International Day of Tolerance – How you can get involved!

Friends,

As you may know, Tanenbaum’s goal is to build a world marked by respect. Tolerance, for us, is not the end goal, but rather just a step along the continuum towards peace. Yet today, we are celebrating the International Day of Tolerance. Why? Because it is actually designed to promote more than tolerance — it envisions establishing respect, understanding, and dignity for diverse peoples everywhere.

The Day got its start when the UN declared 1995 the Year of Tolerance and instituted the annual commemoration. I believe it’s important because it serves as a reminder of the UN and member states’ responsibilities to intentionally seek to establish tolerance at every level of society.

Today reminds each of us of our responsibility. Because, sadly, there’s still work to do. But we have some ideas and resources for you …

  • For Families at Thanksgiving: The Golden Rule is common to all our different beliefs. Tanenbaum’s Shared Visions on the Golden Rule proves that point. And it’s a great resource if you celebrate Thanksgiving. Pass it around the table, and let each person read a reflection from a different tradition.
  • For Teachers: Tanenbaum and Teaching Tolerance produced a free, five-part webinar series on religious diversity in school that’s ready-made for teachers. The Religious Diversity in the Classroom Webinar Series and accompanying resources examine how awareness of religious diversity affects student-readiness for global citizenship, and how teaching about religion across grade levels and subject areas can help meet important academic standards. 
  • For Workplaces: December is a time of year when holidays bring religious diversity issues to the surface in workplaces. The December Dilemma tip sheet provides proactive strategies for creating an inclusive workplace environment year-round.

The International Day of Tolerance needs to matter. Please join us in doing your part,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

 

A Fall Festival of Lights

Dear Friends,

Did you know that Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, will take place on November 7th? Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists around the world celebrate this New Year festival for a variety of different reasons.
 
Diwali is an official holiday in a number of countries in South Asia and across the globe, so your offices in those locations may be closed or have shorter work days. Check out our Diwali Fact Sheet to learn more about the festival and potential implication for your workplace.
 
In friendship,
 
Deputy CEO,
Mark Fowler
 

Photos L to R: Khorkarahman, Wikimedia Commons; Srijan Kundu, Flickr; Mitacmaitra, Pixabay

The New Task Force on Religious Liberty—What’s Going On?

Dear Friends,

Behind many of the headlines, there is a forceful debate on what the 1st Amendment means in 2018, and how to practice religious freedom in a country that is increasingly diverse—religiously and non-religiously.

On Monday, Attorney General Sessions announced the creation of the Religious Liberty Task Force. His speech touches on our history and some of our historic values, reflects what moves him, and talks to the actions the administration is taking (and has taken) with respect to religious liberty.

His speech is informative. But for us, it also raises questions. (See the full speech delivered by Attorney General Sessions here). As you’ll see, his words raise foundational questions for all of us…

  • How do you put religious freedom into practice in a country where there are a variety of different beliefs?
  • What is the proper role of government—when the Constitution says it cannot establish religion?

Check out our reflections on the Attorney General’s remarks and some more questions to consider, by clicking here.

And please, tell us what you think. Make no mistake. Religious liberty—and what it looks like—is one of the key issues facing us today.

With respect and concern,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum


AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Sharia: Just the Facts

Dear Friends,
Do you know…
What Sharia is really all about? How it’s practiced? What it means in the U.S.?
Questions about Sharia are everywhere—in homes and schools, state legislatures and even our courts. These questions need fact-based answers. It’s the only way to move past our cultural assumptions and stereotypes.
That’s why Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism campaign created a fact sheet addressing common questions about Sharia! Explore its similarities to Judaism’s Halakah, and Catholicism’s canon law. See how Sharia is one more piece of America’s beautiful religious diversity!
Join us to stop hate and Combat Extremism. Let’s get talking!
With an open heart—and open ears,
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum ​​​​​​​
P.S. Whether you convene a formal conversation, engage in an off-the-cuff discussion with family, friends, or colleagues, or simply review and/or pass along Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism resources on social media or in person, we encourage you to send an email tocombatingextremism@tanenbaum.org and let us know. And of course, please include stories including any on how your ideas or behavior (or anyone else’s) shifted.
P.P.S. When you support Tanenbaum, you help us in the battle for a world where people across beliefs live side by side, free from extremism, persecution and hate.

Image credit Ilmgate

Eid Mubarak!

Dear Friends,

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha will be celebrated between August 20th and August 21st this year! Eid-al-Adha, also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, is an important holiday and those observing may wish to take the day off from work to celebrate with family and friends and attend to religious practices like attending mosque.

To learn more about Eid al-Adha and its potential impact on the workplace, read our Eid al-Adha Fact Sheet!

In friendship,

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum


Image credit: Seika via Flickr

Limited time opportunity! Free copies of Religions in My Neighborhood

Religions in My Neighborhood Makes it Easier to Teach About Religion
Tanenbaum’s curriculum, framed by Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design, makes teachers’ jobs easier. Teachers can use Religions in My Neighborhood as a stand-alone curriculum or as a supplement.

SPECIAL TIME-LIMITED OFFER!
For the first time ever, we are giving away copies of Religions in My Neighborhood for free ($34.95 value)!

Email education@tanenbaum.org for your free copy today!

 

The Affordable Care Act and Religion: Impact & Support

As Congress debates if and how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, many people have spoken out on how losing health coverage would affect various disenfranchised communities. Often missing from the conversation has been the relationship between the ACA and religion—and yet many religious communities either benefit directly from the ACA, and would be affected by losing health insurance, or have spoken out in support of the ACA based on their religious beliefs.

The ACA has been beneficial to pastors and other church employees who struggled to find health care coverage prior to the ACA. Christianity Today profiled how small churches often function similarly to small businesses, and face similar struggles around providing affordable health care to their employees. Many churches simply do not include health insurance as part of their compensation package, and small church pastors and other employees have therefore come to rely on insurance through the ACA. Many expressed concern over what they would do if the ACA were repealed.

Similarly, Sojourners has collected and published testimonials from Americans around the country about their experiences with the ACA, and many of the people expressing appreciation for the ACA were religious leaders and their families. These testimonials included ones by a Presbyterian minister who could not find insurance when he returned to the U.S. after nine years of overseas missionary work; the wife of a preacher whose church did not provide insurance coverage for their daughter’s pre-existing condition; and a pastor’s wife who no longer has to choose between buying groceries and going to the doctor. All of these individuals were positively impacted by being able to obtain insurance through the ACA.

There are also religious communities who support the ACA not only because it benefits themselves or their congregations, but because of their religious mission to care for people in need. The ACA has helped the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, and legal non-citizens have greater access to health care than ever before. As a result, representatives from a wide array of religious traditions have spoken out in support of the ACA as a means of continuing to provide insurance to the poor.

A surprising source of support for the ACA has come from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), who last month sent a letter to Congress urging them not to repeal the ACA without having a replacement plan. They wrote that “a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their wellbeing.” In the past the USCCB has been opposed to the ACA largely because it covers abortion and other reproductive health services and included a mandate requiring insurance to cover contraception. In spite of these earlier objections, the USCCB and other Catholic institutions recognized the importance of continuing to provide health insurance to Americans, particularly those without the resources to get this insurance through other channels.

As the debate over the ACA continues, it is important to remember that repealing the ACA without having a plan to replace it can have serious consequences both for religious communities themselves, and for the values around protecting those in need that are at the foundation of many religions’ missions.

Remembering Sir “Siggy” – Reflections from a Fellow Traveler for Interfaith Understanding

Queen Elizabeth II is presented with the Interfaith Gold Medallion Peace through Dialogue from Sir Sigmund Sternberg, joined by Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks (right).

Sir Sigmund Sternberg presents Queen Elizabeth II the Interfaith Gold Medallion Peace through Dialogue, as Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks watches. Credit: Catholic Herald

I join friends and colleagues in mourning the death of the legendary — but very real and very human — Sigmund Sternberg. As long as I have worked in the field of interreligious relations, well over half a century, “Siggy” was there, offering support, encouragement and discernment. In addition to a common concern that dialogue should lead to changes in attitudes, behavior and institutional policies, we shared an attachment to Hungarian Jewish history. Like Siggy, my husband was Hungarian; unlike Siggy, he didn’t get out in time, was deported as a youth and survived a slave labor camp. They had a very sympathetic relationship.

When my former boss and colleague, Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, died untimely, it was Sir Sigmund who pressed his widow, Dr. Georgette Bennett, to establish an organization that would preserve his memory and extend his work. The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, thanks in part to his foresight and tenacity.

Sir Sigmund Sternberg, one of the first Jewish papal knights, was knighted by both Queen Elizabeth II (1976) and Pope John Paul II (1988)

Sir Sigmund Sternberg, one of the first Jewish papal knights, was knighted by both Queen Elizabeth II (1976) and Pope John Paul II (1988)

I fondly recall Lady Hazel somewhat ruefully complaining about the weight of the black velvet costume and plumed hat signifying Sir Sigmund’s papal knighthood that had to be packed for meetings involving a papal audience. I only saw him wear it once, but it was a most gratifying sight.  

They were an endearing team. Sir Sigmund was a gracious host, a generous donor and man who used his many resources to make the world a better place. Our world is poorer without him. May his memory be for a blessing.    

Judith Banki
Senior Advisor, Interreligious Affairs

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. 

 

Female Defiance and Education in Afghanistan

Rukshana, who the Taliban stoned to death at age 19

Rukshana – the Taliban stoned her to death at age 19

 

On October 25th the Taliban stoned to death Rukshana, a 19-year-old Afghan girl, on the grounds that she had committed adultery. After Rukshana’s father forced her to become the third wife of a 55-year-old man, she ran away with Mohammad Gul, a 22-year-old young man who she loved. Unmarried, Gul is alive and recovering after receiving 100 lashes as punishment; however, Rukshana was forced into a pit dug in the dirt, deep enough to only leave her head above ground. Encircled by male Taliban officials, rock after rock was thrown at the young girl until she died. In the face of such brutality, viciousness and callous disregard for life, how do we fight back? …what can we do instead? 

Violence from without, violence from within, violence against women…  In his newsletter, Nicholas Kristof suggests how we can fight back against such ruthlessness. Moreover, in a 2010 op-ed, Kristof asks: …what can we do instead? That is, instead of responding to violence with more violence. His question was in response to the escalating violence in Afghanistan during 2010 following Obama’s decision to increase troops in the region, which in Kristof’s words resulted in mostly…more dead Americans and Afghans alike; however, in light of the recent tragedies that have left us shocked, fearful and vengeful, Kristof’s question remains pertinent. In his newsletter, he suggests that we can fight back through the social justice works that are being performed by the women in these dangerous regions.  Explaining in his op-ed that while there’s abundant evidence that…bombs harden hearts, schooling, over time, transforms them. Kristof is referring to the many locally administered Afghan schools that have flourished despite the heavy hand of the Taliban. The voices of these courageous women must be amplified and their work brought to light by those of us who never want to see another viral video of the sadistic murder of a young girl.

Kristof highlights the work of one such woman, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL). Dr. Yacoobi was first recognized by Tanenbaum as a Peacemaker in Action in 2002. She is a shining example of how women, in particular, can bypass patriarchal regimes and empower young women through education and professional development, thereby creating social networks for local Afghans to turn to. Kristof’s recognition of Dr. Yacoobi is essential as her growing network of institutes can serve as a model for other women who desire to strengthen the bonds not only between women living under dangerous regimes, but to provide alternative avenues for men who seek lives absent of violence. Dr. Yacoobi eloquently recounts the challenges she has faced during her May 2015 TED Talk. Recalling Taliban members who had asked for the same opportunities as the girls studying at AIL, Dr. Yacoobi poignantly explains, We cannot only train women but forget about the men, because the men are the real people who are giving women the hardest time.

Support of the local, including activists and organizations, is essential to bolstering human development in these regions. Kristof’s op-ed compares the failures of alien educational institutions in Afghanistan versus thriving native institutions, such as AIL. Even in the most dangerous regions, like Taliban controlled areas of Afghanistan, education …is possible, provided the work is done without Westerners and in close consultation with local people, Kristof explainsFor example, his op-ed points out that while government schools regularly get burned down because they are seen as foreign installments, in 2010 Dr. Yacoobi’s AIL supported over 300 schools all of which remain unharmed. 

Establishing gender equality and educational facilities is fundamental for conflict resolution and peacebuilding, although these stories frequently go unheard. Tanenbaum, like Kristof, understands the vital and urgent need to disseminate stories of human development and accomplishment in a sea of violent, inhumane and dark tragedies. And due to our great respect for his ceaseless efforts to place a spotlight on the courageous work of those fostering development in some of the most troubled areas of the world, Tanenbaum will be honoring Nicholas Kristof at our May 2016 Annual Gala, together with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize winner, best-selling author and business executive who fights for justice. Kristof’s determination to focus on the work of women in the field is absolutely essential for furthering the on-going success of these dedicated activists. Kristof and organizations such as Tanenbaum are serving to rectify this uneven coverage and to highlight models of civic engagement that will inspire others in war torn regions around the world.

Today we are faced with a similar choice; that is to say, of responding to brutality with further dehumanizing violence or embracing those who are experiencing the very same fear. Patient and thoughtful responses are most crucial in times of uncertainty. The stories of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action and those highlighted by the superb reporting of Nicholas Kristof offer local alternatives to violence.

For more information about the work of Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action and other unrecognized or under-recognized individuals, please subscribe to Mr. Kristof’s newsletter and Tanenbaum’s email updates.

Ritu Mukherjee
Conflict Resolution | Tanenbaum