Storytelling is an ancient practice used to pass knowledge from one generation to the next. It’s a way we share lessons learned and experiences that inform all of us.
On Saturday, our nation celebrates Tell a Story Day. And in preparation of that event, we’re sharing one man’s story about his first encounter with anti-Semitism. It tells us what it sounded like in his youth, and helps us understand what that felt like—and still feels like today.
Because anti-Semitism isn’t just some abstract idea. It’s real. And it hurts.
Knowing anti-Semitism is on the rise again. Seeing what happened in Charlottesville, then Pittsburg. Hearing the chants, “Jews will not replace us.” In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we have to ask the hard question.
Are there some people—bigots and extremists—who are so extreme, they just can’t change? Our answer, “NO!”
Support for this can be found in Deeyah Kahn’s beautiful, courageous and heart-wrenching Netflix documentary White Right: Meeting the Enemy. In the film, on the Unite the Right rally and the white nationalists who participated, Kahn introduces us to white supremacist leader and Born Again Christian, Ken Parker. At that time, he was active in the Nationalist Socialist Movement (NSM) and a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
The film captures what Ken had to say during the 2017 rally …
“Jews and homosexuals, they should be exterminated, every single one of them.”
“I absolutely despise Jews, so yes I’m a racist.”
“I will never break bread with a Jew! Ever.”
Today it’s different. Ken is now a “former.” He retired from the NSM and the KKK and denounces hate groups. Part of his evolution included a process of reconciliation, and Ken reaching out to the very people who he used to vilify.
Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism campaign partnered with Arno Michaelis, a former leader in the skinhead movement and now a peacebuilder, who pushed Ken to meet his first Jew—something he vowed never to do.
Arno introduced Ken to Tamara Meyer, a Jewish Holocaust Educator, and to race relations expert Daryl Davis, and videotaped Ken “break bread with a Jew.” And now, in partnership with Arno, we are proud to present what happened.
A Path Forward: Confronting Hate in America, affirms that a powerful way to move forward through hate is with empathy, understanding and respect. Take a look. And let us know what you think.
With a heavy heart, Tanenbaum condemns the violence that erupted yesterday morning at the Tree of Life Synagogue near Pittsburgh. At least eleven are dead. Families irrevocably shattered. At least six injured. And a shooter who was reportedly making anti-Semitic comments as this slaughter unfolded.
The scale and gravity of this attack, coming only a week after bomb threats, scares all of us—as Americans and as individuals from a variety of minority religious tradition in our diverse country. This shooting is part of a larger pattern in which people are being targeted for their beliefs—religious and also social and political.
Bigotry and violence have no place in America. The discourse that divides, dehumanizes and demeans civility lays the groundwork for violence. That is why we must all stand shoulder to shoulder with those who exercise their sacred right to pray together, to practice their faith, to peacefully assemble, and to advocate for their beliefs.
Tanenbaum strongly urges all communities and groups to reject the violence of hate and the discourse that breeds it. This includes the anti-Semitism so horrifically visible at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Our hearts are with all those who lost loved ones and were injured. Our commitment is to you and to our national values.
We stand—always—for a world that respects and protects our differences—including our different ways of believing.
Image: Vector Illustration
To the Founding Fathers, freedom of religion was a cornerstone of American democracy—even before the Bill of Rights was adopted.
Need proof? Check out the correspondence between America’s first president, George Washington, and Moses Seixas, the Hazzan of Newport’s Touro Synagogue of Congregation Jeshuat Israel. While they excluded enslaved African Americas and Native Americans from their vision of religious freedom, their commitment to freedom of conscience and their words contain timeless insights and values—that must to be applied to all.
Join us in defending our founding values and Combating Extremism,
Joyce S. Dubensky
P.S. We are thrilled to announce that Tanenbaum is a 2018 Nissan Foundation grant recipient in support of our Combating Extremism campaign! Read our press release here.
Image Credit: Touro Synagogue. Wikipedia
Did you know that anonymous hate-mongers are urging people to “celebrate” tomorrow, April 3rd, as “Punish a Muslim Day”? And that they’ve created a game to encourage and reward acts of violence? I’m horrified. We should all be. And that’s why Tanenbaum is issuing a statement condemning this act of hate.
We should also be equally horrified to hear about the French Jew, Mireille Knoll—an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor stabbed 11 times in her apartment just over a week ago before it was set on fire.
These are just two terrifying examples of what hate looks like in 2018. Sadly, they are part of a larger trend. Religiously motivated hate crimes have been on the rise over the past couple of years—worldwide.
It’s time for elected officials and everyday citizens alike to responsibly stop violence and use their influence to make sure it happens.
With a heavy heart,
P.S. Click here for our statement condemning “Punish a Muslim Day”.
P.S.S. Click here for more information on Mireille Knoll’s murder.
P.S.S.S. Click here for information on hate crimes in the U.S.
Thank you Rev. Dr. Billy Graham for your guidance and dedication.
Tanenbaum mourns the loss of our Advisory Board member. Rest in peace.
In remembrance, we share your teachings…
- When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.
- Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.
- God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.
- Nothing can bring a real sense of security into the home except true love.
- Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing and patience and being persistent.
- Suppose you could gain everything in the whole world, and lost your soul. Would it be worth it?
- There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.
- Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.
- Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.
- Take one day at a time. Today, after all, is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
Thursday, February, 22, 2018
We received several emails questioning the statement above due to the National Archive’s 2002 revelation about some comments Rev. Graham made about Jews to President Nixon in 1972. Below is our response to expressed concerns:
We abhor the comments Rev. Graham made in the Nixon tape. They clearly complicate his legacy. But that tape does not capture the entirety of his story with the Jewish people and Judaism.
Reverend Billy Graham was also a close ally of our namesake Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum. That’s because of the largely untold story of his many acts of friendship toward Jewish people around the world. Whether his comments on the tape were as intolerant as they sound, an act of weakness in the face of the President’s instigation, or something else, one of the central tenets of the Evangelical Christianity, which Rev. Graham preached and practiced, is this: no matter how many times a person might fall, he can be redeemed. And Rev. Billy Graham, we believe, creditably redeemed himself in his support of Jews.
Whenever he undertook a Crusade to the Soviet Union or its satellites, he contacted Rabbi Tanenbaum to ask what he could do to help the Jews in that country. He helped free Soviet Jews. He sent each of his children to live on a kibbutz in Israel as part of their upbringing. He agreed to refrain from trying to convert Jews during his Evangelical campaigns. He also proclaimed that anti-Semitism was not part of his teachings–reaching over 215 million people in over 185 countries. And he literally saved Israel during the Yom Kippur war of 1973 by interceding on Israel’s behalf with President Nixon.
We also remember how he willingly joined with the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding to promote respect among all people and to recognize the divine in each.
There is no justification for Rev. Graham’s statements to President Nixon. But I also remember a man who was a friend to many of our efforts for justice.
With gratitude that you took the time to share,
Joyce S. Dubensky
P.S. To read more about Rev. Graham’s relationship with Jews and Jewish leaders, as well as the points of view of many on this issue: http://www.sltrib.com/religion/2018/02/21/billy-graham-leaves-a-positive-interfaith-legacy-with-a-few-blemishes
January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau from the Nazis 73 years ago. And this year’s theme is “The power of words.”
So, isn’t it time to ask:
How powerful would it be, if we really meant the words, “Never Again”?
View our resource to see how the horrors of the past are repeating today. Together, let’s vow to make Never Again real — we can’t afford not to.
For as long as I can remember, I have always cared about fairness. Even as a kid, I had a pretty clear idea of what it meant to act fairly. In time, that internal driver found expression as a passion for justice, which I defined as treating all people with respect—no matter who they are or what they believe. Precisely what that would come to mean, however, was not always clear and certainly not static.
As society’s understanding of identity expanded over decades, my own view of what it meant to practice justice likewise evolved. Now, far into my justice journey, I have discovered yet another identity that resonates with me. One that offers me a new, powerful vehicle for working toward global justice. In a phrase, I am talking about diaspora identities.
To explain what I mean, it is worth reflecting on how I got here. In part, it started with anti-Semitism. I am Jewish and was about seven years old when I first felt the paralyzing pain of hearing the kids on the block call my little brother “Jew bastard” and “Christ killer.” I asked them to stop, to apologize, but they kept repeating their taunts. I’ve always remembered that moment, and it became my lens for understanding others.
I felt pained by the lack of basic respect and equality societally allowed to African-Americans. But when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called on us to judge his children by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, my sense of justice crystalized. That was what justice should look like—for every child.
In the years that ensued, I learned more about the ways different identities are targeted. I realized how the bias inflicted on African-Americans also attaches to other people of color, though not always in the same ways. That women do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, not only because of sexual harassment, but also because, institutionally, women are not paid equally for the same work. I came to recognize that people have many identities including those that result in injustice and marginalization—their sexual orientations, gender identities, disabilities, age, economic and social backgrounds, etc. And always, there is religion, a core identity that far too often is used to divide and fuel conflict, and that becomes a target for prejudice, hatred and violence.
Now, I have another new identity, one that holds promise for more global connections, constructive collaborations and justice.
Last week, I attended an unusual international conference convened by Common Purpose. Called the Diaspora Dialogues, they identified diaspora leaders from across diverse communities and brought them together in Armenia. The goal was to consider whether and how the power of distinct diaspora leaders of all ages could be harnessed for global good.
When I was invited to go, I hesitated. For one thing, while I am Jewish and therefore a member of the Jewish diaspora, I am not a leader in that community. In addition, my work at Tanenbaum is based on combating prejudice directed at people from every faith and none, and we do this work from a secular and nonsectarian perspective. However, as I thought more about it, I realized that being part of the Jewish diaspora was, in fact, part of who I am. In different places around the world, I have been stopped by total strangers, looking at me and saying “Jewish!” In each instance, they were identifying a fellow from their tribe. I also had an unexpected reaction when I first visited Israel. It was the only time in my life that the majority of people around me were somehow brethren. In that, there was a sense of belonging and safety that I have not experienced anywhere else on earth.
Given this awareness and as a person with leadership responsibilities as Tanenbaum’s CEO, I agreed to attend. Approximately 60 people from a range of diaspora identities convened. Most were people who were born in one country, and now lived in another nation. Some had ties to several countries. Most of the participants could identify as a member of a diaspora (Nigerian, Pakistani, etc.) based on the reality that they did not live in their birth/home country. A few of us were diaspora because of our religious identity, as Jews.
Like me, many were thinking deeply about this diaspora identity for the first time, although others had already embraced it, including in their daily work. Even though the ways we came to be among a diaspora differed, we all had a lot in common, perhaps because of how we were selected. We were’s all strivers and wanted to do something to better our communities or the world. We could identify shared experiences around not belonging, as we owned our diaspora identities and experiences.
Therein, lie the possibilities. Right now, across the globe we are dangerously divided by our different identities and our different beliefs. This manifests in political divisions and global conflicts. Working across diverse diaspora identities suggests new possibilities of identifying common ground and creating novel opportunities for problem-solving and collaboration. This vision was embedded in Common Purpose’s program with us and its long-term thinking. As one of the people who explored the possibilities with them, I was moved to see the power and potential in this effort.
Together, diaspora leaders and diaspora community members have an opportunity to tackle big and small problems—and to create greater justice for all. Count me in!
*This post originally appeared on HuffPo on October 19, 2017