Career Up Now releases guide, AI tool to support young professionals confronting antisemitism

New resources meant to offer advice, assistance for people facing anti-Jewish discrimination at work

For Gila, everything came crashing down at work five days after Oct. 7. On her job’s donation matching platform, coworkers put out a call to help those suffering in Gaza, asking for contributions to organizations with antisemitic pasts. There was no acknowledgement of attacks in Israel or the hostages taken. Coworkers flooded the post with praise.

She burst into tears in the middle of a meeting. “I’m sitting here like, ‘What do I do?’” she told eJewishPhilanthropy. She didn’t want to debate coworkers on a public forum. “I wouldn’t bring a war to work just like they had done.” (Gila asked to be identified only by her Hebrew name,)

Many young professionals like Gila have been thrust into a job market that is often hostile towards Jews and those who identify with Israel. It’s emotionally taxing to reply to antisemitism when your energy is meant to be spent working. Most people aren’t afforded the opportunity to tell coworkers off.

In a bid to address the problem and equip Jewish workers with coping strategies, the nonprofit Career Up Now is releasing a 32-page “Self-Advocacy Guide for Addressing Workplace Antisemitism and Anti-Israel Sentiment” on Thursday as well as a beta version of an artificial intelligence tool.

The goal was to create something quick and simple for young professionals to use when they experience antisemitism, Bradley Cook, executive director of Career Up Now, told eJP. “You could just say, ‘Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.’ Take your phone with you and type in what happened at work and then have what you need to go back with,” he said.

Founded in 2016, Career Up Now cultivates personal, professional and Jewish connections for students and emerging professionals. Recently, the nonprofit sent a survey to its 2,500 members, asking what support they need in a post-Oct. 7 world. Members shared horror stories of encountering antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment at work. They didn’t have confidence in their ability to respond and feared conflicts escalating.

David Guccione, a Career Up Now member, said that he even found himself lying about being Jewish. “For the first time in my life, I felt scared for people knowing that piece of my identity,” he told eJP. This experience is common. Over a third of college students say they hide their identity after Oct. 7.

Antisemitism has always been there, and Jews have always struggled with how to respond, Cook said. “The difference now is that, in the workplace, what was just flip comments [in the past] like, ‘You’re Jewish. You should be on the finance committee,’ there’s a vitriol to go with them.”

The 32-page guide helps professionals understand their rights, recognize when a line is crossed, advocate for themselves, educate others, report incidents and create a supportive community. Each section of the guide has common examples of scenarios workers find themselves in and brief scripted responses.

One example of a scenario in the guide involves a coworker claiming Jews have control over the media and businesses. The recommended response is to say, “It’s important to challenge these ideas. Conspiracy theories like that are not only untrue but dangerously fuel antisemitism. Let’s focus on facts and avoid such harmful assertions.”

Cook has a background in special education, which he said helps him “[break] things down into its simplest components,” making the guide easy to use for those who may not be professional advocates. He sought input for the guide from communication strategists and conflict resolution experts. The guide aims to not escalate conflict, but “build the barriers and boundaries and communication that are necessary to keep [a safe] learning environment or work environment,” he said.

The closed-book AI tool is essentially the guide in webform. Users type in their scenario, and AI comes up with a suggested response, which it culls from the 32-page guide as well as material provided by the U.S. Government’s Department of Labor and the Anti-Defamation League.

The guide and AI tool were funded by the Suzanne Dryan Felson’s Fund, Etrog Fund #1 and the Schusterman Family Philanthropies ROI Real Time Challenge Grant, a grant available to members of the ROI community, a network of 1,700 Jewish activists and social entrepreneurs. 

After the incident on the donation matching platform, Gila spent a lot of time and effort learning to advocate for herself. She reached out to her brother’s father-in-law, who works for a Zionist organization, for advice. She did research. Drafted a letter to the vice president of DEI. Made numerous calls. Then, she typed into the AI tool, “As a Jewish person I feel alone at work and afraid to speak up,” and it gave her similar advice to the steps she took.

The tool also recommended she finds her allies at work. “My boss is amazing,” she said. “So I felt comfortable to talk to her.” But she still feels as if her world was “flipped upside down. Watching antisemitism crop up so outwardly, is “very painful to see and it’s exhausting.” So she’s taking the guidance and finding her people, working to create a group of Jewish employees who can care and support each other. 

There are scripts in the guide she says she will definitely follow. She knows she has to do something, even at work. “I try to speak up, but I’m also like, ‘I hate politics. It’s disgusting to me, but here we are.’”