My Diaspora Journey

2017 Diaspora Dialogues

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

From Competence to Confidence: Tanenbaum’s 2017 Religious Diversity Leadership Summit

Tanenbaum’s second Religious Diversity Leadership Summit took place on May 23rd at Bloomberg, LP. Over 100 people from more than 35 companies attended the event. In its second year, this event grew 65% in attendance and was twice as long. The Summit was made possible by our generous sponsors: Bloomberg, DTCC, and the Walt Disney Company.

According to our post-event survey, some of the most important takeaways from the event included:

  • “…this summit helped me uncover the fact that religion is often neglected and never discussed yet it’s KEY in bringing our whole selves to work, therefore we should be talking about its impact way more.”
  • “I…was on the fence about interfaith ERG’s, but now I’m sold. I plan to use the notes to start discussion with our team.”
  • “Hearing from leaders who have been successful in implementing religious diversity programs as well as representation from the regulatory agency was a fantastic opportunity.”

We can’t wait to further grow the Summit in 2018!

Thank You! 25 Years of Making Peace Possible

Dear Friends,

On May 23rd, we celebrated an important moment in Tanenbaum’s history, our 25th Anniversary Gala: Peace Made Possible. In an evening highlighted by moments of profound reflection and celebration, we fortified our commitment to justice – and to never, ever forget.

The evening began with a moment of silence to remember victims of another random act of terror, in Manchester. Then founder and president Dr. Georgette F. Bennett was recognized as an Inspiration Circle honoree and she introduced 11 other friends and supporters who’ve helped Tanenbaum grow from a one-woman initiative to a vibrant, internationally-in-demand organization. The applause couldn’t even be held back as His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America was honored, along with Angelica Berrie, Ted Childs, Ilan Kauftal, Howard Milstein, Amelia and Adebayo Ogunlesi, Dr. Leonard S. Polonsky CBE, Dr. Ariella Riva Ritvo-Slifka, Judy Thompson, Scottie Twine and Maz Zouhairi.

Our Corporate Bridge Builder Award went to the Libra Group and was accepted by its Chairman and CEO, George Logothetis. Libra Group is a diverse international business with a commitment to giving back embedded in its culture. It’s latest philanthropic venture is the HOME Project which is dedicated to providing shelter and support for refugees, especially unaccompanied children in Greece. Everyone listened intently as Logothetis spoke about the HOME Project’s impact so far and how crucial it is to ensure people’s beliefs and sources of hope are respected and “oxygenated with dignity.”

Former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon received the 2017 Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding. By video, he described the rise of terrorism as one of the world’s greatest threats, and spoke to the urgent need for humanity to remain committed to peace. Our 2017 Adam Solomon Award for Excellence was awarded to Lycée Français de New York, a bilingual school that teaches respect, because today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Later in the evening, Michael Bornstein, author of Survivors Club, powerfully introduced 2017 Media Bridge Builder Awardee Soledad O’Brien. He quietly shared recollections as a Holocaust survivor and later how he was “ruthlessly bullied” as a student in post-WWII Germany for being Jewish. As Soledad O’Brien concluded in her speech, Peace is made possible when we don’t stop working at it. We celebrate tonight, and tomorrow we’ll get back to work.”

And now, we’ll do just that.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

P.S. Our gala raffle winner for 2017 is Sam Matino of Concordia, Inc.! Thanks again to all who participated, see you next year!


DINNER CHAIRS

  • Nadine AugustaGlobal Head of Diversity and Inclusion & Corporate Social Responsibility, DTCC
  • C. Justin Foa, President and CEO, Foa & Son Corporation International Insurance Brokers, Tanenbaum Board Chair

HONORING

Ban Ki-moonFormer Secretary-General, United Nations
2017 RABBI MARC H. TANENBAUM AWARD FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF INTERRELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING

Libra Group, Accepted by George Logothetis, Chairman and CEO
2017 CORPORATE BRIDGE BUILDER AWARD

Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group, Host of Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien
2017 MEDIA BRIDGE BUILDER AWARD

Lycée Français de New York
2017 ADAM SOLOMON AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE

Inspiration Circle
Longtime Friends & Supporters

  • Dr. Georgette F. Bennett
  • Angelica Berrie
  • Ted Childs
  • His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America
  • Ilan Kauftal
  • Howard Milstein
  • Amelia and Adebayo Ogunlesi
  • Dr. Leonard S. Polonsky CBE
  • Dr. Ariella Riva Ritvo-Slifka
  • Judy Thompson
  • Scottie Twine
  • Maz Zouhairi

Kicking Off Tanenbaum|25

Glasses were raised last week to kick off Tanenbaum’s 25th Anniversary, hosted by Holly Weiss, Partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP. It was a great evening where new and old friends gathered to recognize Tanenbaum’s achievements – while noting that the need for Tanenbaum is greater now than ever.

Everyone present recommitted to forging a future with less hatred, violence and extremism. All agreed—If not now, when?

Check out the gallery of images below, and be sure to reserve your place for our 25th Anniversary Gala on Tuesday, May 23, 2017!

Olympic Impact – Sports, Education and Respect

The children paraded onto the field at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. “And here comes Greece!” shouted the announcer as students with golden leaves in their hair held up a banner and their entire contingent of students waved Greek flags. Under a blue sky, more than 1,200 students from across New York City had converged for a day of summer games and teamwork.

As stories of classroom bullying receive national attention, Tanenbaum responded with a six-part webinar series on our World Olympics for All curriculum. Educators reaching 80,000 students annually took part. Then, throughout the summer, even more kids became involved when educators from 23 NYC Beacon program sites were trained in using the curriculum. The Beacon programs are an initiative with the Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) and Tanenbaum was excited for the opportunity to partner with them.

Tanenbaum’s Deputy CEO, Rev. Mark Fowler, described how the World Olympics for All Webinar Series and curriculum help prevent bullying, “Educators are busy professionals. Our World Olympics program offers step-by-step strategies and resources they can use to create fun and engaging learning environments that meets learning standards, where children feel safe and can practice behaviors of respect. Not only does World Olympics help kids learn that being different is normal, but it also promotes physical and socio-emotional health.”

The DYCD final Olympic games were a momentous affair, held in partnership with Nike’s Marathon Kids program and UP2US Sports. After the parade of nations, students divided into groups to play a myriad of games – and you could see how kids had learned to practice respect and inclusion. Inside the gymnasium, we spotted one girl standing apart, shyly watching a group playing with hula-hoops. Suddenly, her classmates began encouraging her to join in. We watched as she began to smile – and then she picked up a hula-hoop and joined the fun.

Do you teach or know an educator? The World Olympics for All Webinar Series is still available. And there are many students who need protection from bullying. Click here to sign up for free today!

Thank You for a Great Night Off!

The room was full of old friends and some new, with lots of jabs at biases – racial, religious, sexual orientation, and the like. We had the opportunity to laugh at what society teaches us, and at how we cope with hatred in the world. The night gave us the opportunity to share a little more about Tanenbaum, to honor our oldest and dearest friend (and colleague) the Octogenarian Judy Banki, and to recognize our visiting Peacemaker, Reverend Jacky Manuputty from Indonesia.

We hope you’ll enjoy the gallery below from Tanenbaum Takes a Night Off! With Mike Rakosi Tanenbaum’s second annual comedy show at Comic Strip Live. Much like last year, Mike brought in some hilarious comedians, from our own backyard and Dylan Brody from LA, who lit up the stage with their wit.

From cursed tomato gardens to mockery of cultural and religious bias, Indidi, Sasha, DF and Dylan all put on a great show—and we thank them for their willingness to perform for Tanenbaum! Also, our special thanks to Mike Rakosi for hosting the evening and helping to plan the event.

Thanks to our sponsors, Dr.’s Georgette F. Bennett and Leonard S. Polonsky CBE, Stanton Public Relations and Marketing, and Michael Kessler and Marcia Riklis. And our partners, Whole Foods Market, dcc, and the Comic Strip Live. Without you, none of this would have been possible!

This is a night of fun, supporting a cause that is deadly serious. Make a note. And plan to join us next year! In the meantime, enjoy this album from the 2016 show!

Katie Candiotti
Development Associate

Meet the Peacemakers

The week from July 9th to the 16th was a special one for Tanenbaum. We had the rare opportunity to visit with the diverse and passionate women and men, who are dedicating their lives to promoting peace, religious understanding, and a safer world – Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action. This opportunity arises only once every few years, when we convene the Peacemakers in Action Network for a Working Retreat, where they have the chance to network in person and learn from each other, as well as from other experts in the field. This year, we were excited to have 18 Peacemakers with us, from global conflicts including Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Israel.

In the middle of the Retreat, we spent a day in Manhattan. While there, some Peacemakers presented their work at the United Nations, while others discussed extremism, women’s issues arising in their work, and what the Peacemakers in Action Network has done for them on The Brian Lehrer Show. They also had a little “me” time for shopping, taking in The Met, and eating New York Pizza!

That evening, Tanenbaum leaders and friends met the Peacemakers. It was a moment to hear stories directly from the Peacemakers, as they shared their own experiences in battling extremism, conducting post-trauma counseling of those released from terrorists, and using music to heal post-conflict communities. Our Board Chair, Justin Foa, graciously opened his home for the event, which was sponsored by GHR, KAICIID, the Greek Archdiocese of North America, and Winebow. Without these wonderful partnerships, none of this – the Working Retreat or the Meet the Peacemakers evening – would have been possible.

Today, we so often feel helpless – and hopeless – as we face random acts of terror, hatred and exclusion. Tanenbaum Peacemakers remind us that there is reason to hope. To those of you who were able to be with us at the UN, who listened to the Brian Lehrer show or who joined us to meet the Peacemakers, we thank you. And to those of you who could not be with us, we hope to see you soon. For now, please enjoy a few pictures from our evening together with the Peacemakers in Action.

Tanenbaum’s 2016 Religious Diversity Leadership Summit

On Monday, May 23rd, representatives from over 30 companies came together at Gotham Hall in New York City to discuss global strategies for addressing religious diversity and inclusion. Tanenbaum’s first-ever Religious Diversity Leadership Summit was made possible by co-sponsors Disney and DTCC and featured speakers Brian Grim (Religious Freedom and Business Foundation), Pramila Rao (Marymount University) and Neal Goodman (Global Dynamics).

All photos: Jon Nissenbaum

Thank you – for making peace possible!

Dear Friends,

Last Monday  was a touchstone in Tanenbaum’s history. Not only was it our 2016 Gala – PEACE MADE POSSIBLE – but we began the journey toward our 25th anniversary, next year. I’m so grateful to all of you who were able to be with us – for what was truly a powerful evening. Thank you!

U.S. Army Major Kamal Kalsi, the first Sikh granted a U.S. Department of Defense religious accommodation in over a generation, moved everyone with his personal story about how hard it was to practice his religion freely in the U.S. Army, our nation’s largest employer. He shared a little of what it was like to be a doctor in Afghanistan. But one thing Kamal didn’t say was that he won the Bronze Star for his heroism. He reminded us all, “We can build walls or we can build bridges.”

Our speakers also talked about the pain and injury resulting from religious bullying, discrimination and hate. And how Tanenbaum provides effective strategies to counter divisive rhetoric and violent conflicts.

This year’s 2016 Media Bridge Builders, Nicholas Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, and Sheryl WuDunn, also a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, provided insights into the many challenges facing us today. Both showed how even small efforts by each of us can make a huge difference.

Sheryl shared how a small nonprofit helped save children’s lives, while Nick shared how he manages to remain hopeful, despite reporting on the world’s greatest atrocities. Though he witnesses the world’s worst, he also sees the world’s best: acts of compassion and ordinary individuals displaying unexpected feats of bravery. In his own words, “I am a believer in drops in the bucket.”

Nick is right. We can all do something.

With hope for the future,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

RSVP: Tanenbaum Peacemakers at the United Nations

Tanenbaum_2016_evite

Join us this July 13th for a unique opportunity to hear from six Peacemakers in Action on the critical issues facing us today.
Click here to download the invitation and be sure to RSVP today! Space is limited.