Kiddush Hashem in the Workplace
Like any new employee, Yosi Heber, an Orthodox Jew with an MBA from Wharton, was eager to make good at his first job in the corporate world. Within days he realized that he was at a decided disadvantage as compared to
the other new recruits in his division. He was not part of the crowd from Harvard; did not play golf with the boss on Saturdays; and somehow, did not have quite the same “junior executive look” as the others. Even his name, common enough in Jewish circles, set him apart from his co-workers; he actually overheard one of the secretaries ask, “What’s a Yosi?” And that was not all – part of his job was to concoct new recipes for the non-kosher Jello manufactured by his employer, which he could not even taste! A week into the job he told his mother, “I’ll never make it.” A year later Yosi was still there, by then armed with an important insight: “If an employee is a non-Jew, he or she can be perceived in the eyes of an employer in one of three ways: liked by people, disliked by people, or middle of the road (‘one of the boys’). If a person is a frum Jew, however, there are only two possibilities: Either you will be respected because you are a frum Jew (and you create a kiddush Hashem), or you’ll be disliked because you are a frum Jew (and that can lead to chillul Hashem). You cannot and will not ever be accepted as ‘one of the boys.’ There is simply no middle ground for you in a corporate environment.” (The Ethical Imperative -Torah Perspectives on Ethics and Values, page 56) When we venture out into the world, we do so with a built-in identity as religious Jews. Our behavior will always be subject to an extra degree of scrutiny, and it will reflect on all Jews. As Yosi discovered, we will either be respected specifically as observant Jews (a kiddush Hashem), or disliked, also specifically as observant Jews (a chillul Hashem, G-d forbid). “Neutral” will not be one of the choices. These are high stakes, requiring an ongoing, conscious effort on our part to make the kiddush Hashem.