Honoring Eid al-Fitr with Company Holiday

June 3, 2019 at 08:01am

Rhino Foods has been actively hiring refugees and new Americans for over thirty years.  We know that diversity and the inclusion of people from all backgrounds is a powerful way to grow our business and support the local community.  Currently, new Americans from Bhutan, Bosnia, Congo, Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, and Somalia make up 37% of our workforce.

With waves of immigration through the 1800s and 1900s, popular culture believed that America was a melting pot where immigrants arrived, learned the ways of the majority culture – broadly Northern European, Protestant, and English-speaking – and assimilated into the America way of life. Each wave of immigration set off fear in those that were already here that more people would bring more problems.  The social and economic benefits of our diversity however, are easily illustrated throughout the country – from small towns to big cities. As of 2015, there were more than 180,000 refugee-owned businesses across the US, with 13% of refugees contributing to our economy through entrepreneurship (compared to just 9% of US-born entrepreneurs).

Yet, it is apparent that cultural diversity and cultural inclusivity don’t necessarily go hand-in- hand. Over the past thirty years, Rhino’s diversity has exposed employees to others’ traditional cuisines, life experiences, and how to greet or joke with each other in other languages. This happened organically, supported by a company culture that believes everyone belongs. We also wanted to support this structurally, to learn more about people’s experiences, to think more deeply about inclusivity, and to take more action.

In November 2018, we had our first company-wide paid day off to honor the Hindu holiday of Diwali, which is celebrated by many of our Nepalese and Bhutanese employees. In this manner, we recognize what is relevant to a significant segment of our workforce, not just what is celebrated by the majority. In the week leading up to Diwali, Rhino made efforts to share the history and meaning of the holiday with all our employees. The feedback from employees was positive and heart-felt.

On June 4th, we will continue in the same vein with our first paid day off to honor Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim celebration that comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, a number of our employees fast, all the while surrounded by cookie doughs, cakes, and ice cream. Eid al-Fitr, roughly translated as the Feast of Fast-Breaking, celebrates the end of this abstinence. It begins with the sighting of the new moon and lasts for three days. Celebrations vary among cultures but broadly include preparing and sharing special food with family and friends, prayers of thanksgiving, and donating to those less fortunate.

Rhino Foods will share the spirit and meaning of Eid al-Fitr throughout our company, and provide space for celebrants to share what Ramadan means to them.  As with Diwali, we think the recognition of Eid al-Fitr through a paid, company-wide holiday is just one small way of acknowledging and celebrating the diversity in our community, and the traditions of Rhinos from all backgrounds and beliefs. The more we strive for inclusivity at Rhino Foods, the more obvious the deep similarities across cultures and faiths become. Eid-al Fitr reminds us of the traditions of giving charity and thanksgiving common to Americans of all backgrounds, and the importance of family and community in every tradition. To those celebrating the end of Ramadan, we wish you an easy fast and Eid Mubarak!