Antisemitism is hostility towards or discrimination against Jewish people. Antisemitism may be manifested in many ways ranging from prejudice and stereotypes to isolation, oppression, and harm to Jewish people. The topic of antisemitism has been in the media a lot recently, as rapper and fashion designer, Kanye West has received widespread criticism due to the several antisemitic remarks that he has made over the past month. As a result, numerous brands have cut ties with him, including Adidas which wrote: “Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful, and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.” Instagram and Twitter also suspended his accounts in the days following his antisemitic remarks.

 

Unfortunately, antisemitic incidences have increased in recent years. The British charity Community Security Trust (CST), reported there to be more antisemitism incidents recorded in the UK in 2021 than at any point since it began recording such incidents in 1984. CST said it reported 2,255 anti-Jewish hate incidents across the country during 2021 – a 34% increase from the 1,684 it recorded in 2020. Furthermore, CST stated that the rise in incidents was “driven by the huge rise in anti-Jewish hate and extremism during and following the escalation in violence in Israel and Palestine last year.”

 

How does antisemitism impact individuals?

When individuals witness or are the targets of antisemitism in their communities, they may feel isolated or more vulnerable. As a result, they may be afraid to show their Jewish identity for fear they will become targets of further antisemitic comments on social media and in person. In fact, a survey conducted in 2020 found that, as a result of antisemitism, 44% of British Jews do not display visible signs of their faith in public – the highest figure recorded since 2016.

How can organisations take a stand against antisemitism?

Employers play a key role in ensuring that employees feel supported and comfortable to bring their whole authentic selves to work. Here are some tips on how employers can create a safe working environment, and take a stand against antisemitism:

  • Open door policy: It is vital to ensure all employees are aware that your HR has an open-door policy and are available to have meaningful conversations. While you should be open to hearing all complaints and acting upon them, it shouldn’t be the only time that the topics of religion and antisemitism in the workplace are discussed. Conversations should be ongoing to identify anything you, as an employer, can improve on to ensure all employees feel secure and supported within your company culture.
  • Speak up: Speak up unequivocally in support of Jewish employees and against antisemitism.
  • Educate employees about micro-aggressions: A microaggression is a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group. Encouraging learning throughout your organisation can help employees to identify terms that may be perceived as offensive and that will not be tolerated in the workplace.
  • Training: It is important to specifically address antisemitism in anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and diversity training, initiatives, and policies. Training that equips employees to safely challenge antisemitism in the workplace is also very beneficial.
  • Be aware of religious holidays: To work towards creating a culture of equality, ensure that you are aware of all religious holidays and consider offering employees the opportunity to take time off and celebrate with their loved ones.
  • Dress code: If you decide to implement a dress code, you must make sure that it does not directly or indirectly discriminate against employees with a particular religion or belief. The law states that no workplace dress code policy can restrict a religious person from wearing their traditional religious dress if it does not impact health and safety.

In conclusion, together we can take a stand against antisemitism and support Jewish people in our communities to help them feel safe and valued and help them to not feel as though they need to hide their faith due to fear of repercussion.