International Women’s Day – and Religion!

Dear Friends:

Today is International Women’s Day! Celebrated for over 100 years, this honorary day spotlights achievements of women around the world and recognizes our ongoing need for political, economic and social equality.

Please join in me in honoring women worldwide by reading and sharing two of Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism resources that highlight the bravery, power and value of women across traditions:

One of the mantras Tanenbaum lives by, is Peace is Possible. Today we add, Equality is Possible!

Joyce S. Dubensky

P.S. I encourage you to take one step further by sharing our resources on social media, using the hashtag #IWD2018, and by following and retweeting @JoyceDubensky and @TanenbaumCenter to make an even wider impact!

Remembering Rev. Dr. Billy Graham

Thank you Rev. Dr. Billy Graham for your guidance and dedication.

Tanenbaum mourns the loss of our Advisory Board member. Rest in peace.

In remembrance, we share your teachings…

  • When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.
  • Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.
  • God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.
  • Nothing can bring a real sense of security into the home except true love.
  • Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing and patience and being persistent.
  • Suppose you could gain everything in the whole world, and lost your soul. Would it be worth it?
  • There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.
  • Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.
  • Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.
  • Take one day at a time. Today, after all, is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

Thursday, February, 22, 2018

We received several emails questioning the statement above due to the National Archive’s 2002 revelation about some comments Rev. Graham made about Jews to President Nixon in 1972. Below is our response to expressed concerns:

Dear Friends:

We abhor the comments Rev. Graham made in the Nixon tape. They clearly complicate his legacy. But that tape does not capture the entirety of his story with the Jewish people and Judaism.

Reverend Billy Graham was also a close ally of our namesake Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum. That’s because of the largely untold story of his many acts of friendship toward Jewish people around the world. Whether his comments on the tape were as intolerant as they sound, an act of weakness in the face of the President’s instigation, or something else, one of the central tenets of the Evangelical Christianity, which Rev. Graham preached and practiced, is this: no matter how many times a person might fall, he can be redeemed. And Rev. Billy Graham, we believe, creditably redeemed himself in his support of Jews.

Whenever he undertook a Crusade to the Soviet Union or its satellites, he contacted Rabbi Tanenbaum to ask what he could do to help the Jews in that country.  He helped free Soviet Jews. He sent each of his children to live on a kibbutz in Israel as part of their upbringing.  He agreed to refrain from trying to convert Jews during his Evangelical campaigns.  He also proclaimed that anti-Semitism was not part of his teachings–reaching over 215 million people in over 185 countries.  And he literally saved Israel during the Yom Kippur war of 1973 by interceding on Israel’s behalf with President Nixon.

We also remember how he willingly joined with the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding to promote respect among all people and to recognize the divine in each.

There is no justification for Rev. Graham’s statements to President Nixon. But I also remember a man who was a friend to many of our efforts for justice.

With gratitude that you took the time to share,
Joyce S. Dubensky

P.S. To read more about Rev. Graham’s relationship with Jews and Jewish leaders, as well as the points of view of many on this issue:

Parkland, Florida: Seeing the Signs

Dear Friends:

It’s intolerable that I am writing to you, yet again, in mourning for lives lost at the hands of a mass shooter, this time in a Parkland, Florida high school. Seventeen students and educators taken too soon, again leaving families torn apart. Others hospitalized and a community left in shambles. Of course, I am sad. But I am also among those who are furious. How many times do we have to bear witness to a preventable massacre?

There is a lot of talk now about seeing the signs. Let’s face it. The signs were there. But the one I am not hearing enough about right now is hate speech and those who promote it—a mention or two in passing, and then back to other signs.

Today we learned that the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, may have been associated with the white supremacy group Republic of Florida. He flagrantly published insults against Muslims, Black individuals, and law enforcement on social media. And then he killed. It is clear that hate and hate speech correlate to hate crimes. A disturbed young man, inflamed by bigotry. What do we expect?

We must not underestimate the danger of hate. It lays the foundation for mass killings and atrocities. And yesterday’s murderous rampage was no less than that—an atrocity. A criminal act that needs to be named: White Supremacist Terrorism.

Hate is more than graffiti on a wall or words on a social media post. It’s a sign. One of the gravest.  And we need to talk about it.

In mourning,
Joyce S. Dubensky
P.S. Tanenbaum works to prevent marginalization and bullying that can lead to hate and extremism. Multiple news outlets report that Cruz likely was bullied in school. This reminds us that he suffered even as he has inflicted so much suffering. But it also shows that inclusivity matters. Your support for Tanenbaum matters.

Texas: Words Alone are Failing Us

Photo Credit: Nick Wagner | AP


After the Las Vegas massacre a mere 37 days ago, I, among many others, said that thoughts and prayers from the public and politicians alike—no matter how genuine and supportive—are not enough. Sadly, yesterday, the inadequacy of words alone proved to be all-too-true, as Sutherland Springs, Texas experienced the worst church shooting in this country’s history. At least 26 men, women, children and one unborn were murdered and 20 others injured during their sacred Sunday service at the community’s First Baptist Church.

What to do now is clear, but by no means easy.

  • We must stop attacking each other, and start attacking the hard issues that affect us all.
  • We must stop labeling each other.
  • We must stop only assigning the “terrorism” label to events involving Muslims—when in fact, terrorism and deranged criminals both intentionally carry out horrific slaughters. The harm is one and the same.

And perhaps most of all, we must stop thinking that the threat from abroad is greater than the threat from within.

Words alone are failing us. We must demand that our leaders take action, rooted in facts—like the fact that a history of domestic violence, not race or religion, is a common thread among mass murderers, including yesterday’s shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley. If we don’t, I fear that I’ll be writing you again in another 37 day’s time.

This is the time to work together as allies. Because above and beyond all other identities, there is one we all share—that we are human.

In solidarity,

Joyce S. Dubensky

Las Vegas—Are Thoughts & Prayers Enough?

Photo Credit: Chris Carlson | AP Photo


Yesterday, we awoke to our nation’s deadliest mass shooting in recent history. Again, our elected representatives—and scores of everyday Americans—joined the nation in grief, sharing their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. These words of comfort come from a sense of solidarity, shock, and horror. For many, they also often come from faith. It is therefore incumbent upon us to ask ourselves whether our heartfelt expressions are all that are required of us.

Our nation’s “thoughts and prayers” have been with too many victims, friends, and loved ones from Sandy Hook, Orlando, San Bernardino and now Las Vegas. It is sad but true that we remember and pray for the nearly 33,000 Americans killed each year by gun violence. Sending thoughts and prayers is an act of solidarity. But without transformative change in our willingness to prevent these national tragedies, we will continue to witness unacceptable levels of violence and death.

Just as our great faiths and traditions urge us to pray for victims and survivors, they also urge us to act.

So, what is one simple and practical step that each of us can take to make our response to THIS tragedy different from ones before? Those of us who believe can review what our sacred texts ask of us—and decide if words alone are enough.

After tragedies we must come together and mourn. We must help those victimized to heal. And we must work to create the change that stops this from happening. Otherwise, we risk becoming part of the problem.

See what some of the world’s great traditions have to say…

Joyce S. Dubensky

Let deeds, not words, be your adorning. Bahá u’lláh, Hidden Words Persian 5

Whoever, by a good deed, covers the evil done, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from clouds. Dhammapada 173

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-21

The wise see knowledge and action as one; they see truly. Bhagavad Gita 5.4, 5

Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” Narrated in Shaih Muslim.

I call heaven and earth to witness: whether Jew or Gentile, whether man or woman, whether servant or freeman, they are all equal in this: that the Holy Spirit rests upon them in accordance with their deeds! Midrash, Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 10

By their deeds and their actions, they shall be judged. God Himself is True, and True is His Court. Guru Granth Sahib (34)

It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace. Shenandoah

A thousand people cannot convince one by words to the extent that one person can convince a thousand by action. Denkard 6.31 

Houston – America at Our Best

Children rescued in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Credit: Harris County Sheriff’s Office/Twitter

Dear Friends,

As I watched the flooding in Houston and saw elderly nursing home patients sitting waist-deep in water, I felt the same, overwhelming sadness that people across the nation were feeling. But amid that sadness, I was also lifted up by the example of volunteers and rescue teams who readily risked their lives to save others.
This is what America should be. It is who we are at our best.
And it is what our different faiths call on us to do. That’s why I wanted to share some wisdom from across the world’s faiths and beliefsIt reminds us of our shared and highest ideals.

And it reminds us that, when we help one another, we create the nation for which we are searching.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum


By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 383
Whoever, by a good deed, covers the evil done, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from clouds.  Dhammapada 173
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  Galatians 6:9
The wise see knowledge and action as one; they see truly.  Bhagavad Gita 5.4, 5
(And) lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings.  Qur’an, 98.7 (Pickthall)
I call heaven and earth to witness: whether Jew or Gentile, whether man or woman, whether servant or freeman, they are all equal in this: that the Holy Spirit rests upon them in accordance with their deeds!  Midrash, Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 10
Native American Wisdom
It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace.  Shenandoah
Without good deeds heaven is not attained.  Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Anything evil refrain ye from doing; all good deeds do!  Yin Chih Wên, The Tract of the Quiet Way

No More Charlottesvilles!

Photo Credit: Michael Nigro


At Saturday’s white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, counter-protestors put their lives at risk and stood up to hate. After they chanted, “…No KKK! No fascist USA,” a white supremacist responded, “Too late f — —kers.” My response?

Well sir, I—and the millions like me who stand for respect and inclusion—are here to tell you that you are gravely mistaken. When it comes to fighting for what is right: 

It is NEVER too late.

In fact, I’ll go one step further. I see yesterday as a beginning. No longer can anyone deny that U.S. terrorism is a disease that infects people across race and religion. Plowing a car into an innocent group of people for political ends is terrorism. It is the same heinous act everywhere, whether in Charlottesville by a white man known as a Nazi sympathizer or in London by an ISIS supporter born in the country he attacked.

Charlottesville was terrorism. Plain and simple. And everyone, including our national leaders, must acknowledge and treat it as such.

Together, let’s show those who say it’s too late—that actually—we’re just getting started.

Joyce S. Dubensky

P.S. People from many backgrounds are responsible for terrorism. Look here to better understand it.

P.P.S. White Supremacy is a phenomenon that exists among our fellow citizens. Understand its complexity and how it perpetuates hate here.