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My office holiday party is next week, after Hanukkah has ended. One of my co-workers who’s involved in planning the event asked me for recommendations of where to order latkes for the party. She also asked about where to get a menorah to put on display during the party. How should I respond?
Too Latke too late
Sometimes, in an effort to celebrate diversity, well-meaning people can end up causing offense or discomfort. I prefer such a mistake to come from a place of trying to include rather than trying to exclude, but I understand that this puts you in an awkward position. This time of year comes with a lot of potential for hurt and exclusion, and even the best intentions don’t always work out.
Listen, Hanukkah will be over next week, but if your office wants a nod to multiculturalism, latkes are delicious anytime. If you have a suggestion of a caterer or restaurant that makes good ones, go ahead and share. You can always suggest Trader Joe’s, too, though someone would probably have to purchase them this week before the holiday ends to make sure they’re in stock.
As for the menorah, this is trickier since it’s a religious symbol that most of us are about to put away for the year. The timing also puts your office in a difficult spot. To have a menorah up could make them appear kind of clueless to the Jews at work. But not to have one – especially if a tree or even a wreath will be on display – makes them appear insensitive. While this is maybe splitting hairs, I would not personally loan a menorah to someone for this purpose, but I wouldn’t be upset if they put one on display since I understand that it’s coming from a good place.
If you feel like you have the bandwidth to push back at all, I would encourage you to think about what would make this holiday party actually feel inclusive, since their current suggestions pretty much miss the mark. Here are some potential ideas that you could offer to your co-workers: 1) Providing food that everyone can eat, so, kosher, halal, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, etc. 2) Playing music that isn’t Christmas-themed. 3) Making sure that the space is accessible for people with mobility needs. 4) Stocking the bar with non-alcoholic drink options. 5) Pronoun stickers on nametags. And I’m sure you can think of many other ideas, too!
Of course, whatever you suggest, do so with the utmost respect for your co-workers and their attempts at inclusion. Throughout the year, you can remind them – and yourself – that inclusion isn’t something to think about only in December and only during big public events. And building goodwill now around this party will likely come in handy when that important meeting inevitably gets scheduled on erev Rosh Hashanah.