Frequently Asked Questions

Evangelist Billy Graham, left, and Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum of the American Jewish Committee, presenting Graham with an award in 1977. Photo credit: American Jewish Committee

When and why was Tanenbaum founded?

Tanenbaum was founded at the end of 1992, following the untimely death of Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, a pioneer in interfaith dialogue and human rights. His widow, Dr. Georgette Bennett, family and friends came together to start an organization that would continue pursuing his vision of a world where the innate humanity of each and every one of us is always recognized, and where difference is not an excuse for hatred or violence.

Read more about our history and namesake, Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum.

Is Tanenbaum a religious organization? Why not?
No! Tanenbaum is not a religious organization. Although our namesake was a religious figure, we have a secular, non-sectarian mission and focus. We neither promote nor denigrate religion.

Rather, Tanenbaum is an organization that looks at diversity and intergroup relations and ensures that the usually ignored dimension of diversity – religion – is not omitted from the discussion. We recognize the power religion has in contemporary society, and work to help people understand just how strong a force it is. Tanenbaum designs programs to give people the tools to negotiate issues involving religion effectively and with respect.

By remaining secular, we serve as a neutral change agent. Tanenbaum does not promote a particular religious agenda. We simply advocate the view that all people, from the most devout religious observer to the most fervent atheist, deserve to be treated with respect. Because we remain religiously neutral, we more effectively work with people across the religious spectrum.

What’s Tanenbaum’s core philosophy?
At the heart of all Tanenbaum’s practical, hands-on programming is one core belief: a belief in the Golden Rule. Tanenbaum’s core philosophy is premised on the conviction that we should and indeed, we must, treat others – no matter who they are – as we would want to be treated. That is, with dignity and respect.

This is the key belief that infuses all our training curricula, materials and all our work.

Learn more about the Golden Rule.

Why isn’t religious tolerance Tanenbaum’s goal?
Religious tolerance can be the first step away from ignorance, but it is not Tanenbaum’s long term goal. Someone can avoid another person at every opportunity and still “tolerate” her or him. Tanenbaum aims for respect and respectful curiosity. Where religious bias is lurking, Tanenbaum can help move the needle toward religious tolerance and – more importantly, beyond.

To read more about Tanenbaum’s position on religious tolerance, check out CEO Joyce Dubensky’s article on the reality TV show Duck Dynasty.

How is Tanenbaum different from other interfaith organizations?
Tanenbaum differs significantly from most interfaith organizations. Our overarching goal is not to facilitate conversations between religious traditions or to overcome theological tensions among different religious beliefs, although our Exploring the Religious Roots of Prejudice program does some of that important work.

Our core work is to change the way people actually treat one another – what you believe makes no difference if you are unable to treat your fellow women and men as valued human beings. Tanenbaum creates training and tools that help people make these changes. We teach respectful communication skills, create resources to help people successfully navigate religious tensions in workplaces, equip teachers to create truly multicultural classrooms and help health care providers learn to address religious beliefs that are affecting health outcomes of their patients.

Our programs are hands-on, skills-based and focus on real behavior change.

Does Tanenbaum do interfaith dialogue? Isn’t dialogue important?

Dialogue is critically important, and there are many worthy organizations doing important and effective work around interfaith dialogue. We consider them colleagues in a shared effort to build a more peaceful world. Open and honest dialogue is important and must not be ignored as we move toward infusing justice and respect into our lives and global society.

At Tanenbaum, our focus is on breaking new ground and utilizing a range of tools to do so. While not duplicating the valuable work of these other organizations, we draw on dialogue as a key methodology for building peace, inclusion, and respect.

  • In particular, our Interreligious Affairs program focuses on exploring the religious roots of prejudice through dialogic work examining the underpinnings of historical religious prejudices and hatreds.
  • In addition, our Combating Extremism campaign offers conversation guidelines and resources on conflict, prejudice and hate to stimulate meaningful exchanges in communities, families, workplaces, houses of worship that enhance critical thinking, respect and practices of inclusion.
  • Our four core programs—in peacebuilding, education, workplace inclusion and health care—are action-focused and draw on conversations and exchanges that help change the way people treat one another now and in the future.
  • The Interventions (cross-cultural, cross-conflict engagements in our Peacemakers in Action Network regularly rely on effective intergroup dialogue to form the foundation on which discussions of peace, reconciliation, and political action are built.

Students representing Belgium at Tanenbaum’s World Olympics for All, 2016.

Will Tanenbaum come to my workplace/school/etc.?
We’re happy to work with you to design a training or presentation that meets your organization’s unique needs. Simply Contact Us and someone will be in touch within one business day!

How can I get involved with Tanenbaum?
There are several ways you can be part of Tanenbaum. Explore our website to see the range of programs and materials that you can use and bring to the settings where you spend your time. Help us be the change!

Volunteer opportunities in all our program areas, as well as in administration and operations, are available year-round including internships; visit our Careers page to view all available positions.

Depending on what projects are currently going on, we may also be able to use professional volunteers. Contact hr@tanenbaum.org if you have something you want to contribute to our work.

And of course, we are always in need of your financial support. Visit our Donate page to see all the ways your donations are put to work! Just $5.00 a month can bring an educator a cutting edge curriculum!