools of the market place of the future. What accounts for this black hole of information on diverse religions?  One has only to turn on the TV, open a newspaper, or check the internet headlines to see that religion is a major factor in interactions across the planet.  It is both puzzling and disturbing that a virtual vacuum of expertise exists in the relationship-oriented sectors of our society: business, education, government, and human services. Trying to avoid culture clash of belief systems can result in a paralyzing sense of being overwhelmed and under-prepared. Too many leaders are left scrambling for strategies and resources designed to turn the religious diversity novice into an expert.

Continue reading Quick Reference Cards for Religious Literacy – by Deborah Levine

Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski: Interfaith Pioneer

The Rev. Dr. John T. PawlikowskiJohn T. Pawlikowski, a priest of the Servite Order, is Professor of Social Ethics and Director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He served for six years as President of the International Council of Christians & Jews and its Abrahamic Forum and currently holds the title of Honorary Life President. He has authored/edited some fifteen books on Christian-Jewish Relations as well as on social issues such as economic justice, war and peace, and ecological sustainability. He is the former editor of New Theology Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal for Ecumenical Studies. He is also a founding member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council.

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One Woman’s Black-Jewish Story – by Marceline Donaldson

As a young girl, I lived in a middle-class Black community surrounded by people who made me feel that I was incredible and could do anything I set her mind to. It was a recipe for constant conflict with a racist, sexist society and its institutions throughout the rest of my life.

Continue reading One Woman’s Black-Jewish Story – by Marceline Donaldson

Counteracting Hate with Positive Diversity Stories – by Deborah Levine & Terry Howard

Deborah: ​​Sadly, I’m watching yet another evacuation of a Jewish center on TV. I know what it’s like to oversee an evacuation during a bomb threat. I was in charge of security at a Jewish agency in Chicago, was trained by the FBI in security after the Oklahoma City bombing, and oversaw the design for a secure Jewish Community Center in Chattanooga.

Continue reading Counteracting Hate with Positive Diversity Stories – by Deborah Levine & Terry Howard

Unity in Diversity: A Model for Advancement of Civilization – by Vahid Alavian

Today’s political and social climate in the world and in the United States seems to accentuates disagreement in thoughts and ideologies, give rise to disunity, create a sense of fear and insecurity, and in some cases even loss of human life and destruction. Chaos and confusion are reaching such intensity that they are affecting the fundamental structure of society; uprooting its time-honored constitutions and institutions; destroying the bonds of human relationships; and driving its inhabitants away from their homes as refugees. To counter these forces, significant productive and constructive energy will be required to sustain human societies. One way to look at our community, country, and the world for a path forward is to practice the concept of Unity in Diversity. The American Diversity Report provides an effective avenue for meaningful discourse on the subject.

Continue reading Unity in Diversity: A Model for Advancement of Civilization – by Vahid Alavian