Passover 2021: The value of a Jewish Employee Network at Avanade
- Posted on March 22, 2021
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Most people have a desire to belong, fit in and be valued in the community as a part of something larger. This was one of the motivations for why I returned to Avanade as a full-time employee after an incredible internship experience. The culture around inclusion and diversity drew me in and allowed for me to openly observe my Jewish practices.
I am an observant modern-orthodox Jew, which means that there are many observances that I keep that affect my daily life. For example, I eat kosher (set of dietary laws) food and keep the Jewish Sabbath called Shabbat from Friday at sunset to Saturday at nightfall, during which I refrain from using electricity and technology, as well as other creative activities like cooking and writing. These observances, however, may interfere with other important life events. As an intern of summer 2019, we all had the amazing opportunity to attend the FUEL Conference in Pomona, California, a week-long conference from Sunday to Friday. For most people, travel, food and accommodations were graciously taken care of by Avanade and wouldn't require any further thought. However, for me there were many challenging thoughts that came to mind: "How should I ask for kosher food? Will I feel comfortable eating it? How can I travel back on Friday afternoon? Will I make it home in time for Shabbat? What happens if the flight is delayed?" Fortunately, once I was able to politely inform Avanade of my needs, they were sensitive, understanding and accommodating.
When my two colleagues joined Avanade during the fall of 2020, their start date was scheduled on Yom Kippur, which is one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. Avanade made space for a comfortable conversation, later realizing it affected enough Ignites to push the start date a day later.
All these experiences pushed me to question, “How can we contribute to Avanade’s inclusive, collaborative culture?” My colleagues and I cannot be the only individuals having these experiences, needing certain religious accommodations, and taking certain days off. What if there is an important event on another Jewish day of observance? How can a Jewish person, or any religious individual, feel comfortable asking to take PTO on that day? While Avanade’s focus on diversity and inclusion allows the space for these conversations to be made, the questions, dialogues, and moments we have had with Avanade thus far, served as the catalyst for the creation of Jewish Employee Network. The Jewish Employee Network is another step in the direction of creating a more diverse network at Avanade, by uniting through our differences, and bringing unique perspective to the table. Through the JEN, we hope to create more awareness and sensitivity around any concerns or challenge Jewish employees may face in the future. We contribute to the diverse talent pool at Avanade!
At Avanade, we are encouraged to bring our whole selves to the table, and we hope to share that with you. Amongst our different practices, there are a multitude of holidays on the Jewish calendar, some of which we are prohibited to work on. Coming up around the corner is the holiday of Passover, a time when we celebrate our freedom as a nation after recounting the story of our slavery in Egypt. During this eight-day holiday, we usually gather with friends and family, eat unleavened bread, refrain from work for the first and last two days, and practice symbolic rituals to elicit gratitude for our freedom as a people.
Although a lot of what we practice uses symbolism, the holiday of Passover is more than just that – it is a celebration, acknowledgement, and reminder of where we came from, in order to reorient ourselves moving forward. Year in and year out, Passover remains a central aspect to our religion because if we do not remember our difficult times, we cannot celebrate the good; if we are unaware of our struggles, we can no longer appreciate our growth. Passover is not just recounting the stories of our past, but internalizing the people we were, and the people we want to be.
At Avanade, we constantly reevaluate our work, try to bring the most innovative solutions forward, adjust our goals, stay open and honest, and appreciate the diverse group we have to unite as one, and Passover serves to do the same for the Jewish people. It is easy to forget how hard we have worked to get to where we are today, especially when we are not specifically the individuals who struggled to reach those goals. However, when we make it a point to look back, internalize who we were, reevaluate who we are, and define where we want to be, then we can truly transform ourselves into our best versions. In this season of spring, a time of rebirth and reblooming all around us, where the sun comes out, and the flowers regrow, may we internalize the message of Passover; may we be able to look back at our past, have an honest look at our present, and reevaluate our future to propel us into the best individual, and, together, the best Avanade, that we can be.