Reaching Out to Co-Workers

I have been trying to do my part by engaging in a little non-professional kiruv. Nothing formal or pushy, something along the lines of working to encourage friends and associates to become more Jewishly involved and educated.

There are a number of Jews in my office included my boss, a number of co-workers and a number of people working under me. They are not religious but also not completely disinterested.

I was wondering what others think about encouraging them to become more Jewishly involved. Should I treat my boss and subordinates different then my co-workers.


12 comments on “Reaching Out to Co-Workers

  1. Eugene,
    The follow is my opinion only. Take it for what it is worth.
    But my thought is that your job at work is to do your job. Simply put.
    Your coworkers are not there to become religious, so keep your nose in your companies business, not theirs.
    As to getting them interested in Judaism, do it passively. Inspire them be being a mensch. Arrive on time, be a mensch, show them that being religious is not about being weird.
    If they approach you with a question, answer them. But don’t treat them any differently than the other workers. Last thing you want is a lawsuit.

  2. I’d invite people over for Shabbos if you feel comfortable but I wouldn’t push yourself on others. I agree with Yehuda about avoiding any hint of self-righteousness and prostelizing, it could get you in some trouble. But always be open to questions.

  3. Avoid any hint of self-righteousness. One of the most frequent complaints from the ***not-yet religous*** is that “Orthodox Jews think they’re better then everyone else”.

    (emphasis added)

    I’d say (and yes, I myself am an Orthodox Jew) that this complaint has some legitimacy….

  4. Chol Hamoed of Sukkot is a nice time to invite people, especially on Sunday. There is certainly a special atmosphere that will stimulate many questions.

    There are many “quick mitzvot” and rituals for those who wish to participate including Leishev baSukkah, Lulav and Etrog, and the recitation of Ushpizin (in English, if desired). You also avoid difficulties with guests who would have to travel on Shabbat/Yom Tov.

    There will be many things in the environment that will provoke questions. You can give a “tour” of the sukkah, including brief explanations of the schach, the Ushpizin posters, etc. Explanations can include the concept of leaving our secure homes at a potentially unpleasant time of year to demonstrate our faith in Hashem who protected us while we dwelled in similar booths after leaving Egypt.

    It’s also a good time to emphasize Jewry’s concern for all people of the world, since Sukkot was the festival during which special Temple sacrifices were offered on behalf of all nations.

    Try to have posters that include Hebrew and English; with our computers we can certainly make some of our own, or at the very least, put a brief English explanation next to commercially made Hebrew posters.

  5. Be careful, you do NOT want to lose your job, especially with the nightmare economy we have today.

    If you want to influence your coworkers, your own behavior must be flawless:

    No coming to work late, not even by one minute, even if everyone else is doing it.

    No lies, even if everyone else is doing it

    No stealing company property, not even a pencil or an eraser or a paper clip or a rubber band, even if everyone else is doing it.

    You must be polite and respectful to all coworkers, regardless of their religion and to the maximum extent possible, even if nobody else is doing it.

    And your work must be of the highest quality all the time, even if nobody else is doing it.

    In other words, everything you do from 9:00 AM Monday to 2 PM Friday must be a Kiddush HaShem.

    No dirty jokes or gossip, even when everyone else is doing it; no gazing at female coworkers, even even when everyone else is doing it; no fake sick days, even when everyone else is doing it; no complaining, even when everyone else is doing it; and no inferior work ethic, even when everyone else is doing it.

    If you fit that description, then consider inviting your coworkers for Shabbat in your home.

    Last but not least, becoming a PARTNERS IN TORAH volunteer is surely both safer and more effective than influencing coworkers.

  6. Personally, just setting a “Torah based” example and being aware of Kiddush Hashem oportunities can have a major impact. Project Inspire suggests thing like:
    When asked how your weekend was, tell them how much you appreciate Shabbos/speding time with family/not answering the phone/not posting on blogs (lol), etc.

    With society being morally bankrupt, being an honest and good person can do wonders. Bringing in Yom Tov related nosh also helps.

  7. Since we live in the days of political correctness and EEO (in fact, I have to sit through an annual EEO class tomorrow afternoon), tread carefully. However, it’s not too unusual for conversations to crop up where you can CAREFULLY insert some thought that has an obvious Torah prospective.

    Avoid any hint of self-righteousness. One of the most frequent complaints from the not-yet religous is that “Orthodox Jews think they’re better then everyone else”.

    What do others here think about quietly distributing small Shaloch Manos on Shushan Purim to coworkers? This is one of the things that Project Kiruv has encouraged.

  8. I can imagine that a secularly oriented Jewish subordinate could take a sincere overture about Yiddishkeit to be a form of harassment, even when he knows this has no bearing on his performance reviews. You have to get to know the person before deciding what can be discussed.

  9. Be very, very careful. I would say, let them come to you. Personally, I wouldn’t volunteer anything, but that’s just me. Let them see the hamentashen on your desk and ask, or let them ask why you’re cleaning every nook and cranny of your desk before Pesach, etc. But don’t say “and you should too” and don’t offer to help them do theirs unless they ask you for your help.

    As a matter of fact, you need to be very careful NOT to give the impression you’re treating Jewish subordinates more favorably than non-Jewish subordinates, or you could end up with some nasty accusations on your hands. (Offer them hamentashen too, if they see them on your desk) ;)

  10. Do this with care; be very careful NOT to give your subordinates the impression that becoming more Jewishly involved and educated will be part of how you evaluate their job performance.

    I suggest reading for many practical examples of what is and is not considered religious harassment under US law. It can help you find ways to encourage your coworkers without causing trouble at work!

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