Lawsuit says David Rosenbaum’s dismissal in 2019 is “further evidence of Unilever’s anti-Semitism.”

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

A New Jersey man filed a lawsuit against Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, saying he was fired for taking off work on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in 2019.

David Rosenbaum, who was a general manager at Unilever’s New Jersey headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, filed the suit in Bergen County on Thursday, the New York Post reported. The 55-year-old Washington Township resident has been unemployed since, which he attributes to the COVID pandemic.

Rosenbaum notified his boss, Frank Alfano, he wanted to take off work for the High Holidays of 2019. According to the suit, “Alfano told [Rosenbaum] that he could not take off for Rosh Hashanah and probably not for Yom Kippur as well.”

Alfano refused to budge when Rosenbaum said his religion didn’t allow him to work on those days.

Rosenbaum notified Alfano’s superiors in an email telling them Alfano’s position was against the law. That email was sent on Sept. 30, the first day of Rosh Hashanah. A Unilever lawyer who received Rosenbaum’s email replied that she would be in touch with Human Resources.

But the next day, according to the suit, Rosenbaum was fired over the phone for not coming to work.

The lawsuit also alleges that Alfano once inappropriately touched Rosenbaum, propositioned him and asked him for a loan.

The court papers don’t indicate that Alfano gave any reason to refuse Rosenbaum’s time off.

“Further evidence of Unilever’s anti-Semitism”

Rosenbaum’s work included helping organize promotional events for Ben & Jerry’s, an ice cream producer and subsidiary of Unilever.

In July, Ben & Jerry’s announced it was boycotting sales to Judea and Samaria. More than 30 states with anti-BDS legislation are examining whether Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s violated their laws. Arizona was the first state to notify Unilever it was in the process of dumping $143 million in Unilever holdings from its pension funds. So far, New Jersey and Texas have followed suit. More are expected to divest their holdings if Unilever doesn’t reverse Ben & Jerry’s boycott.

Rosenbaum’s lawsuit claims his situation “is “further evidence of Unilever’s anti-Semitism, which was demonstrated in July 2021, when Unilever’s subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, began an illegal boycott of Israel by refusing to sell its ice cream there.”

“This despite the fact that it continues to sell ice cream in some of the most repressive countries in the world,” the court papers allege.

A Unilever spokesperson told the Jerusalem Post that “Unilever strongly refutes these allegations and has a zero-tolerance policy on antisemitism or any form of discrimination in the workplace.”