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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


SHARED VISIONS | GOOD DEEDS

Baha’i
By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 383
Buddhism
Whoever, by a good deed, covers the evil done, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from clouds.  Dhammapada 173
Christianity
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  Galatians 6:9
Hinduism
The wise see knowledge and action as one; they see truly.  Bhagavad Gita 5.4, 5
Islam
(And) lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings.  Qur’an, 98.7 (Pickthall)
Judaism
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
Sikhism
Without good deeds heaven is not attained.  Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Taoism
Anything evil refrain ye from doing; all good deeds do!  Yin Chih Wên, The Tract of the Quiet Way

What can YOU do about extremism?

Dear Friends,

As we send out this month’s Combating Extremism campaign materials, we pause to note the attack this week at Ohio State University.

The perpetrator was Somali and Muslim. Those are facts. But another fact is that the motive for the incident has not yet been determined. And yet, the profile of the attacker will cause some people to jump to conclusions. To stereotype. We must not only resist this temptation ourselves, but also actively help others avoid doing so. There is yet one more important fact: many terrorist acts in the U.S. are not committed by Muslims, immigrants, or refugees. Rather, a large number are committed by people from other groups—often white supremacists.

It reminds us why, when we asked you what you thought of extremism, you had a lot to say. Including strong opinions about what each of us can do—starting with education.This month’s Combating Extremism materials will help you do exactly that – providing techniques to counter misinformation, stereotypes and the resulting alienation that can fuel extremism … because how we teach can be as important as what we teach, and how we speak can be as important as what we say.

Take a look and let us know what you think:

Please download, share and use our monthly resources. Encourage friends, neighbors, educators and community leaders to sign up to receive our free Combating Extremism materials.

In the words of one survey respondent, “[Extremism] starts with the average person, and it is with the average person it might end. Indeed, what can an average person not do about extremism!”

In solidarity,
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

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!

Five Ways to Counter Extremists on Social Media

Dear Friends,

This year, social media has been filled with signs of activism. From selfies tweeted at rallies, Facebook debates and campaigns for emergency relief, social media is more than just a way to see and be seen.

The numbers are revealing. In 2015, Pew Research Center found that 76% of online, American adults use social media and 92% of U.S. teens go online daily.

While many use social media in positive or benign ways, we’ve watched people use it to promote #hate and harmful rhetoric, recruit would-be terrorists (including vulnerable youth), and spread #lies. In contrast, we’ve also seen standouts such as Peacemakers in Action Fr. Sava Janjic (Kosovo) and Rev. Jacky Manuputty (Indonesia), who use social media for the #greatergood.

This month, Tanenbaum shares five ways that you, a social media user, can counter – and rise above – harmful social media banter. Some ideas include reporting hate speech, joining a hashtag campaign, and providing accurate information in real time. Remember to use social media prudently, and always in ways that keep you safe.

Please take a few minutes to learn ways you can oppose extremism on social media, in just a few clicks! And then share both resources with high school students and educators in your life.

#PromotePeace,
Joyce S. Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

Extreme Prejudice: Live Webinar on Tuesday, April 19, 2016

april_webinar-ExtremePrejudice

Extreme Prejudice
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
04:30 PM Central Daylight Time
Duration: 1 Hour

Click here to Register to watch the recording!

Why teach about extremism? Not teaching about it can put students in danger. Lack of education about religious diversity has left students—particularly Muslim and Sikh students—vulnerable to bias and bullying by classmates and teachers who don’t understand the full context of religious extremism. This hostility can make it difficult for students to learn and even puts their physical safety in jeopardy. Expanding your students’ knowledge of world religions—and the diversity that exists within them—is critical to combating these dangerous stereotypes and fostering empathy in the school community.

Join us and our friends from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding for this one-hour webinar, and learn try-tomorrow strategies that can help you teach about extremism accurately and safely, such as discussing extremism across multiple religions, examining the economic and political contexts in which extremism arises, highlighting religious peacemakers and empowering your students to make their school more inclusive.

You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you finish this webinar!

Promote Cultural Literacy & Respect for Differences at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan!

Zanzibar exhibit Anomie Photography 03 At the exhibition – America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far
Photo: Aoommie Photography

Dear Educators,

If you teach in the New York metropolitan area, we hope you will check out the new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan: America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. Tanenbaum is pleased to recommend this immersive, interactive exhibit, which gives children of all ages the opportunity to explore the great diversity of Muslim cultural and artistic expression.

To help you get the most out of America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, we’re proud to offer free, downloadable resources that can be used in conjunction with the exhibit to deepen elementary school students’ understanding of Islam and other religions:

Exploring Beliefs about Religious Differences
Rituals and Traditions about Light: Hopefulness and Waiting
Recommended Reading for Preschool & Elementary Students

Finally, we’re excited to extend an invitation from the Children’s Museum to a special event at the exhibit:


    Educators, join us for a free anti-bullying workshop on Monday, May 2nd!Print

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is pleased to invite you to a free educational, interfaith program facilitated by The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom on Monday, May 2nd from 4pm-6pm.
(Registration begins at 3:30pm.)

This special workshop will take place in our new exhibit, America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. Facilitator Dr. Nadia S. Ansary will share the tools to help you identify, address, and prevent bias-based bullying or persistent peer victimization based on one’s appearance, perceived identity, culture, race, ethnicity and/or religion.

Click here to learn more and RSVPZanzibar exhibit Anomie Photography 02
Free entry to the Children’s Museum and light refreshments are included!

*Space is limited to 50 participants and participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis. RSVP is required by April 15.*

 

All photos: Aoommie Photography

Combating Extremism: Reasons for Hope in Dark Days

Dear Friends,

People often ask me what can be done to prevent and stop violent extremism.

In our recent survey, people from across the world shared their answer. Overwhelmingly, they believe that education is the antidote to fear and prejudice. The message was loud and clear: religious understanding is essential to ending acts of hatred, large and small.

With that in mind and in honor of Women’s History Month, I’m excited to bring you Tanenbaum’s March Combating Extremism materials, which highlight women who are making history – today!

  • Women Who Pursue Peace and Justice: A resource sheet highlighting the efforts of religiously driven women in armed conflicts and women-centered programs that counter violent extremism (CVE).

As you’ll see, we focus on women peace activists who are religiously motivated. They are unsung heroines who work to counter and prevent extremism. While women across the globe are doing this urgent and admirable work, this resource highlights a few who have been recognized by Tanenbaum, and also calls attention to other wonderful programs that support women working for peace.

Read, download, and share this month’s resource sheet! Challenge yourself and others to understand the significant accomplishments of these women. And then follow in their footsteps (safely!). Even small acts in your hometown can have big impacts.

Let’s make history – each of us in our own way.

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

P.S. Momentum is increasing – but we need your signature! Sign and share our Peacemaker’s Statement Against Extremism on Change.org

Combat Extremism with January Resources from Tanenbaum

Dear Friends,

I wouldn’t be surprised if your in-boxes – like mine – are still flooded with talk of ISIS, terror, and refugees facing a worsening humanitarian crisis. With this, we see rising fear and exploding acts of hatred and Islamophobia. This is a time for action. We can derail the anti-Muslim violence and hate that’s showing up in schools, at home and in our neighborhoods.

This January, Tanenbaum shares another practical resource for use in daily life, in a classroom or with your congregation.

Read, download, and share! Challenge students and children to ask questions, research the answers, and take action by starting a discussion within your community or family about Islamophobia. Take this to your house of worship and learn more about your neighbors.

Together, let’s work to prevent violent extremism. Peace begins with us.

With great hope for 2016,

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

P.S. Your signature makes a difference! Sign and share our Peacemaker’s Statement Against Extremism.

DONATE here to support our work against extremism and our 2016 intervention in Syria.

Promoting Religious Literacy and Respect for Differences: A Teacher’s Recommendations

An Interview with Chris Murray by Tanenbaum’s Kim Keiserman, Education Program Associate

In today’s multicultural, interconnected world, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of teaching about religious and cultural diversity.  But many teachers express reluctance to address these topics in the classroom, fearing that they may stumble into controversy.

Chris Murray is an educator who is committed to expanding his students’ knowledge of religion and religious diversity.  As a social studies teacher at Walter Johnson High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, he has taught World History for 11 years and an elective course in World Religions for six years.  This year, Chris began planning a week-long, 45-hour course to train other teachers to address religion as part of their curriculum.  The course will be offered to 30 educators in June 2016.

I spoke with Chris in November to find out what motivates him to teach about religion, how he approaches this complex and important subject, and what advice he has for other educators.

KK: How did you become interested in teaching World Religions?   

Chris Murray

Chris Murray, Educator

CM: I first became interested in teaching the course because of my personal interest in religion and its role in history.  I was able touch upon religion in my World History class, but I wanted to spend more time on it–and learn more about it myself.  Once I started teaching the course, I was taken aback by my students’ lack of religious literacy—although they actually scored a bit higher than the national average on the Pew U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz.  I realized that most students had never had a conversation about religion with someone from a faith other than their own.  I wanted to change that.

KK: Briefly describe the content of the course.  What religions do you cover?

CM: When I first started the course, I took a geographical approach.  I started with South Asia and covered Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.  Then I moved on to East Asia and covered Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism.  I ended the course with religions that originated in the Middle East—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i.  Over time, though, I focused less on history and more on the role religion plays in the 21st century.  I try to increase students’ religious literacy by bringing in polls [about current-day religious attitudes] from the Pew Research Center and arranging Skype calls with experts like Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center.

KK: What are your major objectives?

CM: I want students to not only gain a basic understanding of the major world religions, but also to be able to identify misconceptions about them and understand why these misconceptions persist.

KK: What resources do you recommend for other educators?

CM: Tanenbaum’s Seven Principles for Inclusive Education provide a framework for my teaching.  I don’t try to portray myself as an expert; instead I reach out to well-respected scholars within the major world religions.  I try to tap into the great expertise that is available out there.  When I am teaching about Hinduism, for instance, I use resources from the Hindu American Foundation.  When teaching about Sikhism, I go to the Kaur Foundation and the Sikh Campaign.  For Islam I have found good resources at the ACMCU Workshops and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Regardless of the subject area, I think it’s important for teachers to be honest about what they don’t know and willing to seek out great resources.  Right now, I am focused on getting conversations going through Face to Faith [an international video conferencing program that allows students to engage in cross-cultural, interfaith dialogue.]

KK: How do you handle incidents of violence in the name of religion such as the recent attacks carried out by ISIS in Paris?

CM: I want my students to feel safe bringing up questions about religion and extremism.  I want them to be able to express their own misconceptions without being labeled.  With regard to terrorist attacks such as those committed by ISIS, my approach is to help students differentiate between Islam and violent extremism.  My goal is to help them dissect these events and break them down into understandable pieces.  In any discussion of religious extremism, I think it’s important to expose students to the work of religious scholars rather than the rhetoric of politicians.

KK:  How would you handle parental complaints if you ever encountered them? 

CM: I would feel comfortable knowing that I am teaching about religion from an academic perspective, which is not only constitutional, but encouraged by state standards.  I would be able to stand my ground because I have the support of my administration and district.

KK: What would you say to parents in Tennessee, Georgia and elsewhere who have expressed concerns about their children learning about Islam?

CM: I would try to show that I understand the basis of their fears.  I would respond by demonstrating the intention of the course: Building students’ knowledge and understanding of the people in their own communities.  I have taught World Religions to 1,000 or so students, and I have never had one come to me and say that he or she has changed his or her faith due to learning about other faiths.

KK: What is the most important thing for other educators to know about this work? 

CM: First, it’s constitutional [to teach about religion.]  Second, you don’t have to be an expert, as long as you take advantage of the great resources that are out there.  Third, it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you’re continually reflecting and open to change.  For example, as I have learned more about Hinduism, I realize that some of my early teaching on the subject was inaccurate.  My teaching of Hinduism has evolved over time.  Finally, I would emphasize the importance of the subject matter.  We live in a world in which people are affected by religion.  Being knowledgeable about religion is not about personal spiritual growth; it’s about being a good global citizen.


 

We hope this will be the first in a series of interviews with educators who are committed to promoting religious literacy and respect for differences.  Are you a teacher who is working to incorporate lessons about religion and religious diversity into your curriculum?  Contact us at education@tanenbaum.org to share your experiences, insights and favorite resources.  We will pass them along to other educators!

If your students get along better, blame it on Rio!

Dear Educators,
Now’s the time to capitalize on the approaching Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janiero to promote respect for cultural and religious diversity in your learning environment. Join us for the launch of our free World Olympics webinar series on January 21st. For details, please see below or click here.
The first 100 registrants will receive a free printed copy of our World Olympics curriculum! One copy per institution. Click here to register today!
See you there!
World Olympics for All Webinar Flyer
World Olympics for All Webinar Flyer
World Olympics for All Webinar Flyer