Community Spotlight: Jewish American Heritage Month

Your stories have power. They bring ideas to life and can shape how others see the world, and here at Hearts, we use stories to build community. 

This is one of many posts in our Community Spotlight Series, where we feature Hearts who identify with a group and have important conversations about how we can support one another. 

Throughout the series, we will work closely with these individuals to create an experience where they can share their culture with fellow Hearts. We’ll hear directly from them about their lives, the safe spaces they’ve created to live their truth, and how we can be better allies. 

And then we listen. 

Because more than ever, stories that celebrate our differences need to be heard.

Acknowledging their courageous stories

Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month is all about honoring the countless contributions from Jewish Americans across medicine, arts, music, politics, law, academia, and more. During this month, it’s also important to acknowledge the courage, determination, and resilience that members of Jewish communities continue to show around the world.

Here’s what we’re doing to recognize Jewish American Heritage Month at Hearts & Science:

  • Legacy of Resilience: Honoring Holocaust Survivors through Their Grandchildren (Friday, May 17, 2024, at 3 p.m. EST)
    In recognition of Jewish American Heritage Month, we invite 3GNY speakers to share their grandparents’ stories of survival during the Holocaust, providing a deeply personal and historically significant perspective. This event will provide the opportunity to gain a unique understanding of this pivotal period in history.

Safe spaces to share

How Zoe fosters connection through food, family, and place 

Raised on Long Island, Zoe grew up in a close-knit Jewish community surrounded by family and friends. Her childhood encompassed family get-togethers celebrating Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah and summer nights at sleepaway camp eating Shabbat dinner by candlelight. 

As a child, Passover was of particular significance. It’s where Zoe and her brother recited prayers out loud—a custom as the youngest cousins in the family. While Zoe now lives in the heart of New York City, she often takes the 45-minute train ride home to Long Island where her parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles continue to gather at every opportunity. 

When she was growing up, food was a major theme of connection, and she describes cooking with family as a safe space for her:

“For each holiday, there are specific foods that you eat. I’d go over to my Grandparents’ house while my Grandma was making something for that holiday—it’s just special.”

Zoe relayed her recent endeavors making her favorite food, brisket, to bring to her grandparents’ house—a traditional meat dish for Passover. “It cooks for hours and smells so good. There are different recipes from different sides of the family. The recipe from my Dad’s side is more savory, but Grandma’s on my Mom’s side is more sweet.”

Zoe and her family pictured on a trip to Israel.

Beyond family and food, Israel has a special meaning for Zoe. She has fond memories of visiting on multiple occasions.

Her first visit to Israel was with family to attend a cousin’s wedding. Her second visit was a Birthright Israel trip with a group of friends. Most recently, she spent several months in Israel on a study-abroad experience through Penn State University, where she furthered her studies in Hebrew.

“For a while, I was able to read Hebrew. It was really cool learning a different language as a 20-year-old.”

Pro tip: Zoe shares, “As a whole, the Jewish community is very welcoming, no matter how religious you are.” Consider learning more about Jewish holidays and traditions to better understand a culture that creates so many opportunities for togetherness. 


How Sari cultivates meaningful communities

Born and raised in Wyckoff, New Jersey, Sari (pronounced sair-eeh) grew up in a tight-knit Jewish community where Judaism was a minority religion. As a family, they celebrated every holiday together, attending Shabbat weekly, and enjoyed being involved in their local synagogues. She describes her upbringing as very culturally Jewish. 

Outside of her current role at Hearts & Science as Senior Director, Sari adores spending time with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. She loves exploring coffee shops and new restaurants and has a fondness for Jewish comfort food. After giving birth, her first meal was a turkey sandwich from 2nd Ave Deli, her go-to Jewish deli in New York City.

Family is of utmost importance to Sari. When she’s with her mom, it’s one of the places where she feels most safe and loved. She also shares a special connection with her Grandma, who is still thriving at 98 years old. “She’s the most amazing person in the world,” says Sari. 

Sari was also close with her Poppy (Grandpa) growing up—a WWII veteran who fought against Nazi Germany. He instilled in his grandchildren the importance of being accepting and cognizant of other religions. 

His legacy now lives on with Sari, within and beyond her Jewish community, and with her daughter, whom she named Poppy. She remains close to her Jewish friends from her preschool, and in college, she joined a Jewish sorority, eventually becoming the vice president. 

In college, Sari was subject to religious stereotyping. This ignited a passion in her to create positive change. She became involved in the Panhellenic Committee as the DE&I leader, helping to foster inclusive sorority and fraternity environments for herself and others too. 

At work, Sari makes an effort to be inclusive. “You never want to make anybody feel like they’re being alienated, especially for religious reasons.” She underscores key actions, such as placing equal importance on all cultural holidays, especially for colleagues of minority religions.

“I encourage my colleagues to share their cultures with the rest of the team as long as they feel comfortable doing so.”

Sari acknowledges how current global events can cause feelings of stress. As a manager, she makes it her duty to check in and provide support, whether her colleagues share similar worldviews or not. Creating space for her teammates to take time for their mental health is critical. 

Pro tip: She concluded, “It’s important to be respectful and have an open mind about all religions.” Being aware of other cultures helps foster safe spaces. As a group, we can support each other and work together to cultivate peaceful relationships. 

Work should be a safe space, too

Hearts & Science is dedicated to building a space where its employees are recognized and feel seen. There are many ways we are supporting inclusion efforts. Below are some of the ways you can support inclusion at work:

  1. Attend upcoming company events. Attend every company event that you can. Learn, enjoy, represent your perspective, and share feedback on how your company can create truly inclusive programming. If you don’t have any events, start one.
  2. Show your support. Our Hearts requested custom email signatures celebrating and supporting causes and heritage months throughout the year. They are now available to all employees. It’s one small gesture you can make to colleagues and partners to show your support for the Jewish community.

What individuals can do:

  1. Learn about Judaism. There are many different sects of Judaism that include a variety of practices and experiences. Keep this in mind as you learn about Jewish culture and explore the dynamic range of differences within it.
  2. Learn to stand up against hate. Using resources like Right To Be, we can take free training or read articles and tips about standing up against hate, taking action, and showing support. Knowing how to handle tough situations can make all the difference.
  3. Step out of your comfort zone. Explore content, cultures, and backgrounds other than your own. Take in diverse perspectives to help you understand different people’s experiences.

Andriena Coleman, Director of DE&I at Hearts & Science, shares, 

“Hearts is a workplace where new ideas can flourish. Together, this community of amazing individuals changes and grows through unique experiences and perspectives. Our differences are celebrated and truly invaluable to our organization.”

It’s important to create space for others to share their stories and experiences. When we listen to learn, we help foster inclusion and safe spaces for everyone.