Dobbs Ferry, NY – A Scarsdale man who sued his employer for punishing him after complaining about being forced to watch a training video laden with Nazi imagery is using some of the money received in a settlement to write a Sefer Torah.
47 year old Jean Marc Orlando had been working for BNP Paribas, a global French multi-national bank, for 18 years when he attended a mandatory training seminar in Amsterdam in July 2011 as reported by The Jewish Week.
A subtitled four minute training video parodying a 2004 movie portraying Adolf Hitler’s final days was shown to employees at the seminar, with the head of a competing bank depicted as the Nazi leader.
Orlando, whose Tunisian grandmother was abducted by the Nazis and barely escaped deportation according to The Journal News, said that he became physically ill watching the movie which featured a screaming Hitler and actors dressed in the Nazi uniforms.
According to the lawsuit, Orlando could not imagine how BNPP, which invested both time and money to create the original film, could think that footage based on symbols of hate and anti-Semitism could boost employee morale.
Orlando, an Orthodox Jew, held a senior position at BNPP in 2011 and said that he was forced to watch the video twice. After complaining about the video to officials at BNPP and asking for an apology, Orlando said that he was harassed and threatened at work.
“If you dare open your [expletive] mouth one more time on this topic, I will take care of your career and what is left of it,” said one of his superiors, according to the court complaint.
Orlando, who had risen through the ranks at BNPP, began suffering from depression, anxiety and seizures and was fired in 2012. He filed suit against BNPP for $40 million in 2014.
According to Orlando’s lawyer Jonathan Sack, this was the second lawsuit filed against the bank in connection with the video. Sack also noted that Orlando had been subjected to anti-Semitic remarks on several occasions during his time at BNPP.
Orlando settled with BNPP in February for an undisclosed amount after Manhattan Federal Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck ruled that he could proceed with a New York State Human Rights Claim against the bank.
Sack called the ruling precedent setting, noting that any employee who said that they were forced to see a swastika at work, even once, would be able to establish a claim of being forced to work in a hostile environment, instead of having to prove a pattern of similar incidents.
Orlando, who reached out to long time friend Rabbi Benjy Silverman of Chabad of the Rivertons in Dobbs Ferry immediately after being subjected to the video in 2011, elected to use some of the settlement money to have a new Torah written for the Chabad congregation. He credited his religious observance for helping him get through the hardships he experienced after seeing the film.
“Without my Jewish faith I could not have endured and I feel there is no greater tribute than to write a Torah to insure that legacy continues,” said Orlando.
The first letters will be written in the Torah this Sunday at Chabad of the Rivertons before it is sent to Israel for further work. The final letters of the Torah will be inscribed back at the Dobbs Ferry Chabad.
Using the money from the settlement to write a Torah seemed appropriate to Orlando, a father of three who now owns his own financial technology firm.
“We will have 20 generations that will learn and read from this Torah,” said Orlando. “This (case) will be forgotten in 10 years but people will be inspired in the future, not by this incident but by the Torah itself. It is a candle that we lit in the darkness.”