Tanenbaum Condemns Explosion at Sikh Temple in Germany

Tanenbaum condemns an apparently deliberate explosion at a Sikh temple in Essen, Germany. There, the explosion occurred at a community gurdwara, while classes for children were being held along with celebrations for the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. A masked man was seen fleeing the scene, and three arrests have been made. The Independent has reported that police are investigating the explosion as a deliberate attack, although “there are no indications it was a terrorist incident”.

“We are saddened to hear about the explosion at Essen’s Sikh temple. Such acts of violence are terrifying and designed to be so,” noted Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky. “Regardless of motive, violent acts such as this latest explosion are intended to kill people and then spread fear and distrust within and among communities. At Tanenbaum, we therefore condemn both the crime and the intention to terrorize people in Germany and across the globe.”

Though this is the first attack in Europe’s recent history that a Sikh gurdwara has been targeted, community members are anxious following the explosion.

“We may not be able to stop such deliberate acts of violence by ourselves. But we can stop the societal conditions that contribute to people believing that discrimination, violence and even terrorism are acceptable. We can end the use of stereotypes and the public and political rhetoric that dehumanizes others – through early education and by promoting civility and compromise when disagreements arise.” Dubensky continued, “Maybe then, less people will be drawn into ideologies that fuel hate crimes and terrorism.”


Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that systematically dismantles religious violence and hatred through Peacemakers in armed conflicts and by tackling religious bullying of students, harassment in workplaces and disparate health treatment for people based on their beliefs.

Tanenbaum Urges Tennessee Senate to Reject Efforts to Make the Bible Tennessee’s Official State Book

The Tennessee Senate is set to vote on a bill that would make the Holy Bible Tennessee’s official book.

Speaking on behalf of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, its CEO Joyce Dubensky condemned the bill. “While the Bible is an inspiring book for many, for Tennessee to make it their state book would symbolically exclude citizens of diverse faiths and none at all, including Christians who find the bill to be sacrilegious.”

Supporters of the bill argue that the intention is to highlight the Bible’s historical significance – however many people see the bill as a violation of the separation between church and state.

Dubensky added, “An official state book is a symbol of the state and, presumably, the people within it. As such, it should inspire a cohesive identity and sense of community. Making the Bible Tennessee’s official state book would do the opposite.”

One approach that Tanenbaum proposes is to identify an official state book that is non-sectarian, inspirational and speaks to the highest ethics of all traditions. “This way,” Dubensky noted, “citizens will not feel as if their government is promoting only one group, one viewpoint within a religion or, worse, infringing on their own personal religious or non-religious beliefs.”



Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that systematically dismantles religious prejudice by tackling religious bullying of students, harassment in workplaces and disparate health treatment for people based on their beliefs. 


Mother’s Dementia – A Health Care Worker Hears Her Son’s Pain

Thought provoking is a good way to describe my first day at Tanenbaum. Lynn Stoller, our Health Care Program Associate was scheduled to deliver a Grand Rounds at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn.  Lynn spoke to a full house – over 80 people from the departments of medicine, pastoral counseling, social care, and nursing – about the importance of religio-cultural respect and competence in health care.

One particular case study from the presentation stood out to me. This story was about a Hindu man who brought his elderly mother, who suffered from dementia, to the hospital. He requested that his mother receive only vegetarian meals, but when he arrived at the hospital the next day he found her eating a meatball. She was a devout Hindu and that was the first time she had ever eaten meat. The man was upset and asked to speak to both the hospital’s nutritionist and the patient advocate. The nutritionist said that while she was sorry the mix-up had happened, it was the result of basic human error and she couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again. This position, while reasonable, did not make the patient’s son any less angry. It wasn’t until the patient advocate apologized and seemed to understand the depth of the son’s concerns that he calmed down. The son then said that seeing his mother eat the meatball was so upsetting, not just because it was a religious violation, but because it was a harsh reminder that his mother’s health had deteriorated to the point that she could no longer recognize the values that had once meant so much to her.

I heard many of the doctors at Woodhull murmuring to each other when this story was told. I think this example stood out to members of the audience for the same reason it stood out to me: it seems to embody so much of what respect for religion in health care entails. Neither hospital employee could correct the mistake that was made, but by acknowledging the depth of the son’s concerns instead of dismissing them, the patient advocate was able to alleviate his anger. She also understood that his anger was partially caused by his pain that his mother’s dementia had caused her to forget her beliefs. This employee was able to make a bad situation better by treating both the patient and her son with respect.

After Tanenbaum’s presentation I spoke to Dr. Susan Grossman, the program director in charge of medicine at Woodhull. Dr. Grossman said that she had wanted Tanenbaum to present on religious diversity because it was important for all hospital workers, and particularly residents, to think about religio-cultural competence in relation to their own lives and how they treat their patients. She said that “when the discussion of religion is done with sensitivity, it is a more satisfying experience for patients.” I thought the story of the Hindu man and his mother was an example of the importance of treating patients’ religion with sensitivity, and it was an important lesson to be reminded of on my first day at Tanenbaum.

Eliza Blanchard
Project Assistant
Workplace and Health Care