BCG Henderson Institute

This is uncomfortable to write.

For most of the three decades I’ve been working, I was what my friend and colleague Daniel Gorlin calls a “heads down” Jew: while proud to be Jewish, I didn’t advertise it—especially when my observance had the potential to make things uncomfortable.

What this means is that I’d tell colleagues and clients that I’m Jewish only on a need-to-know basis. Since I’m more than just casually observant, however, there were many times they needed to know: when I’d go offline to observe Jewish holidays, for example, including some that many Jews are unfamiliar with, such as Shemini Atzeret; when I needed to be home and offline by sundown, which is often before 4 p.m. during the winter, and on Passover and fasting days, when I can’t even try to partake in mealtime meetings.

I provided these Jewish specifics only when necessary. Anyone sending me an email on a Jewish religious holiday, for example, would receive an “auto-reply” message that would say, “I cannot access emails until DATE. If you need assistance, please contact NAME [my administrative assistant] who can direct you to someone who can help.” I didn’t explain why. I just wasn’t comfortable putting my observance out there on email.

Sources & Notes