Thursday, April 2, 2015

“Daddy, why do Jewish people not like Catholics?”

On Wednesday nights, my wife and I drop our daughter off at band practice, and then take our son to dinner before his keyboard lesson starts. While sitting at dinner last night, my son hit us with this bomb: “Daddy, why do Jewish people not like Catholics? … Why did the Jews kill Jesus?”

If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know that my family is interfaith. Even though my kids are being raised Catholic, they understand that their Catholicism is only half of their religious background. I could go into a long dissertation as to why they are being raised Catholic, but the reality is that I am much more a secular Jew than a religious Jew, and since kids need to be raised something, Catholicism makes more sense, even to me.

Be that as it may, I certainly don’t want my kids thinking that their Jewish side doesn’t like their Catholic side. This morning on the way to the school bus I probed Donovan on where he got the idea that Jews don’t like Catholics. As it turns out (and as I suspected), it was his takeaway from hearing the crucifixion story at PSR on Monday night. I have no doubt that the message wasn’t one of hate, but rather one of miscommunication. Nevertheless, in Donovan’s developing six-year-old brain, when he was heard, “The Jews didn’t like/support/belive-in Jesus,” he understood it as, “Jews don’t like Catholics.” It an honest interpretation from an intelligent six-year-old boy, since he’s been taught his whole life that Catholicism and Jesus are intertwined.

I will explain to Donovan tonight that Jews and Catholics love each other. After all, he’s Catholic, as is his sister, mom, grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins—and I love all of them. I will try to explain, as best as I can, the historical context of what happened 2,000 years ago, and, hopefully, he’ll understand that what some people did those millennia long ago does not translate to today. Then, I will explain to the PSR teacher that she needs to be sensitive to the fact that she is teaching at least one interfaith child, and must tailor her message so as not to alienate or upset. We should be teaching inclusion, not estrangement.

The same lesson translates to your workplace. We live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society, yet we are becoming more and more fragmented. Our great melting pot is not longer an olio, but an mishmash of separate ingredients holding for dear life to the edge of the pot. We are fragmented by religion, national origin, and political belief. Your challenge as an employer is to ensure that your workplace is integrated. You need to ask yourself what kind of workplace you desire. Do you want a workplace of inclusion or exclusion? Do you want employees to feel as though they are part of a team, or part of a tribe that happens to work among other tribes in the same building? To me, the former not only makes for a more cohesive workplace, but also one that limits the risk of liability for harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.