Both the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech scheduled career fairs on Yom Kippur, overlooking the most holy day of the Jewish year. This is not the first time UGA has held an event on the Jewish high holidays.
UGA’s Fall Career and Internship Fair plans to host several hundred employers from corporate giants to nonprofit organizations. Concurrently, a diversity and inclusion recruiting event is open to 100 students who have registered for the Fall Career and Internship Fair on Sept. 19. Both events are sponsored by the UGA Career Center, “committed to providing access for all people,” according to the university’s website. UGA Career Center holds recruiting events throughout the semester; however, none match the size of the Fall Career and Internship Fair at The Classic Center in Athens.
Georgia Tech has four career fairs planned on Yom Kippur, targeting industrial and systems engineers, military, science educators and aerospace engineers. Tech’s fourth career fair is open to all majors.
When approached by several Atlanta organizations, both universities stated regret for their lapse in judgment.
Hillel at UGA was among the first to advocate for students. Director Roey Shoshan notified parents that Hillel at UGA staff and student board were working “to find a solution that will prevent UGA’s Jewish students from having to choose between their religion and the opportunity to explore career opportunities showcased at the UGA Career Fair.”
His email to the Hillel community stated, “In our talks with the UGA Career Center, they have expressed their deep regret for this oversight and have offered individualized career support for Jewish students who will have to miss the Career Fair in observance of Yom Kippur.”
Scott Williams, executive director of UGA Career Center, held a meeting on Sept. 7 for Jewish students unable to attend the career fair.
In an email to the AJT, Williams wrote, “The University of Georgia respects the rights of our students to observe their faith traditions, and we regret the scheduling conflict between this year’s Fall Career Fair and Yom Kippur. Unfortunately, the only facility in Athens large enough for this event had limited availability, making Sept. 19 the only scheduling option during this time period. The Career Center has already confirmed dates for the fall and spring career fairs through 2023. There are no conflicts with the Jewish High Holy Days in those years.”
He continued: “It is also important to note that the Fall Career Fair is not the only career fair this year. More than a dozen career fairs will take place this year. In addition, our Career Center staff have reached out to students who have expressed concerns and have offered to work individually with them to make connections with employers who are attending the Fall Career Fair.”
Robert Herman of Roswell wrote a letter to UGA president Jere Morehead in response to Williams’ statement.
“Recently there was concern from many members of the Jewish community (spoken about loudly on social media and other sources) that the UGA Fall Career Fair was scheduled (again) on the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur – one of the most meaningful and somber days for Jews,” Herman wrote to Morehead. “Scott Williams sent [a] tone-deaf response from the University and you need to be aware – as well as ensure proper oversight to meet the responsibilities of your office,” Herman wrote.
“Perhaps the reason that date was open is because OTHER groups were able to read a calendar and not schedule events so as to not disenfranchise their constituents. This happened last year, as well, we are told. UGA needs to create oversight of their calendar to maintain a positive diversity message. ACTIONS speak much louder than words.”
Renee Kaplan, whose son attended UGA, suggests a call to action. “The Jewish organizations and supporters including Hillel, Chabad, ADL, fraternities, sororities, representatives of businesses that interview, members in the alumni association, etc. should cooperatively compose and present a written proposal of unacceptable dates for job career fairs. A formal, united letter expressing career opportunities and fairness for all students is the accurate goal of UGA, particularly when building business partnerships is involved.”
Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism received a letter from a source who wished to remain anonymous. The letter states that in 2017, UGA held the Fall Career Fair on Rosh Hashanah.
The letter reads: “Last year, when UGA was informed in writing that this was unacceptable, they apologized via email and indicated this would not fall on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur in years to come. In speaking to several folks (including a high-level official who reports directly into the office of the president at UGA) regarding this matter, it seemed they really did not seem to care. In fact, the message shared was that while this particular official/administrator stays in office at UGA, they would verbally promise that this would not happen again. However, they are not willing to put a policy into place or put their verbal promise into writing as they do not believe the administration will support this initiative. They indicated that ‘after-all, we live in the South.’”
In 2016, UGA held a homecoming concert on Kol Nidre, headlining a Christian rock band. Stan Jackson, director of Student Affairs Communications and Marketing Initiative said, “The only date Stegeman [Coliseum] was available was October 11, 2016, which conflicts with Yom Kippur.”
Shelley Rose, deputy regional director for ADL Southeast, said, “It seems like it would be an easy thing to look at a calendar. But planning events during conflicts often arise and are unavoidable. [ADL] works with the community to educate and keep these things from happening again. Most people are accommodating. If you haven’t grown up with a lot of Jewish people, you don’t know the significance of the holidays. We have a responsibility to continue to educate folks, not only those of us at ADL, but in the Jewish community as well.”
Hillels of Georgia did not comment about Georgia Tech’s career fairs. However, a university spokesperson issued a statement to the AJT: “The Georgia Institute of Technology respects the rights of our students to observe their faith traditions, and we regret the scheduling conflict between the career fairs and Yom Kippur.
“Virtual job fairs are held throughout the year, providing Georgia Tech students with multiple opportunities to participate. Also, accommodations are available for students who are unable to attend any career fair. Georgia Tech made sure to schedule the all majors career fair, set for Sept. 17 and 18, on dates that do not conflict with Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. However, some students may be unable to attend late in the day on Sept. 18 as they prepare for Yom Kippur.
“If students are unable to attend the fair during day one or earlier on day two, they are welcome to reach out to career staff for personalized assistance to connect with any employers they might miss. Going forward, we will work to avoid future conflicts.” ■