The Truth About White Supremacy – Combating Extremism

Dear Friends,

When you hear “white supremacy,” what comes to mind? Do you think of the white supremacy groups that posted more than a dozen fliers at Pioneer High School in San Jose, California? Or of vandalized Jewish cemeteries? Or domestic terrorism?

The fact is . . . white supremacy is resurging. And we all need to pay attention. Who is a white supremacist? What do they believe? (And what about diversity among haters?) Take a look.

Stay informed and empowered,
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

P.S. Share and use our monthly resources. Encourage friends, neighbors, educators and community leaders to sign up to receive them.

P.P.S. And check out our interview with reformed white supremacist Arno Michaelis.

U.S. Jews Threatened

U.S. and Canadian Jewish Community Centers | JCCA

Dear Friends,

As a Jewish woman, I watch with alarm as reports of coordinated, multiple bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers keep popping up in the news. 10 on one day, 20 on another. These bomb threats scare me for many reasons. First, because the threats come in groups designed to instill a profound sense of vulnerability, and to frighten Jewish parents into thinking that their children aren’t safe in school or at play. Second, because they are relentless, along with hate crimes and vandalism of sacred places. And third, because they do not seem to be getting much attention amid the many other stories making the news.

On January 20th, I issued a statement sharing my fear, concern and condemnation of the anti-Semitism and all hatred. The answer to anti-Semitism is not simple. But standing up and loudly rejecting it is a critical first step. Today, the media is paying attention, allies from all communities are standing with their Jewish neighbors, and President Trump explicitly identified this disease and denounced it. This is a step in the right direction.

With commitment to our nation’s values,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Anti-Semitism Buried by Daily Politics

Dear Friends,

News of virulent anti-Semitism seemed to get lost last week as attention focused on the inauguration of President Trump and a global series of Women’s Marches that supported women’s rights while opposing America’s new president.

For me, news about anti-Semitism is also important—and personal. In just one month, bomb threats targeted more than 30 Jewish community centers, including one that my niece’s daughter attended.

To put it simply, these threats violate our national ideals. Jewish Community Centers are spaces that bring families and communities together. These hate-filled threats, even though no actual bombs were discovered, achieve their ends by causing havoc and diminishing each community’s sense of security.

All Americans have the right to live and share their unique religious heritages with their communities in peace. It’s our responsibility to support our neighbors—especially in these challenging times. It’s frightening that these particular bomb threats are fueled by anti-Semitism. But what is equally alarming is that those who are anti-Semitic will likely not stop there. They will extend their hatred and violence to those from different races, nationalities and other religious beliefs.

As a nation, we must come together and condemn every hateful act, whether or not we are personally impacted. And we must remember…all of our freedoms are at stake when any parent is afraid to take their child to a local community center.

In solidarity,
Joyce S. Dubensky, Tanenbaum CEO

From hate to harm: the alt-Right’s anti-Semitism in Montana

Jude StarOn Monday, three deadly terror attacks in Germany, Yemen and Jordan captured the world’s attention. It’s not that these acts are unusual. The number of articles about violent terrorism are too numerous to count. It’s that they all occurred on one horrific day.

And so did an effort to target Jews in the heartland of America.

On Monday, news outlets reported that alt-Right media presence Andrew Anglin (of the anti-Semitic online site “Daily Stormer”) was spewing rhetoric dangerously close to—if not directly from—the Nazi playbook.

In an article alleging that Jews had an agenda to go after the mother of the alt-right’s most visible alt-Right leader, Richard Spencer, Anglin accused the Whitefish, Montana Jewish community of plotting to destroy her business. Needless to say, Anglin’s story is a distortion. But he called for retaliation and asked his readers to make their objections known to members of the Jewish community, some of whom he showed with his article—wearing yellow stars.

Anglin actually encouraged his readers and other white nationalists to “troll,” or harass the town’s Jews and anti-discrimination activists online. Though his directions explicitly warned against violence, the reality is that it doesn’t work that way. Especially since his call to action included identifying information of neighborhood Jews and their allies. Not surprisingly, death threats have followed.

You can’t genuinely discourage violence, and at the same time call Jews, as Anglin did in his blog post, “a vicious, evil race of hate-filled psychopaths.” The road from hate to harm is all too short.

At Tanenbaum, we condemn the hatred, the anti-Semitism and the resulting threats that are now making one town in Montana unsafe for Jews. We also regret that, in so doing, we are giving Anglin public attention that can wrongfully be used as legitimizing him. Yet, we are compelled to be on the record. We condemn everything Anglin, Spencer and their audience stand for, do and say.

And so we ask…

If Anglin’s incitement isn’t a hate crime, what is?

And if it is, why aren’t we all standing in opposition to what he is doing?

If not now…when?

 

On December 27th, we will be publishing this month’s Combating Extremism materials explaining white nationalism and the alt-Right. Sign up for our weekly emails to be sure you receive them.

GIVING TUESDAY – America in Transition!

Photo: Inspired by “Brexit”, safety pins are being worn to show solidarity against hate. | Brilliantist Studio via Shutterstock


Dear Friends,

This month, I’ve heard from so many of you from across the religious spectrum. Your reactions to the election, the holiday season and the future are not uniform. But most of you are concerned about societal division, rising hate crimes and the fear captured by a Muslim friend, who wrote, “I will never, ever, ever forget the night my babies went to sleep crying in fear.”

Please take a look at my latest article on The Huffington Post, Five Reflections on America in Transition. It includes some thoughts on what I’ve heard, my observations on how Americans are responding—and how we can respond—to mitigate fear, cross the divide, and rekindle hope.

At Tanenbaum we know that establishing a just society is a long-term effort – but we take daily action to create measurable improvements in the U.S. and across the world.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday – please donate to Tanenbaum because our nation needs Tanenbaum more than ever.

No child should ever fall asleep crying from fear, in the U.S. or anywhere!

Thank you,
Joyce S. Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

P.S. For a glimpse of some of our latest achievements, check out our Fall Newsletter.

P.P.S. And on Wednesday, look for November’s Combating Extremism resources on what you had to say about extremism!

Five Reflections on America in Transition

This article was published on the Huffington Post Blog November 25, 2016 


In my capacity as the CEO of Tanenbaum (an organization that tackles religious conflicts so that difference will be respected), the 2016 election was hard. The identity politics and lingo of hatred were the opposite of the kind of country we want to live in – from the targeting of Muslims, characterizing homeless Syrian refugees as automatic extremists, to the sudden and growing reality of swastikas in the public space, and the economic, social and racial divide within the country.

In the weeks following the election, I’ve had the chance to reflect with the people around me. It’s been a haunting journey with fear, sorrow, hope and a few hard lessons learned. With respect, I share my Five Reflections with you now.

Reflection #1 The feeling that “I’m in real danger” is palpable.

Immediately after the election, I felt a need to reach out to people I care about, just to touch base. I heard from friends who had supported the President-elect, but were upset about the hate rhetoric and worried that it might not recede. Others shared concerns – their responses left me breathless.

From my Sikh doctor friend, who is also a Major in the U.S. Army:

“I feel that the tone [during and after the election] has created animosity and division. This will be yet another crucible that Sikhs, Muslims and other minorities will endure. … The Republican Party needs to show America that it still cares about ideals such as diversity and religious freedom that have made us great. So far their silence has shown a complicit support of hateful rhetoric and has many of us wondering if America is really two very divided nations?”

From my friend, a successful professional woman, and a Muslim:

“I will never, ever, ever forget the night my babies went to sleep crying in fear. the sick feeling in my stomach got even worse with the appointment of Bannon.”

From an African-American Communications expert:

“I’m dumbfounded by the number of people who voted for Trump who didn’t do so because they are themselves racists, xenophobes or misogynists, but because the racism, xenophobia and misogyny that Trump spewed didn’t even register for them. Of course, being blind to it (or turning a blind eye to it) equates to tacit approval of those mindsets and that’s what so shocking and frankly frightening, especially when it comes to my own mixed-race family that I feel now I must be on constant guard to protect.”

From an academic leader who is Catholic:

“I am trying to ‘lead’ as faculty staff and students struggle with how to respond, from offering sanctuary to undocumented students, to forming a ‘resistance movement.’ Sadly, there has also been some ugliness. Sigh.”

From a Christian woman who cares for other people’s children and their homes:

“What will happen to women in America?”

Reflection #2: The fears are grounded in reality.

In addition to the news of protestors, the debates on whether to acknowledge President-elect Trump as our duly elected leader, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an uptick in hate crimes after the election (based on reports, not all of which could then be verified). This was alarming given the FBI’s 2015 report that hate crimes had escalated, with a 67% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes from 2014 to 2015. I am terrified by how some people with racist views have gone public and now seem comfortable freely expressing their prejudice. When did anti-Semitism stop being a dirty word?

But I’m also seeing the ugliness up close, within my personal community.

From a colleague:

“My son’s school had mass protests today after these messages were found yesterday: ‘F—k stupid Latino immigrants … F—k N—s … ISIS is calling, Muslims can leave … (Heart) Trump!’ He was leading the charge (yes, I’m proud of him).”

Photographed at a university in New York | 2016

Photographed at a university in New York | 2016

From a Union Employee Campaigning in Virginia:

“My whole life, I never felt anything about race. But when I was in Virginia knocking on doors for the election, the people would slam the doors in my face, shouting N—.”

Reflection #3: Some people are feeling paralyzed – while others are in “doing” mode, to protect an inclusive social fabric.

I personally witnessed responses from people in my community, and noted with surprise that I had moments of challenge with moving forward. I am a true believer in respectful exchanges and the power of listening to understand rather than confront. So I surprised myself when I attended a one-year old’s birthday party and met someone I had not known from the Midwest.

Though I am almost always a friendly type, I found myself uncomfortable – an unusual experience for me – wondering how to talk about the election and whether we would be able to do so. Though I opted to jump in, as per usual, it was not without trepidation. And that is new. For the record, we shared a concern about division in our country, and what we agreed is a surge in the normalization of hatemongering.

Yet, across the country, and certainly in New York, people dedicated to justice and respect for all came together. Tanenbaum was among the supporters of an important community gathering called #IAMAMERICA, spearheaded by Debbie Almontaser and our interfaith community, which believes in all of us.

Several of my friends donated to causes that protected the people and the rights that they feared will be lost. One Jewish woman, a lawyer in a major firm, sent out a November 9th email titled “This is not about politics” and encouraged her colleagues to make contributions to organizations that pursue justice.

# 4: Listening to One Another is Hard —- but Informative!

Even from those closest to me, who share my values about trying to put the Golden Rule into practice, I saw how communicating across the divide is not always easy – particularly about the last election. For me, it is important and it happened in an unexpected way.

From my plumber Tony:

I have the world’s best plumber. And when the bathroom started leaking into the dining room, he showed up and quickly, cleanly and with kindness took care of what could have been a holiday nightmare. We’ve always been friendly, and we got to talking about the election. I listened hard, and one thing was crystal clear. Tony had voted for better business opportunities.

“I learned a long time ago that there are two types of businessmen. The good guys who do a good job, charge a fair rate and have to beg to be paid so they can feed their families. And the guys to tell you like it is, what they’ll do, and get paid. President-elect Trump cares about us. He’ll fight for us.”

Tony’s not a hater, bigot or a person who stereotypes cruelly. He is a reason we must not stereotype President-elect Trump’s supporters.

Reflection #5: Amid hate crimes, top government appointments that stir anxiety among many, and the emergence of neo-Nazism (and the alt-right), there are reasons for hope.

These are days when our President-elect properly condemned bigotry and, then, during a meeting with the New York Times, said he disavowed the alt-right, white supremacy gathering held in Washington (where hate-rhetoric about Jews prevailed and gestures from the Third Reich could be seen). As a master of Twitter, however, we note that he could do so much more – like strongly condemning acts of the religious harassment, racism and prejudice, and violence.

And right after the election, I was struck by insights I would not have expected, but appreciate. I read an op-ed by Glenn Beck, who urged on all of us the importance of listening – to those you fear and disagree with. For me, hearing Mr. Beck speak of overcoming the divide, a man I used to consider only divisive himself, was a reason for hope. Equally striking was Nick Kristof’s insight that Liberals readily condemn the stereotyping of Latinos and Muslims, but have been quick to stereotype Trump voters. Honest reflection is a step on the path forward.

Establishing a just society and putting it into practice is a long-term effort. One that is always characterized by fits and starts. We have just come out of a fraught election. For those concerned with justice that honors our differences, this is a time for vigilance. Many have rational fears from the months of divisive rhetoric, recent hate crimes and the fears of more.

Yet, now is the time to take a risk and reach out to people whose religious, political, social convictions are different, and even opposite, from our own. A good place to start may be with the people closest to you – or your plumber. It is time to hone the elusive skill of listening to learn. And what better time to start than during the holiday season?

An Interview with Deborah Levine, ‘The Liberator’s Daughter’

An interview with Deborah Levine
by Ellie Green

Deborah Levine was born into one of the only Jewish families in British Bermuda. She has since immigrated to the U.S., and now resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Deborah is an award-winning author who has written extensively on religion and diversity including, Religious Diversity at Work and Teaching Curious Christians about Judaism. And now, she brings us her historical memoir The Liberator’s Daughter, which details her family history to the present day and, specifically, the life of her father – a Jewish U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer in the Second World War.

“Our history was something he didn’t want anyone else to forget.” – Deborah Levine

Aaron Levine witnessed some of worst atrocities committed in the 20th century. And he personally interrogated those responsible. After the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich in 1945, Levine was tasked with liberating concentration camps as part of the Allied war effort and interviewing Nazi prisoners of war.

Levine was prepared, having been trained in interrogation in Fort Ritchie. But the undertaking was haunting. The letters he wrote home to his wife depict the atrocities he found in Germany, including the ‘stench of bodies piled up’ in Nordhausen-Dora (the concentration camp liberated by U.S. Troops in April 1945) and his encounters with people in Germany, many of whom ‘found more fault with Hitler for having lost the war’.

Levine’s daughter recalls conversations with her father. “When I as a child asked him, ‘Well Daddy, did you kill anybody during the war’ he said ‘No, but I did slap somebody once….it was a Nazi prisoner and all he said to me was, ‘The only mistake Hitler made was not killing more Jews’.”

For most of her life, Deborah Levine was unaware of the true extent of her father’s activities in WWII. But when her father was in his 70’s, he presented Deborah with a box of letters – the truth-telling letters he had written to his wife during his time in Europe. It is these letters that Deborah recently complied into her book, ‘The Liberator’s Daughter’. Designed to educate people on both the importance of remembering the Holocaust as an atrocity against the Jewish people, and ‘as a universal lesson’ that such horrors can occur anywhere, at any time, Deborah Levine painfully reminds people that the Holocaust occurred in a ‘cultured, educated society. We are not in America immune to similar things happening.’

Aaron Levine U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer in WW2

Aaron Levine U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer in WWII

“The timing of this book was key to me.” notes Deborah. “I feel that we were are at a cross road politically, globally and nationally where the reminder of this history is absolutely required for moving forward logically and successfully”

In promoting her book and speaking out for the continued remembrance of the Holocaust, Deborah has encountered some who deny the very existence of the event. Deborah recalls an encounter with David Irving (an infamous pseudo-historian Holocaust-denier) at a book launch as ‘a wake-up call to me that these conspiracy theories and the holocaust denial movement was appealing across many sectors of the public’. For Deborah, even though only 70 years have passed since the world truly uncovered what was happening in the concentration camps, ‘a lot of it has been forgotten’.

“One of my intentions of this book was that it be both inspirational but also educational.”

Aaron Levine went on to dedicate much of his life to Jewish causes and ‘to the American Jewish archives so that our history would not be lost’. His stories, as present through his letters and the vision of his daughter, provide insight into a man who was intensely proud of his Judaism and was also dedicated to his job in the military. The letters he wrote are a lasting legacy of one man’s experience as a liberator. As such, they are must read for anyone wishing to educate themselves about the Holocaust.

Deborah Levine has worked tirelessly to support religious diversity both within communities and in the work place. In addition to her other publications, she is also the author of Religious Diversity in our Public Schools.

‘The Liberators Daughter’ by Deborah Levine is available for purchase on Amazon.

Author of 'The Liberator's Daughter"

Deborah Levine author of ‘The Liberator’s Daughter”

 

Laws repressing religious freedom worldwide: News Roundup

Countries around the world, including allies of the United States, have used laws on blasphemy and apostasy to suppress political opponents, the State Department said on Monday in an annual report chronicling a grim decline in religious freedom that has resulted in rising bigotry and sectarian violence.

The report singled out eight countries for particularly egregious and systemic repression of religious rights: China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In China, the report said, religious freedoms declined in the last year, highlighted by punitive actions against Christians, Muslims and Buddhists in Tibet, where 82 monks, nuns or laypeople killed themselves in acts of self-immolation last year.

Proliferating laws against blasphemy or apostasy, including in several countries undergoing political transitions after the Arab spring, are not protecting religions, as officials often claim, but rather targeting other faiths, at times selectively.  New York Times

Leaders of Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims reacted with horror and anger following Wednesday’s (May 22) slaughter with knives and machetes of an off-duty British soldier in the streets outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in south London.

A statement from the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the slaughter of the soldier by two men – both believed to be Christian converts to Islam – as “a barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and which we condemn unreservedly.”

Abdullah al Andalusi, a spokesman for the Muslim Debate Initiative, which brings together Islamic scholars and researchers in the U.K., said: “These people claimed they killed the soldier in the name of protecting others from UK foreign policy. But if what they claim is true, they have acted no differently from the crimes they claim they wish to see stopped.”  Religion News Service

Even with some legal protections in place, Afghan women, and sometimes even little girls, can be sold to pay family debts. In the country’s vast rural areas, just talking to a man who is not a close relative can be punishable by death. And in some places, girls are routinely married at puberty.

And now, preserving any protections long-term appears to be in question, as the country’s tiny women’s rights movement faces an unenviable decision: leave intact the only law that attempts to halt such abuses, or continue to present changes to Parliament and run the risk that a growing conservative bloc could dismantle the law entirely.  New York Times

Atheists and other nonbelievers largely welcomed Wednesday’s (May 22) remarks by Pope Francis that performing “good works” is not the exclusive domain of people of faith, but rather a place where they and atheists could and should meet.

In a private homily, Francis described doing good not as a matter of faith, but of “duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”

Then, referring to non-Catholics and nonbelievers, he said, “if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”  Religion News Service

Laws repressing religious freedom worldwide: News Roundup

Countries around the world, including allies of the United States, have used laws on blasphemy and apostasy to suppress political opponents, the State Department said on Monday in an annual report chronicling a grim decline in religious freedom that has resulted in rising bigotry and sectarian violence.

The report singled out eight countries for particularly egregious and systemic repression of religious rights: China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In China, the report said, religious freedoms declined in the last year, highlighted by punitive actions against Christians, Muslims and Buddhists in Tibet, where 82 monks, nuns or laypeople killed themselves in acts of self-immolation last year.

Proliferating laws against blasphemy or apostasy, including in several countries undergoing political transitions after the Arab spring, are not protecting religions, as officials often claim, but rather targeting other faiths, at times selectively.  New York Times

Leaders of Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims reacted with horror and anger following Wednesday’s (May 22) slaughter with knives and machetes of an off-duty British soldier in the streets outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in south London.

A statement from the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the slaughter of the soldier by two men – both believed to be Christian converts to Islam – as “a barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and which we condemn unreservedly.”

Abdullah al Andalusi, a spokesman for the Muslim Debate Initiative, which brings together Islamic scholars and researchers in the U.K., said: “These people claimed they killed the soldier in the name of protecting others from UK foreign policy. But if what they claim is true, they have acted no differently from the crimes they claim they wish to see stopped.”  Religion News Service

Even with some legal protections in place, Afghan women, and sometimes even little girls, can be sold to pay family debts. In the country’s vast rural areas, just talking to a man who is not a close relative can be punishable by death. And in some places, girls are routinely married at puberty.

And now, preserving any protections long-term appears to be in question, as the country’s tiny women’s rights movement faces an unenviable decision: leave intact the only law that attempts to halt such abuses, or continue to present changes to Parliament and run the risk that a growing conservative bloc could dismantle the law entirely.  New York Times

Atheists and other nonbelievers largely welcomed Wednesday’s (May 22) remarks by Pope Francis that performing “good works” is not the exclusive domain of people of faith, but rather a place where they and atheists could and should meet.

In a private homily, Francis described doing good not as a matter of faith, but of “duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”

Then, referring to non-Catholics and nonbelievers, he said, “if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”  Religion News Service