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Michael Rashid was Philadelphia Commerce Director for a little over a year before resigning. Photo: Albert Lee/City of Philadelphia

Philadelphia Commerce head resigns amid damning reports of anti-Semitism, fostering a toxic workplace

Michael Rashid was brought in to lead the city’s Commerce Department in November 2020, as businesses reeled from COVID-19.

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has accepted former Philadelphia Commerce Director, Michael A. Rashid’s resignation from his post, which he announced on Sunday, Dec. 5.

His resignation comes two days after The Philadelphia Inquirer released a report in which former staffers accused Rashid of antisemitic remarks, “hostility or disregard” for female employees, and running a “toxic” workplace.

“Today I offered, and Mayor Kenney accepted, my resignation as Director of Commerce. My continued service would serve as a distraction from the work of the Department, which is far too important to the City and region,” Rashid said in a statement. 

An article published last week by PhillyVoice noted several public Facebook posts and provocative comments Rashid had made. There were also details about Rashid’s alleged treatment of women in the commerce department.

One source, a current employee, said Rashid’s commentary and “toxic” management style have “alienated” Black women in particular. 

Another, a former employee, said that she has left the department and finally feels happy. 

"Not only was my experience and knowledge ignored, but I, along with other Black women, were consistently dismissed, humiliated and belittled in front of each other in meetings and in front of our staff," she said. 

There are also allegations that Rashid once said that the Steven Spielberg film, Schindler’s List, which tells of Holocaust survivors, was merely “propaganda,” and Rashid also penned an op-ed that promoted marriage and childbearing as solutions to Black poverty that was published by the Philadelphia Tribune on Nov. 21. 

In a social media post from April, Rashid appeared to condone the shooting of police officers who are deemed racist. In another, he posted an unverifiable quote attributed to Malcolm X that describes Jewish neighborhoods as “Jew Town.” 

The former director has said he has spoken with leaders of Philadelphia’s Jewish community to offer his apologies for comments which were” inappropriate and insensitive.”

“I look forward to future engagement with the community going forward,” Rashid said. 

Kenney appointed Rashid, a former healthcare executive, to run the department in November 2020, as businesses struggled to recover from pandemic-related shutdowns and changing restrictions. 

But the Inquirer and PhillyVoice reported that many Commerce Department staff have quit and the city spent $500,000 to audit the department’s work culture. 

One recently departed staffer, former communications director Taj Magruder, wrote in a resignation letter that Rashid “berated” staff members, made “irrational” decisions, and appeared uninterested in the workings of the department.

“The City is committed to ensuring a fair and inclusive working environment where the values of respect and dignity are upheld,” Kenney said in a statement.

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