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Jews Excluded At NY Presbyterian, A Hospital That Practices “Inclusion”

One of my children recently went to the hospital for an outpatient surgery under general anesthesia. Thank God, the surgery was minor, and it was successful. The doctors and staff at NY Presbyterian were warm and professional. The recovery is going well. From a medical perspective our needs were met, and she’s feeling better.

But there was one aspect of the experience that bothered me and needs to be discussed. As we were registering my daughter the day of the surgery, I noticed a lovely sign explaining the hospital’s inclusion and diversity practices. They had a mix of races and ethnicities, as well as a woman in a hijab, all pictured. The sign explained that knowing what group their patients belong to matters to them, so they can accommodate languages and any other specific needs.

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “yet another diversity space that forgot to include Jews.” (Cue, David Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count.)  There we were – in New York – not the middle of Alabama. New York has many Jews, in fact it has the largest number of Jews in the U.S. And like the hijab is to Muslims, the yarmulke is to Jews. Not all Jews wear it, only one gender wears it, yet it’s a universal symbol of Jewishness. A picture of a man in a yarmulke would let Jewish patients know that the hospital sees us as one of the diverse group they work to accommodate.

Maybe it was just one sign that could have been made differently. But then, we got further into the surgery preparation process. After the anesthesia wore off, we were told that the nurses would bring food and drinks to my daughter, as part of the recovery.

“Food?” I asked. “Was there a time that we were supposed to tell you that we keep kosher?”

“You can tell me now,” the nurse replied.

“OK,” I said, “We keep kosher.”

“OK, we’ll make a note of it,” said the nurse.

The surgery ended, and food was brought out. As my daughter came to and packaged drinks and jello started being brought to her, through her grogginess, she noticed that some of the kosher symbols on the items were not universally recognized by Orthodox Jews. She tried to explain which ones she would prefer and also wanted to let them know that in a real emergency, she could rely on a less preferable hechsher. I was proud of her, for being careful about what she consumed, for her self-advocacy, and for seeing all interactions with people outside of our community as an opportunity to give over a nuanced understanding of Jewish law, even moments after surgery.

But I was also annoyed. Why did a kid, waking up from general anesthesia, have to worry what kosher symbols she was going to be eating? Why was there no box for us to check off somewhere along the way? (Most New York hospitals, including this, one do offer a kosher option for patients who sleepover.) In their supposed commitment to diversity and inclusion, why could we not state in writing that we keep kosher for an outpatient surgery and be assured that a culturally competent expert had trained the staff so my daughter wouldn’t have to worry about that after surgery?

To be clear, this was not a life-altering experience. And to be honest, if the hospital had not announced that they are proud practitioners of diversity and inclusion, I wouldn’t have expected them to necessarily be inclusive of Jews on their signs or accommodate our needs. But they did claim that, yet left out one group.

I hopped onto NY Presbyterian Hospital’s Facebook page, curious to see if their exclusion of Jews continued beyond the patient experience.

It did.

I became increasingly annoyed.

I saw a posting for Juneteenth, Pride Month, Trans-visibility Day, AAPI Month, but NOT Jewish Heritage Month (even though both are in May). There was a posting for Black History Month, the Chinese New Year, but NOT the Jewish New Year. There were various postings about women, Hispanic Heritage Month. The hospital even posted for #NationalPetDay, but did not post about Jews anywhere. At least in my grandfather’s time, Jews and dogs would be grouped together (when being banned from spaces), but even dogs seem to get more preference than Jews these days.

And the thing is, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at all. Just like Spain had an Inquisition of Jews that lasted over 360 years, yet they “forgot” to include Hebrew on the anti-discrimination office sign in Barcelona (when fifteen plus other languages were included), so too, the hospital system had an antisemitic past and seems to have an antisemitic present.

Many old non-Jewish hospitals (both NY Hospital and Presbyterian Hospital are old and non-Jewish) denied employment to Jews for quite some time, though thankfully those awful practices stopped decades ago. That’s why hospitals like New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital were established. Everyone thinks that Jews are too moneyed and powerful to be considered a marginalized group, but the hospital system (and many other industries) literally discriminated against Jews in this country for generations.

I recently spoke to a woman who works in another hospital that also excludes Jews from their inclusion spaces – sensitivity trainings, affinity groups. I told her that she could speak up, that we all have a voice.

She explained that there are negative ramifications for speaking up as a Jew in the professional world. I hear her point. Which is why I’m writing this now. My daughter didn’t get her proclivity towards advocacy accidentally. This of exclusion of Jews in inclusion spaces is pervasive in most hospitals as it is most industries. A few months ago we reported on how Walmart, a giant corporation with a robust DEI program had scheduled an important B2B event on Passover eve because they don’t include Jews in their inclusion program.

Employees may not always feel comfortable to speak up, but customers sure can. And we must. Say something when you see Jews excluded from companies that you frequent with an inclusion program.

We can’t take this lying down. And we mustn’t be asleep at the wheel.

UPDATE: since we first published this, Jewish and non-Jewish readers have shared more troubling discrimination against Jews at NYP:

From one reader: Once they had a meeting specifically geared toward why Palestinians were being treated unethically by Israeli government without any data, information that was valid or background sources of conflict.

From another reader: They refuse to get kosher food when an employee is celebrated for any occasion. (Another reader noted that official hospital events do have kosher food.)

From a third reader: I am a nurse at NYP and have personally experienced antisemitism and exclusion in the workplace and also witnessed several coworkers having negative reactions to a Hasidic patient on numerous occasions … listened to a whole rant from one of my newer coworkers who didn’t realize I was Jewish because I don’t outwardly appear that observant .. informed him my family is Hasidic and probed further as to why he was so bothered to have had 4 Hasidic patients in a row. He went on to list off a bunch of stereotypes…I complained to management and all that happened was a conversation with this employee…it’s very sad to witness.

 

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  • Avatar photo Shevi Rosner says on June 21, 2023

    I’m sorry abt this experience but your view is not fully correct. I work in this facility, and they hire many Jews, and we are well respected- many of us are in leadership roles. They provide kosher food for us at hospital events and are aware of our holidays. They do not discriminate against us when it’s a Jewish holiday and we can not work. They also share information on hospital wide emails on Jewish holidays as they do for other religious holidays.
    I’m upset to read this. Yes the staff can be ignorant about kosher food symbols, but they do try. Please share your feedback on the follow up survey so they can hear your concerns and strive do better.

    Reply
    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on June 22, 2023

      I understand that the hospital provides kosher food at official events and kosher food for in patient stays. But since we posted this, we have heard more troubling updates from staff:

      UPDATE: since we first published this, Jewish and non-Jewish readers have shared more troubling discrimination against Jews at NYP:

      From one reader: Once they had a meeting specifically geared toward why Palestinians were being treated unethically by Israeli government without any data, information that was valid or background sources of conflict.

      From another reader: They refuse to get kosher food when an employee is celebrated for any occasion. (Another reader noted that official hospital events do have kosher food.)

      From a third reader: I am a nurse at NYP and have personally experienced antisemitism and exclusion in the workplace and also witnessed several coworkers having negative reactions to a Hasidic patient on numerous occasions … listened to a whole rant from one of my newer coworkers who didn’t realize I was Jewish because I don’t outwardly appear that observant .. informed him my family is Hasidic and probed further as to why he was so bothered to have had 4 Hasidic patients in a row. He went on to list off a bunch of stereotypes…I complained to management and all that happened was a conversation with this employee…it’s very sad to witness.

      Reply
  • Avatar photo Laurie Cardoza Moore says on June 22, 2023

    This is outrageous and pathetic! A Presbyterian hospital? Let me get this right – a CHRISTIAN hospital! Right???? Am I missing something here? This is blatant antisemitism. It’s disgusting. It is obvious that the hospital is unaware of the biblical responsibility Christians have toward their Jewish brethren. In fact, Jesus was an Orthodox Jew! I wonder how he would be treated if he entered their doors…. No Jews Welcome here?

    Reply
    • Avatar photo Jersey Girl says on June 23, 2023

      New York -Presbyterian hospital as it currently exists is the result of the merger of numerous hospitals over a more than 200 year period. The name “Presbyterian” comes from one of the incorporated hospital but the hospital has no connection whatsoever with any Christian denomination. It operates Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Weil Cornell Medical Center, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, Komansky Children’s Hospital, the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute, and the Hudson Valley Hospital (including the Cheryl Lindenbaum Cancer Center) among many other facilities. A brief glance at the Board of Trustees suggests that almost half of the members are Jewish.

      Reply
      • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on June 30, 2023

        The story of NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital goes back to the 1880s, when the Rev. James Monroe Buckley, having lost a dear friend in a tragic accident, persuaded the Methodist Church to build a hospital in Brooklyn. The roots of some of these hospitals certainly are Christian and these are the very places that gate-kept Jews a couple generations ago. Yes, after being racist against jews for years, they decided to take Jewish money. I have a strong suspicion that these older jewish board members have no idea how jews are being gate-kept again.

        Reply
    • Avatar photo Belle says on July 1, 2023

      As a Jew, I thank you for your message of support. As a historian of the Jewish people, I would like to share a gentle correction: in the Second Temple era/Late Antiquity, when Christianity arose, there was no such category as “Orthodox” Jew. That name didn’t arise until the late 19th/early 20th centuries CE. There are many traditionally observant Jews who still don’t use that label, for various reasons. (One reason is that “orthodox” is a Christian category that was later applied to Jews who did not wish to assimilate into modern European culture.) During the Second Temple era, as in many times in Jewish history, there were Jews who wanted to assimilate, to some degree, into the culture of those in power, while others only adapted minimally, to preserve life and health, while keeping the ancient traditions. So someone of Jesus’ time who taught Jews to be loyal to Jewish tradition might have been called something like “traditional,” or anti-Hellenist, but “orthodox” — which means “correct opinion,” not something as important to Jews as orthopraxis, correct practice/behavior — is an anachronism. I hope this is helpful.

      Reply
    • Avatar photo Daniel Mejia says on November 5, 2023

      You would and should be astounded at the amount of Jewish ‘neglect’ in the NYS Office of Mental Health. It goes all the way to the top with Dr. Sullivan, and all the way down to the hundreds of hospitals and clinics. Jewish patients and staff are actively discouraged from speaking up. Everything EXCEPT Jewish related holidays and tragedies are discussed. It’s blatant. Someone should look into it.

      Reply
  • Avatar photo abotbensussen@gmail.com says on June 22, 2023

    Keep up standing up

    Reply
  • Avatar photo Rachel K says on June 23, 2023

    Hi, I’m a volunteer at NY Presbyterian hospital and I have a family member who has worked there for over ten years. Both of us are very impressed with accommodations for religious beliefs for both patients and employees. Kosher food is available (there’s a whole kosher room) for both patients and employees. Anytime there’s an employee event, kosher food is also provided. Furthermore, the hospital has taken special measures to accommodate Shabbat observance, such as the having a Shabbat elevator. There’s a daily minyan under the auspices of the hospital’s pastoral care (with an orthodox hospital staff rabbi). From the way I dress, it’s obvious I’m an observant Jew and yet, I have never personally experienced anti-semitism from the organization or from staff members.

    It is important to note that NY Presbyterian hospital is a vast organization with many departments, and it is possible that there may be individuals who harbor prejudiced views. Nevertheless, when considering the organization as a whole, it’s not anti-semitic.

    I agree, there can be more education around Jewish practices. It’s a work in progress. However, labeling the lack of such education as anti-semitic is inaccurate and simply disrespectful considering all the accommodations for Jews that are already in place.

    (Also, I’m very big fan of this website— thank you for everything that you do :))

    Reply
    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on June 23, 2023

      Thanks for your feedback. This is a multi-location hospital with numerous departments within each location. The experience of staff and patients seems to be mixed. And yes, there are certainly positive elements to be noted. The hospital seemed to operate nicely, as a place to include Jews, outside of the DEI program. It, like most DEI programs, exclude Jews from sensitivity trainings, affinity groups, media marketing, etc. 15 months ago – in April 2022 – was the last time NYP acknowledged Jews on its social media, with a Yom Hashoah post. There have been zero mentions of Jews since, and an increasing mention of every other group. When a patient sees advertisements of diversity and inclusion yet the staff hasn’t been so trained on kashrut, it feels like there is a group that they don’t really care about. The absence on social media reinforces this idea. This needs to be discussed even as they are positive elements as well.

      Reply
  • Avatar photo Annoyed says on June 25, 2023

    This is nonsense! Show me a hospital that does better! The nurse knew a kosher symbol and asked you if it was ok?!? Sounds amazing! You do know that not every hospital even has kosher food…
    You can’t expect everyone to know your religious requirements..Asking is the respectful thing and it looks like they hit the mark!
    Im also not sure what you’re looking for in their marketing… Jews blend in… especially when staff wear hats and masks regularly.

    Reply
    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on June 30, 2023

      Thanks for your comment. Most hospitals don’t do better, which is what I wrote. This hospital is the subject of the article because we personally experienced it. If a hospital markets itself as being experts on diversity and inclusion, they should exclude jews and they should be trained to accommodate them. We saw hijabs in their marketing material and social media posts, which is wonderful. But no yarmulkes. Problematic.

      Reply
      • Avatar photo In says on July 26, 2023

        I found the article about NYP’s “diversity” and “inclusion” interesting and disturbing. As a retired Jewish R.N. I was most times in my career one of very few Jews in the profession at all. Since I didn’t “look” Jewish (whatever that means) and did not announce I was Jewish, I experienced many antisemitic
        comments from other nurses and personnel in the hospital. This was many years ago, and obviously still going on.
        I did work for NYP Brooklyn Methodist Hospital for ten years and I have to say that they provided a Kosher comfort room and a Jewish prayer room and provided a very small variety of kosher food in the the cafeteria. I know this, because I volunteered for a Jewish organization to check these rooms to make sure they were clean and supplied with food.
        That said, yes, there has been veiled and obvious antisemitism in the medical field in Christian institutions. Hopefully this has improved from the time I was working. We are a minority and should be included in any diversity program. Articles like the one written raises the consciousness of the issue and I was so glad to read it. Would love to see more men with yarmulkes and orthodox women portrayed in ads. The only reason I say this is that it distinguishes and represents Jews who would otherwise would not stand out as being different from any other NYC person.
        We must, as Jews speak up and fight antisemitism at every turn. It is not ok to ignore and dismiss blatant words and deeds against Jews. It’s a tough job, and will probably never end, but we cannot sit quietly and let it happen.
        Thanks to the author of the article and to you for printing it.

        Reply

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