Unorthodox, the world’s leading Jewish podcast, takes questions from its listeners about all aspects of Jewish life, from the religiously profound to the utterly inconsequential. Every week, we discuss one of these questions in “Ask Unorthodox.” If you have a question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, a podcast listener whom we will call Dafna writes in with a very odd story.
“I received an email from my company’s vice president of human resources offering all staff ‘complimentary admission to My Parsifal Conductor, an anti-Semitic comedy.’ Knowing nothing about the show, I felt extremely triggered by this email. From font used in the email, I can tell that he clearly copied and pasted the body text from somewhere else, and was not the original author of the copy. However, I would hope that our VP of HR has enough experience and foresight to change the text.” Dafna discussed this very weird email with two other Jewish staffers who did “not appear to be offended by the email.”
So Dafna asks: “What are your thoughts? Is this inappropriate? Do I report our VP of HR to HR?”
There are so many questions here, and not just the obvious one: “If you report HR to HR, do you rip a hole in the space-time continuum?” As a little internet research will show, My Parsifal Conductor is an Off-Broadway play by veteran television writer Allan Leicht, whose work in shows like Ryan’s Hope and Kate and Allie will be recognized by readers of a certain age. The play is about Hermann Levi, the Jewish conductor of Richard Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal. Although Wagner, a character in the play, held anti-Semitic views, and although his music would later be (through no fault of his) beloved of Adolf Hitler, the play is obviously not anti-Semitic: rather, it is, according to its website, a “comedic spin on real-life events,” in which “Maestro Levi must consider his complex relationship with the Wagners.”
Oh, did we mention that the playwright, Leicht, is an Orthodox Jew?
So what to make of the boneheaded email from HR? Whether this was ignorance or a simple usage misstep, in which “anti-Semitic comedy” was intended to mean a comedy about anti-Semitism, Dr. HR should be stripped of her doctorate in human resources. She is a poor resource for other humans.
But still, we must ask: What should Dafna do? Report HR to HR?
That’s a tough one. Suzy seems to be tone-deaf, and quite possibly stupid, but not harmful, or malicious, or anti-Semitic. On the other hand, the HR department exists in large part to keep employees from being skeeved out, not to do the skeeving. So here’s some advice: Write back to the email and ask, earnestly, “In what way is this an anti-Semitic comedy?” Any meaningful reply should reveal what was intended by the original email. Maybe the reply will be something like, “I totally wrote that wrong! I just meant it was a comedy about anti-Semitism.” And then you’ll feel better. Or it could be a reply even weirder than the original email … in which case we hope that the president of HR is a shrewder cat than then vice president. Because you should be in the president’s office soon.
Thanks for reading our anti-Semitic advice column! If you have a question for it, write to us at email@example.com. To get the Unorthodox podcast, visit iTunes here, or use your favorite app.