AI tools to counter antisemitism in the workplace

Posted Thursday, Mar 14th, 2024

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report from this week’s Rohr Jewish Learning Institute leadership summit in Florida, and on a new survey of Jewish teenagers by BBYO. We feature an opinion piece by Adina H. Frydman about how encounters between North American Jews and Israelis have changed post-Oct. 7, and another by Eran Vaisben about the need for Diaspora Jewish communities to also discuss the “day after” the Israel-Hamas war. Also in this issue: Jeff Schoenfeld, Scooter Braun and Kenneth Stern. We’ll start with a new artificial intelligence-powered tool to help young Jewish professionals cope with antisemitism in the workplace.

For Gila, everything came crashing down at work five days after Oct. 7. On her job’s donation matching platform, coworkers put out a call to help those suffering in Gaza, asking for contributions to organizations with antisemitic pasts. There was no acknowledgement of attacks in Israel or the hostages taken. Coworkers flooded the post with praise.

She burst into tears in the middle of a meeting. “I’m sitting here like, ‘What do I do?’” she told Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropyShe didn’t want to debate coworkers on a public forum. “I wouldn’t bring a war to work just like they had done.” (Gila asked to be identified only by her Hebrew name.)

Many young professionals like Gila have been thrust into a job market that is often hostile towards Jews and those who identify with Israel. It’s emotionally taxing to reply to antisemitism when your energy is meant to be spent working. Most people aren’t afforded the opportunity to tell coworkers off.

In a bid to address the problem and equip Jewish workers with coping strategies, the nonprofit Career Up Now is releasing a 32-page “Self-Advocacy Guide for Addressing Workplace Antisemitism and Anti-Israel Sentiment” on Thursday as well as a beta version of an artificial intelligence tool.

The goal was to create something quick and simple for young professionals to use when they experience antisemitism, Bradley Cook, executive director of Career Up Now, told eJP. “You could just say, ‘Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.’ Take your phone with you and type in what happened at work and then have what you need to go back with,” he said.

The guide and AI tool were funded by the Suzanne Dryan Felson’s Fund, Etrog Fund #1 and the Schusterman Family Philanthropies ROI Real Time Challenge Grant, a grant available to members of the ROI community, a network of 1,700 Jewish activists and social entrepreneurs.

Founded in 2016, Career Up Now cultivates personal, professional and Jewish connections for students and emerging professionals. Recently, the nonprofit sent a survey to its 2,500 members, asking what support they need in a post-Oct. 7 world. Members shared horror stories of encountering antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment at work. They didn’t have confidence in their ability to respond and feared conflicts escalating.

David Guccione, a Career Up Now member, said that he even found himself lying about being Jewish. “For the first time in my life, I felt scared for people knowing that piece of my identity,” he told eJP.

Antisemitism has always been there, and Jews have always struggled with how to respond, Cook said. “The difference now is that, in the workplace, what was just flippant comments [in the past] like, ‘You’re Jewish. You should be on the finance committee.’ [Now] there’s a vitriol to go with them.”

Read the full report here.

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