What Can We Learn From RGB?

Dear Tanenbaum Community,

A Jewish teaching says those who die just before the Jewish new year are the ones God has held back until the last moment because they were needed most, and were the most righteous. And so it was that Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, died as the sun was settling on Friday, marking the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.

Throughout her life, Justice Ginsberg has often reflected on what it was like growing up in Brooklyn, in the shadow of WWII and the Holocaust, and the large imprint this left on her. She said in one interview, “It makes you more empathetic to people who are not insiders, who are outsiders.” At Tanenbaum, we similarly work to promote justice and build respect for people across faith traditions, especially those considered “outsiders.”

While anti-Semitism was widely accepted in 1933 when Justice Ginsberg was born, throughout her career she worked tirelessly to make the court more hospitable to Jews and other minorities. She convinced the court that explicitly framing the calendar year as Christian was offensive to Jews, and worked to excise it. She was also a powerful voice on the court helping women ensure their right to sign a mortgage without a man; have a bank account without a male co-signer; have a job without being discriminated based on gender; and retain job security regardless of familial or pregnancy status.

There is no doubt that Justice Ginsburg’s work has cracked open many doorways that have more widely been pushed open by and for others. May the world remember her as the fierce advocate for justice that she was, and may her life and lessons be for a blessing.

With reverence,

Rev. Mark Fowler

 


 

Extremism Spreading With Coronavirus

Friends,

The Coronavirus is changing everything—how we live and how we think. As the number of confirmed cases surge, we are all facing a public health crisis, assaults on human rights and dignity, and – for many of us personally, questions of life and death.

With sorrow but not surprise, we are also watching a predictable uptick in hate and extremist violence around the world. (Read more). Chaos creates uncertainty. Uncertainty fuels fear. And fear is a trigger—for extremism.

● There has been a dramatic surge in the targeting of Asian communities all over, exasperated by an increase in xenophobic rhetoric and mischaracterizations of the virus as Chinese. (Read more).

● A Sikh gurdwara was attacked in Afghanistan, killing 25 worshippers. (Read more).

● The New Jersey Department of Homeland Security (NJDHS) warned of white supremacists taking advantage of the pandemic to cause chaos. (Read more).

● Borders are closing to refugees all over the world, as are fears that they will spread the disease (Read more).

● The ADL warns that extremists are using the COVID-19 pandemic to mainstream their conspiracy theories, xenophobia and anti-Semitism—including with escalating online and social media attacks and by blaming Jews for causing the pandemic. (Read more).

Whether in person or online, all forms of extremism are deadly. Our response? It’s time to build solutions and support everyone in our international community. It is through social support—even as we practice physical distancing—that we can counter hate and save lives.

You can help from the safety of your own home. Our resource, Five Ways To Counter Extremism On Social Media can help you take a stand against the extremism that is still present and waiting to pounce.

None of us know what the coming weeks and months will bring, but we do know this: None of us are in this alone. Our community is strong, and we will help each other pull through,

Joyce S. Dubensky      Mark Fowler
CEO                              Deputy CEO


 

What are the Facts on Fake News?

As any dedicated news junkie knows, people are talking about fake news—and that includes what you think about people from different religions. But have you ever asked yourself…

  • Is “fake news” even real?
  • Or is it a falsity in itself?
  • If it’s real…is it influencing me and what I think?
  • Are my opinions really based in fact?

To answer these questions and more (with you!), we’re hosting The (Dis)Information Session: The Impact of Fake News on Religious Communities, a free live webinar conversation and interactive training, on March 19 from 5 – 7 pm EST.

It’s time to think critically but openly about the hard issues that confront us, our communities, and our world.

Join Us and RSVP for the (Dis)Information Session on March 19!

 

What do anti-Semitism and anti-Immigrant hate have in common?

Friends

Anti-Semitic hate crimes are rising in NYC and worldwide at alarming rates. And there’s a similar surge in anti-immigrant sentiment. So we wanted to know, what do these two hate movements have in common?

At the request of Jim Rice, editor of Sojourners magazine, I wrote a piece attempting to answer exactly that question. He’s made it available for the next few days…so take a look if you can.


Please let me know what you think,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO


Watch Tanenbaum on ABC’s Here & Now, this Sunday at Noon

Friends –

This week, we sat down with Sandra Bookman, host of the ABC show, Here & Now, to discuss Tanenbaum’s years of combating religious bigotry.

The episode airs this Sunday, January 19 on ABC 7 News at noon!

Tune in for a riveting conversation about the increase in religiously motivated hate crimes, and how Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network are combating bigotry around the world.

In friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky & Mark Fowler
Tanenbaum CEO & Deputy CEO

 


 

Remembering the Very Rev. James Morton

Credit: James Estrin/The New York Times

The other day, I received an official notice from Rev. Chloe Breyer via email, announcing the death of the founder of the Interfaith Center of New York. The Very Rev. James Morton, an icon and interreligious leader of enormous stature, had passed. Her tribute recalled the breadth of his contributions. I paused to think of how I remembered him.

But what struck me later, were two other emails I received. I got an email from Scottie Twine, a former colleague, one of my partners in building Tanenbaum and a dear friend, who wrote to make sure that several of us had taken note of Jim’s passing.

She knew Jim Morton from living on the Upper West Side and from her own social justice and environmental work (he served on the organization she and her husband founded, Upper Westside Recycling). Scottie shared that Jim and his wife Pamela had reached their 65th anniversary just before he passed. She closed her note to me by saying “Jim was a man who followed his heart, and we’re glad to have had him in our lives.”

A second came from Tanenbaum‘s founder and Board President, Georgette Bennett. She had seen Scottie‘s email and shared her own personal memories and special moments that are not to be forgotten.

The public tributes on Jim’s work from the arts to housing to visioning will no doubt continue in the days to come. But I think the greatest tributes are the quiet sharings of friends, who remember Jim Morton, are grateful for his life, and hold him in their hearts.

May his memory be for a blessing,

Joyce Dubensky
Tanenbaum CEO


 

Islamophobia isn’t a joke

Friends-

At a town hall event on August 27th, Rep. Steve King (R – Iowa), specifically referred to China’s crackdown on the ethnic Uighur minority and other Islamic groups. But then he said,

“They want them to put on Chinese clothing and eat Chinese diet, which includes trying to force the Muslims to eat pork,” King said. “That’s actually the only part of that that I agree with, everybody ought to eat pork. If you have a shortage of bacon, you can’t be happy.”

Taken in context, it appears that Rep. King may have thought he was bringing attention to the issue, while also attempting to make an inside joke to his constituents. Iowa is the top pork-producing state in the U.S. However, this is also not the first time King has scorned Islam’s dietary restrictions. In a 2018 Breitbart interview when discussing his district’s meatpacking plants, he objected to the plants employing Somali Muslims, saying,

“I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops.”

While King is not the only American lawmaker who has made Problematic Statements, this is also not the first time that King’s statements have sparked controversy. He has been condemned by his Democratic and Republican colleagues alike for his repeated use of Islamophobia, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist rhetoric.

And that rhetoric is dangerous. At Tanenbaum, we understand the devastating effects rhetoric such as this can cause, often with devastating and deadly consequences.

Tanenbaum unequivocally condemns Islamophobia and all forms of religious bigotry. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and xenophobia, and hold not just our elected representatives—but ourselves and everyone around us—to higher standards.

You can be part of the solution. Together we can create a groundswell of credible, responsible voices against religious hate. One way is to use our Combating Extremism resources, Explaining Extremism and Addressing Islamophobia and Five Ways to Counter Extremism on Social Media for practical approaches to opposing and discussing extremism.

In partnership,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

 

Beyond Grief

Friends—

This weekend left no time to grieve. Instead, there was only time for fear. More Americans have died at the hands of white domestic terrorists since 2001 than from any other type of terrorist attack in our country. Men, women and children of every religion, race, nationality, age, gender, ethnicity, sex and class are being gunned down at school, shopping and during prayer. And many of us no longer feel safe.

It’s time to understand the phenomenon that spurs on white terrorism, to recognize the many ways it is fueled (including through social media) and to do something. If you haven’t yet read our overview of White Supremacy, I encourage you to do so now. And when you’re ready to respond, consider our resource 5 Ways to Combat Extremism on Social Media—because we’re all responsible for finding a pathway back to safety and communities where differences are respected.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

How you choose to react depends on who you—and who we are.

Friends—
 
I am sad—again. Once more, on behalf of Tanenbaum, I send our sympathy to the families of the deceased and injured in Saturday’s Synagogue shooting in California. 
 
I am also troubled. Because the violence isn’t a surprise. Hating others based on their religion is now normalized.  
 
While the reality is that only a minority of individuals take hate to the extreme, with a new attack every week, it doesn’t feel that way. It seems easier to define and castigate other people based on their differences. It takes more for us to see people, acknowledge them, be respectfully curious, and inclusive.
 
Which direction you choose is up to you—and up to all of us. 
 
That’s why Tanenbaum persists through heartbreak and today’s hate-filled realities. That’s why we work to stop daily acts of bigotry, counter extremism, and support our Peacemakers—women and men who stand up to violence in Sri Lanka, Yemen, Indonesia, and Bosnia—people just like you and me.
 
Choosing to engage with people who are different isn’t always an easy choice. Yet, it is a choice we can make. And that includes those of us who already embrace differences, those who are wary, and even those who perpetrate hate.
 
Don’t believe me? Check out this clip on one former white supremacist taking another to his first meeting with a Jewish person. You’ll see that we can reach across differences. 

With sorrow and fierce determination.

Joyce S. Dubensky

CEO, Tanenbaum

Coptic Christians are still being targeted, when will this end?

Friends,

On November 4th, the New York Times published an article, Egypt says it killed 19 militants after deadly attack on Christians. The attack occurred last Friday, November 2nd, when gunmen opened fire onto three buses as they departed from the Monastery of St. Samuel, in the desert south of Cairo. The attack killed seven people in one bus and wounded 19 people total. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

We’ve been watching the ongoing persecution of Christians and our hearts ache. Tragically this is not a new phenomenon. In May of 2017, Tanenbaum published a blog post condemning a similarly violent attack which targeted another bus filled with Egyptian Coptic Christians. 

Why has there been no change?

On Sunday at the World Youth Forum, Egypt’s President Sisi responded to the attack, by affirming religious freedom for all and reiterating his commitment to fight discrimination. In contrast, critics maintain that freedom of religion is currently in an uncertain state under the current Egyptian administration. 

In this moment of sorrow, Tanenbaum stands with the Coptic Community in Egypt, with Christians worldwide and with our global community—including all people, from all, or no, traditions.

We have a responsibility to pay attention, to stand up to the hate that fuels violence and terrorism internationally and domestically, and to make sure that we do not let hatred inform our hearts and minds.

The time is now, 

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum