With the religious season in full swing in April this year, the month brings joy and celebration to people from all backgrounds. Christians celebrate Easter, Muslims worldwide participate in Eid after Ramadan and the Jewish community celebrates Passover, one of Judaism's holiest holidays.
During this period of celebration, we need to demonstrate our compassion and solidarity for all by understanding and respecting different holiday traditions.
While we've looked at other religious celebrations like Diwali and Ramadan before, this year, we'll spotlight Passover to help you learn more about what it might mean for your Jewish employees and colleagues.
During this period, acknowledging their beliefs, offering traditional greetings and being mindful of dietary requirements are simple yet effective ways to show support.
1. Passover in a nutshell and its significance
Like many religious celebrations, Passovers dates are changeable each year, though it is often around late March or early April. This year, 2023, the dates will fall from April 5th to April 13th. Within Israel, the celebration lasts seven days; interestingly, outside of Israel, it is a day longer at eight days!
For the Jewish community, it reminds them of the Exodus story of the Israelites after slavery in Egypt. This story is traditionally told from a book called Haggadah during the first two evenings of Passover during a special meal called 'Seder'. Everyone will take part, and while the evening meal finishes by midnight, singing may often go on a lot longer.
The symbolism during Passover has resonated throughout many generations, serving as an example of overcoming struggles and allowing for transformation.
2. Accommodating work restrictions during Passover
When thinking about your employees that follow Judaism, a vital consideration is that working is prohibited during the first and last two days of Passover. This year you should expect requests for annual leave for the 5th and 6th of April, plus the 12th and 13th of April. Bearing in mind Easter in the UK and western countries are bank holiday already, you might find that absence for Jewish workers is higher for April than in a typical month.
If you are working to tight deadlines, let's have open conversations in advance about how to balance religious requirements with work commitments best. Do not organise important meetings or staff events during this time, and rebook them instead.
3. Be Flexible with Schedules
Passover can be a hectic time in many households due to the observance of various holiday rituals and family gatherings. As such, many people may need extra flexibility with their schedules to accommodate all their activities and potential late nights. Showing flexibility regarding working hours can be a great way to acknowledge and honour the importance of this religious holiday while allowing your staff to get their jobs done efficiently and effectively.
4. Dietary requirements and restrictions to consider.
During the eight days of Passover, Jewish people abstain from anything leavened or fermented - that means no bread, beer, or pasta, to name a few. Certain branches of Judaism also steer clear of legumes like beans, soy, rice, and corn. Only freshly-prepared meals are on the menu, with everything else carrying a specific label designating it as acceptable for consumption during this period.
As a workplace, consider dietary provisions on offer if there are to be meetings or events with food involved. Our key suggestion is open communication and learning directly from your Jewish employee/colleague about what they can and can't have or what situations might be tricky for them.
Expect that your Jewish staff may bring in their own food during these days and may not want to attend meals/drinks events.
If possible, provide unique meal options at work or consider having food delivered from outside vendors that offer kosher for Passover meals so that everyone can enjoy delicious food without compromising their beliefs. Additionally, you could provide snacks in communal areas that conform to these dietary restrictions, so everyone feels included regardless of whether or not they celebrate Passover.
Finally and equally importantly, how can you wish a Jewish person a Happy Passover?
As well as showing an interest in their beliefs, traditions and lifestyle, you can also say 'Chag kasher v'sameach', which translates as 'may you have a happy and kosher Passover.'
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