Guest blog post by Caroline Turner, School Counselor and Respect For All Liaison at MS 890
The new middle school in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, known as MS 890, is taking the initiative to understand differences in a diverse neighborhood. In conjunction with the 6th Grade Social Studies curriculum, we have been exploring the question: “What role do belief systems play in society?” We have been learning about world religions and how they have affected world history. One focus is on comparing similarities and differences across the spectrum of belief systems and the influences different belief systems have on cultural practices and current events.
To expand on student learning, Joseph Sixta, a 6th grade Social Studies teacher at MS 890, suggested that we visit religious sites before the curriculum starts to learn how religion is practiced in New York City and specifically in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Students at MS 890 come from religiously, culturally, and economically diverse backgrounds and we wanted to hear from diverse religious leaders to get some first-hand basic understanding. We emphasized on the field trip form and in the parent chaperone orientation that the purpose of the visits was to continue to embrace diversity, inclusion, and understanding and not to promote any religious affiliation. A goal was to reduce prejudice towards different religious practices. We recruited 19 volunteer parent chaperones from a sixth grade class of 90 students.
We decided that starting with three monotheistic sites would be easiest for both student learning and adult logistics. Luckily we live in New York, so we had many different sites to reach out to. The three sites included an Islamic center, a Protestant church, and a Reform Jewish temple, all within a mile of MS 890. With the recent Solidarity March against Anti-Semitism and the escalating conflicts in the Middle East, our field trips were timely and poignant.
In preparing for the visit to the Reform Jewish Temple, our students asked questions such as: “Are we going to be safe?” and “Is it going to canceled?” after the recent escalation in Iran. We discussed the questions, which triggered teachable moments and underscored the educational value in making the visits. At the temple, students wanted to know why they had so many security cameras. Other students wanted to know how they kept the yarmulke on their heads. Cantor Snyder described how Judaism is both a religion and ethnicity and this led to conversations around the recent anti-Semitic attacks. The Cantor said that after each attack, attendance at services increases in a show of solidarity. He then mentioned that his mother asked him not to wear his yarmulke in public because of the anti-Semitic attacks. This comment resonated with some of the student’s fears of safety while visiting the temple.
At the Islamic center, students complained when they were asked to remove their shoes, but they rebounded when they were greeted warmly and treated to donuts. Imam Saud spoke about his diverse upbringing in Bosnia, Germany and Saudi Arabia. His childhood experiences led him to an appreciation of all religious viewpoints, not just his own. Students asked about the clothing worn by practicing Muslims, and about “the women who wear all black and all I can see is their eyes?” Other students asked questions about halal meat, and many asked about Ramadan and Eid.
At the Congregational church, one student asked: “what was it like growing up in your spiritual or religious background?” Reverend Tilliard described his upbringing in various black Christian churches and conversion to Islam in his early adulthood. Much of his faith intersected with advocacy work around racial inequalities at the time. He eventually returned and was ordained in the Christian faith. The pastor described the influence of the church in various racial equity movements in the United States and referenced the Old Testament story of the Israelites rising up against slavery in Egypt as an inspiration.
The majority of the students participated in asking questions of various hosts. Prior to our visits, the various houses of worship seemed shrouded in mystery and may have given some students a sense of discomfort or perhaps fear of the unknown. Visiting the sites allowed the students to gain a better understanding of the three religions and their common goals. It also opened up conversations between and among the students when asking about their peers’ different clothing, customs and beliefs. While the intended audience for learning was the MS 890 middle school students, all of the adults also had an appreciation for the learning experience in a realm that sometimes divides us but is seldom formally discussed in middle school.
To culminate the world history curriculum, our students will participate in a panel discussion with Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu leaders, and we are open to all others. Our guest speakers answer pre-determined questions such as: “Can you describe your unique experiences of growing up in your religious community?” “As an adult, what motivated you to do the work you are doing now?” “What is the biggest misconception about your religion that you want to correct?” Each guest speaker was briefed on First Amendment rules in the context of public education. Most of the guest speakers had been selected from higher education sources or through local interfaith organizations to ensure that they are well-versed in this interfaith format. We look forward to continuing to allow our students to grow and ask questions to prepare them to be global citizens.
Guest blog post by Caroline Turner, School Counselor and Respect For All Liaison at MS 890
We are extremely excited to honor Marcy Syms as Tanenbaum’s 2020 Philanthropic Bridge Builder.
An exceptional advocate for learning, Marcy’s personal support of Tanenbaum’s education program – coupled with grants from the Sy Syms Foundation – spans more than 25 years. Most recently, Marcy and the Sy Syms Foundation were integral to making Tanenbaum’s innovative K–6 curriculum Religions in My Neighborhood, free and available for any educator.
Because of her commitment to, and belief in our work, Religions in My Neighborhood now gives educators structured lessons in building respectful classrooms to counter bullying and encourage understanding across religious differences. So far, educators and advocates serving more than 43,000 students have downloaded the curriculum to teach young people respect for differences.
In addition to her passion for education, Marcy’s dedication to equal rights, women’s rights, public radio, and science and the arts, has made her an exceptional philanthropic leader.
Please join us on May 27th as we honor Marcy, Tanenbaum’s 2020 Philanthropic Bridge Builder Award recipient, at our Gala, live-streamed from New York!
To purchase tickets, ads or make a donation, click here. We look forward to sharing this exciting event with you!
For 17 years, I have paused on this day to remember the traumatic events of 9/11—and the nearly 3,000 victims from a vast array of religions and beliefs who we lost that day.
9/11 is a marked day for our nation. But it’s also an opportunity to reflect on what has happened since that tragic day. Like the overwhelming spread of disinformation and the embedding of deeply rooted stereotypes that breed hate, division and injustice.
As Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly stated:
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
On this solemn anniversary, we invite you to take another look at our September 11 Fact Sheet, updated last year. It reminds us not only to feel intensively on 9/11—but also to think intensively and critically.
To download the press release, please click here.
Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding named 2018 Nissan Foundation Grant Recipient
- Nissan Foundation grant to fund “Combating Extremism and Promoting Respect: A Public Education Campaign” aimed at promoting critical thinking, conversation and reflection to address religious-based fear, misinformation and prejudice.
- In 26th year, Nissan Foundation maintains its singular focus on recognizing nonprofits promoting
respect among racial and cultural groups
New York, NY, July, 2018: The Nissan Foundation today named the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding as a 2018 grant recipient. The Nissan Foundation grant will help fund partnership building efforts to expand the campaign’s reach, including a public panel featuring experts and former members of extremist groups, as well as six new resources that counter extremist rhetoric, and promote connection, critical thinking and understanding for the diversity within our communities.
“We are grateful to the Nissan Foundation for supporting our Campaign to counter fear and misinformation with knowledge that fosters respect for difference,” said Mark Fowler, Deputy CEO of Tanenbaum, “This grant will help us build new partnerships and opportunities to extend the campaign’s reach and impact.”
The Nissan Foundation’s 2018 grantees include 29 nonprofit organizations located in Southern California, North Central Texas, Middle Tennessee, Central Mississippi, Eastern Michigan and the New York and Atlanta metro areas. In total, the Nissan Foundation is awarding grants amounting to $730,000.
In 1992, Nissan North America formed the Nissan Foundation in response to the civil unrest that occurred near Nissan’s then U.S. headquarters in Southern California following the Rodney King trial verdict. Every year since, the Nissan Foundation has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that offer educational programs that inform, inspire and celebrate diversity among the various cultural and ethnic groups that make up society.
Over its 26-year history, the Nissan Foundation has awarded more than $10 million to approximately 120 organizations promoting respect and understanding among cultural and ethnic groups.
“It is a privilege to recognize the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding with a Nissan Foundation grant for the work it is doing to promote the value of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity,” said Nissan Foundation President Scott Becker, who is also senior vice president, Administration, Nissan North America, Inc. “The Nissan Foundation has a proud history of recognizing and supporting organizations making a real impact in this regard.”
The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, founded 25 years ago and based in Lower Manhattan, offers programs and resources providing educators, physicians and corporate leaders with practical tools for addressing religious differences and creating cultures that respect religious diversity. It was founded in
1992 by Dr. Georgette F. Bennett, in memory of her late husband, Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, a humanitarian interfaith leader.
Since September 2015, Tanenbaum has been responding to the further escalation of Islamophobia and other forms of hate that marginalizes religious communities in New York and beyond. Through a public education campaign called Combating Extremism, Tanenbaum creates and disseminates public education materials that address fear, misinformation and prejudice. These monthly materials provide thought-provoking resources to counter divisive rhetoric, promote critical thinking and spread greater appreciation and understanding of our shared values amid diverse religious (and nonreligious) beliefs.
Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum’s Deputy CEO added, “The Nissan Foundation has been a valuable partner in our work to create spaces in our communities for mutual respect and understanding. We are thankful for their continued support.”
Call for 2019 grant applicants
The Nissan Foundation will begin accepting letters of intent for the 2019 grant cycle in October with a submission deadline of Friday, Oct. 26. Nissan Foundation grants are awarded annually; the next grants will be awarded in June 2019.
For more information about the Nissan Foundation and its application process, visit the Nissan Foundation page at https://goo.gl/e3hkuf.
About the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding
Based in New York City, Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that promotes mutual respect with practical programs that bridge religious difference and combat prejudice in schools, workplaces, health care settings, and conflict zones. More information about Tanenbaum’s offerings can be found here: https://tanenbaum.org/.
About the Nissan Foundation
Established in 1992, the mission of the Nissan Foundation is to build community through valuing cultural diversity. The Nissan Foundation is part of Nissan North America’s commitment to “enrich people’s lives” by helping to meet the needs of communities throughout the U.S. through philanthropic investments, corporate outreach sponsorships, in-kind donations and other charitable contributions.
About Nissan North America
In North America, Nissan’s operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program and has been recognized annually by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year since 2010. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at www.NissanUSA.com and www.InfinitiUSA.com, or visit the U.S. media sites NissanNews.com and InfinitiNews.com.
Our webinar series, Religion, Social Studies and You is now available for free access on our YouTube Channel!
This four-part webinar series will focus on ways to incorporate inclusive pedagogical approaches for addressing different faith traditions and cultures in the classroom consistent with the First Amendment. Based on Tanenbaum’s* Seven Principles of Inclusive Education and Face to Faith’s Essentials of Dialogue, these webinars help teachers navigate the often difficult terrain of teaching accurately and sensitively about diverse religions and cultures.
Webinar 1: Getting Religion Right in Public Schools – Getting Religion Right in Public Schools
Prepares social studies teachers to address religion and religious diversity in the classroom using the principles of the First Amendment as applied under current law, featuring Charles Haynes, Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center.
Webinar 2: Essentials of Dialogue
Introducing teachers to the Essentials of Dialogue – skills which are crucial as students articulate and share with their peers the meaning and significance of their own identity, culture, values, and traditions, featuring Kristen Looney, Face to Faith.
Webinar 3: Getting More Out of Core – Strategies for Effectively Incorporating Religion into Existing Classroom Content
Promote respect for religious diversity by adapting and expanding upon what you are already teaching, as well as gain more awareness to help overcome potential barriers in addressing the topic of religion in the classroom, featuring Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum*.
Webinar 4: Putting It Into Practice – Classroom Case Studies and Lesson Plans About Religious Diversity
Develop a variety of practical guidelines for the classroom, using examples across grade levels of Common Core-aligned lesson plans, that allow for respectful exploration of religious and cultural differences, featuring Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum*.
* Tanenbaum participated in this webinar series with the generous support of the Nissan Foundation and in partnership with NCSS, the Hindu American Foundation, Face to Faith, and the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center.
And it reminds us that, when we help one another, we create the nation for which we are searching.
Joyce S. Dubensky
SHARED VISIONS | GOOD DEEDS
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
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
As we send out this month’s Combating Extremism campaign materials, we pause to note the attack this week at Ohio State University.
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:
- 7 Principles for Inclusive Education: Tanenbaum’s well-researched and accessible framework to increase equity, decrease exclusion and explore diversity in classrooms.
- 7 Principles Summary Sheet
- We Asked, You Answered: A roundup of answers we received from across the country to the question, “What can the average person do to combat extremism?” From our July 2016 survey to readers (Hint: education), plus resources for getting started.
- Questions for Students and Educators: A question guide for teaching about stereotypes and social justice.
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!”
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!