Wednesday, September 07, 2005

religion at the Israeli workplace

At work there are certain rules about behaving religious and interacting with the other employees. In Israel this is compounded by the fact that secular Israelis are also non-practicing religious Jews.
I was the second religious person to start working here so a number of the religious rules were already established. For example, the other religious person doesn't use any of the kitchen utensils, so they get plastic for us. This includes the glass cups, which I wouldn't have any problem using. I don't know if she doesn't use them because she thinks it is wrong or because she didn't want to differentiate between using glasses and using forks. Also when we have birthday parties, she'll only eat cake if it was cut with a plastic knife - even though the cake is cold and the metal knife is clean.

In any case, I accepted her restrictions on that without any comments. One of the challenges of being religious ion a non-religious workforce is to try and seem somewhat normal while not compromising on traditional values. At the same time, you don't want to marginalize the other person by implying that they are stricter then they need to be or that their stringencies have no basis. We need to have a strong united front so that people see that religious people do similar things and don't assume that everyone can decide what they want to do.

The other co-worker eats only food with a mehadrin certification, while we are strict only on meat with a mehadrin certification. Dairy, we eat with regular certification if they don't have it with. Chicken is a middle ground, because there is no glatt by chicken. Also, most of the chicken in this country seems to be mehadrin.

Our company is going on vacation down to the Dead Sea for a Thurs,Fri,Shabbos outing. Last year we stayed at a religious hotel and all the other employees stayed at a non-religious hotel and had activities on shabbos. This year we are all staying in the same hotel. I told them that we could participate in anything that did not involve chilul shabbos. For example, they are having a juggler. I said we would come if there was no fire, music and such. The other religious family isn't coming for shabbos because they feel it is not a shabbosdic environment. I agreed with them and said we were going to go anyways and make our own shabbos environment. The hotel is an all-inclusive place so you don't pay for anything. I think it will be educational to explain to the kids why we are allowed to play mini golf on shabbos in this hotel.

I think the other employees have pretty much accepted that I am a more liberal religious Jew then my co-worker, though I haven't compromised on anything that I feel I shouldn't do. One time I was with a bunch of co-workers who were going to a nonkosher restaurant. They asked me to sit with them and not eat and I refused, explaining that it is maarit ayin (morris ayin in english). One of the guys looks at me and says, "Is that written i the shulchan aruch?" I explained that it was and then he was fine with me not sitting there. Only in Israel do you have a guy eating at a notkosher restaurant who feels the need to question if the stringencies of someone else are based on something that he doesn't feel means anything anyway,


Critically Observant Jew said...

I feel that I'm in more or less the same boat as you are, though I am in the US - I work as a consultant with 100% travel (I stay at the hotels) - a lot of Maarit Ayin issues - though I think it's safer here than in Israel - I work in Indianapolis - not too many Jews here that would assume that food at Embassy Suites is kosher.

rockofgalilee said...

welcome to the Rock of Galilee, Gregory.

One problem here is that every goy is a jew. They all have some sort of religious experience, even if it was only seeing the guy who they went to the army with. So they think they know everything there about religion and will challenge you on it if the think differently.