Where Antisemitic Rubber Meets the Road

When Estelle Walovsky was turned down for a secretarial job at a magazine, she wondered if her Jewish-sounding name was a handicap. So she applied as Elaine Wales — and was hired.

When John Minify realized that the magazine he published discriminated in hiring, he felt ashamed and ordered that job ads state clearly: “Religion is a matter of indifference to this office.”

As he researched an expose about antisemitism, Phil Green came to understand the pain felt by “every man or woman . . . who’d been told the job was filled when it wasn’t.”

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In post-World War II America newspaper help-wanted ads could still include “gentile” or “gentile-preferred.” Jewish lawyers hung out their own shingles because doors at white-shoe firms were closed to them. Medical school restrictions caused aspiring Jewish doctors to change their career plans — or their names.

According to a 1955 report, studies “consistently show a high proportion of orders from employers specifying that Jews are not wanted.”

I did not want to write a column about antisemitism. But here I am.

Let’s put aside the anti-Jewish rants by a rapper who changed his name, a former president’s questionable choice of dinner partners, and the hate spiking anew on a social media platform owned by a multi-billionaire whose business interests include automobiles and space travel. Anything I might say already has been said.

I considered other topics for this column, until I came across a report posted at ResumeBuilder.com, a website that helps job seekers craft appealing resumes. The headline read: “1 in 4 hiring managers say they are less likely to move forward with Jewish applicants.”

That’s right, one in four.

Below that headline were results from a survey conducted online in November with 1,131 hiring managers and recruiters, identified “via employment status demographic criteria and a screening question.”

According to ResumeBuilder.com:
* 26 percent said they are less likely to move forward with Jewish applicants. Among their reasons: Jews have too much power and control (38 percent), Jews claim to be the “chosen people” (38 percent), and Jews have too much wealth (35 percent).
* 26 percent make assumptions about whether a candidate is Jewish based on appearance.
* 23 percent said they want fewer Jews in their industry.
* 17 percent said leadership has told them to not hire Jews.
* 33 percent said antisemitism is common in their workplace.
* 29 percent said antisemitism is acceptable in their company.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states: “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s . . . religion,” along with their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

More from the survey:
Though more than half (56 percent) said that some Jewish applicants state their religious identification, many make assumptions based on an applicant’s educational background (35 percent), last name (33 percent), or past or current experiences with Jewish organizations (28 percent). Respondents also mentioned identifying an individual as Jewish by their “voice” or “mannerisms,” and that Jews “are very frugal.”

Eighteen percent believe that Jews are an inferior race and 18 percent believe that Jews killed Jesus. Nine percent have a less favorable attitude toward Jews now than five years ago, 31 percent think more favorably of Jews, and 60 percent said their attitude is unchanged.

ResumeBuilder.com advised: “The survey uses a convenience sampling method, and therefore, is not necessarily generalizable to the general population of U.S. hiring managers and recruiters.”

But what if the results do reflect the “generalizable” attitudes?
Some of you may have recognized the names Wales, Minify, and Green as characters from “Gentleman’s Agreement,” the best-selling 1947 novel by Laura Z. Hobson, which was adapted that year into a movie of the same name, starring Gregory Peck.

“Gentleman’s Agreement” was fiction, albeit grounded in reality. The survey of hiring managers is where antisemitic rubber meets the road, where bigotry and discrimination can have real-life consequences.

I did not want to write a column about antisemitism. But here I am. And here we are.

Originally published at https://www.atlantajewishtimes.com on December 15, 2022.



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