The opening verses of this Shabbat's double parashah establishes the eternity of the connection between our people and the covenant forged at Sinai and reaffirmed at Moav:
"You are standing before God in order to enter into the Covenant of God and take the oath that God makes with you, so that God may fulfill God's promise to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is not with you alone, but with those who are here and those who are not here that God makes this Covenant and oath."
No matter where we Jews have lived, no matter when, we have with determination and commitment and creativity kept this Covenant with our God.
On the eve of this weekend, which is meant to honor laborers who built and continue to build this country, who have maintained and continue to maintain our infrastructure and homes and workplaces . . . indeed honoring all those who have and do work and seek work . . . and in this season of reflection and this Sabbath that affirms our connection to our covenant and our history as slave laborers, the findings of the Tannenbaum Institute's survey of the American workplace is most relevant: "What American Workers Really Think About Religion: Tanenbaum's 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion."
In the introduction to the survey, the Tanenbaum staff writes:
If there is one conclusion to take away from Tanenbaum’s 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion, it is that religion is relevant in the workplace. Not only is it a problem when a person feels unfairly treated on the basis of his or her beliefs – whether religious or non-religious – but tensions around religion are occurring, and are increasingly likely to occur, in our ever more diverse global workplaces. That said, it is important to recognize that the issues raised in this survey are complex and nuanced.
One-third of respondents have seen incidents of religious bias in their workplaces or have personally experienced them.
- 4-in-10 employees at companies without clear processes for handling employee complaints are looking for a new job, compared to 2-in-10 employees at companies with these processes.
- Half of non-Christians say that their employers are ignoring their religious needs.
- More than half of American workers believe that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims.
- Nearly 6-in-10 atheists believe that people look down on their beliefs, as do nearly one-third of white evangelical Protestants and non-Christian religious workers.
More than one-third (36%) of workers say they have personally experienced or witnessed some form of religious non-accommodation4 in their workplace.
- The most commonly experienced or witnessed forms of religious non-accommodation are being required to work on Sabbath observances or a religious holiday (24%) and attending company-sponsored events that did not include kosher, halal, or vegetarian options (13%).
- Nearly half of non-Christian workers (49%) report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accommodation at work.
- White evangelical workers (48%) are equally as likely as non-Christian workers to report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accommodation at work.
- Two-in-five (40%) atheists also report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accommodation at work.
- Employees at companies that provide flexible hours for religious observance are more than twice as likely to say that they look forward to coming to work.
- When companies have policies on religious discrimination, their employees are less likely to be looking for a new job.
- Regardless of a company’s size, workers whose companies offer education programs about religious diversity and flexibility for religious practice report higher job satisfaction than workers in companies that do not.
It is sad and frustrating to see that religious affiliation (or the lack thereof) divides and marginalizes people at the place where we spend most of our time aside from home with our families . . . or perhaps even more than the time we spend home with our families! Perhaps the time will come when the Tanenbaum survey will reflect a small single digit percentage (I vote for 0%!) of workers experiencing or witnessing religious discrimination or "non-accommodaton" in the workplace. Until that time comes, it is our task to speak out, to ask for help and to try to find a way to bring this kind of redemption to the world ourselves.