Passover, or Pesach, is a Jewish festival which comes with numerous ‘rules and regulations’ for those of the Jewish faith. In this post, we hope to help you understand some of these customs a little better and how you can help any practising colleagues you work with.
Notes and ideas on the workplace implications were added by Global Integration.
The festival coincides with Easter this year (begins 25 March 2013) and commemorates the exodus of ancient Jews from Egypt. Passover is one of the most observed Jewish festivals in the calendar and people of varying levels of observance celebrate and keep its laws.
On the first two holy nights (one night for those in Israel), families across the World will sit down for a meal that is filled with rituals, songs and explanations. This is called the ‘Seder’ and covers events and stories from the ancient times and exodus, including the ten plagues upon Moses leading the Jewish people out of Egypt, and the parting of the Dead Sea.
Three workplace ideas for a more peaceful Passover!
1. Time off: Holiday timings
Passover starts at sunset on Monday March 25th, and lasts for eight days (seven in Israel), four of which are classed as ‘holy’ – so some Jewish colleagues may be away from work on these days.
The holy days this year fall on 25-27 March and 31 March-2 April, 2013. Be mindful of setting meetings on these dates in case colleagues are away from work.
2. Meetings: Be Food and Drink Aware
Food and drink is the most complicated part of Passover and many not of a Jewish origin find it confusing and difficult to understand. It is said that when the Jewish people were being led out of Egypt, their bread did not have time to rise and so, to commemorate this, certain foods and drinks, known as ‘chametz’, are not permitted.
During the eight days, Jews may not eat or drink anything made from grains including wheat, rye, barley, oats and some (Ashkenazic Jews) may not eat beans, rice, corn and peanuts. This also includes certain drinks and alcoholic beverages.
Most Jewish people will bring their own food and drink to work during the four days in which they can be there: they may not use cutlery and crockery in the office as these may contain traces of ‘chametz’, even if they have been cleaned in the dishwasher. Many perform a full “spring clean” of their homes and replace existing crockery and cutlery with those used only for Passover and non-chametz food.
To help Jewish colleagues, try and make sure that any meetings during the four non-holy days of Passover are not arranged during lunchtime or at a café: your colleague will be able to drink from a flask or mug that they have brought in from home so try and arrange any meetings in the office.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
From our experience, Jewish colleagues are never offended when asked them questions pertaining to any festival or rules they follow. In fact, the opposite often applies: they enjoy explaining why they do what and when. Not only does it help to close the gap, but can strike up new conversations where you can all get the chance to discuss various religious festivals. Everyone learns something new.
Of course, if you’re Jewish, perhaps you could tell/ email colleagues, letting them know about the holiday and its impact on your availability. You will be saving them the discomfort and embarrassment of getting meeting/conference call dates wrong. This is important when you are co-located: when you work on a virtual team, it’s doubly important. There are less clues for people to follow when their main contact is by phone.
Either way, we wish all Jewish colleagues a Happy Passover – save some matzos for us!
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