In 1992, the world lost a humanitarian interfaith leader when Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum died suddenly of heart disease. Marc was a Jew and a Rabbi, but his congregation was humanity: every religion, every color, every country.
He was instrumental in organizing the international rescue effort for the Vietnamese “boat people”. He was the only rabbi at Vatican Council II and participated in the drafting of Nostra Aetate, a document which repudiated anti-Semitism and called for fraternal dialogue between Christians and Jews. He helped organize an emergency relief effort for victims of the Nigerian-Biafran Conflict and aided refugees from Ireland, Cyprus, Lebanon, Uganda and Bangladesh. Great universities honored him and called him “the human rights Rabbi.”
Marc’s faith and profound belief in the sanctity of each person’s life guided his interreligious and humanitarian efforts. His was an urgent voice against the destruction of human life in the name of religion. When Marc died, those that worked with him – who knew him and loved him – wanted nothing more than to see his vital work carried on.
In late 1992, Dr. Georgette F. Bennett, Marc’s widow, founded the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding (originally named the Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum Foundation), which began as a one-woman operation out of a New York City apartment. Since then, Tanenbaum has evolved into a vibrant, innovative organization.
Initially, we focused on interreligious dialogue and promoting studies aimed at ending theologically-based bias. As Tanenbaum began to grow, we learned that ignorance and misunderstandings were plaguing our daily interactions at work and in school.
We discovered that the religious biases we were exploring had real world implications that weren’t being addressed. Out of this realization, our present-day programs began to take shape.
Through our programs, Tanenbaum addresses the most burning issues of our day. Every person who fears for his or her own safety as a result of terrorism or war; every person who has felt prejudged or discriminated against because of his or her religion; and every child who has been picked on because of his or her religious attire or practices, understands the need for our work.
Tanenbaum’s vision is a safe world in which religious differences are respected and daily life reflects the highest values of our shared religious and ethical traditions. Through our practical programs, we work to change institutional and individual behaviors, bringing reality closer to our vision.