A Piece for Peace

Peace Made Possible: 2015 Tanenbaum Annual Awards Gala

Thank you to everyone who helped to make the 2015 Tanenbaum Annual Awards Gala the most successful Tanenbaum Gala to date!

The night at the Mandarin Oriental was riveting, and the passion for making peace possible could be felt in the room! Against the backdrop of Central Park and iconic New York City architecture we were gifted with two inspiring speeches by this year’s honorees, Brian Lehrer, Host of The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC and Monika M. Machon, Senior Vice President and Treasurer at AIG, Inc. They each highlighted the difficulties in fostering religious respect and also the great need to endure in the task. From the rhythm and blues of Cover Story to stories of interreligious understanding and your generous donations, the evening was filled with great appreciation and hope.

We are deeply grateful for your support. Thank you!

Extremism and white supremacy – A conversation with Arno Michaelis

We were so happy to host an event at Foa & Son with our friend, Arno Michaelis. Previously affiliated with the white supremacist movement, Arno has now rejected extremist philosophy – and is working with youth to counter the danger that it poses. We were able to have an intimate conversation among a few of our close friends, diving into topics such as: extremist narratives and the conditions in which hatred thrives, addressing extremism across cultures, the utter exhaustion from harboring hatred, and personal transformation.

It was enlightening for many when Arno described a personal moment of clarity. While watching his young daughter playing with children of varied backgrounds at daycare, he realized that the children did not see color. They simply wanted friends to play with. He saw parents lovingly greet their children and he recognized qualities of his relationship with his daughter in them. By being open to new experiences, shared humanity is the antidote to hatred.

To learn more about Arno’s work, visit My Life After Hate.

For high quality photographs, please contact Nicole Margaretten, Communications Manager at nmargaretten(at)


Women PeaceMakers Conference: Defying Extremism

Defying Extremism: Gendered Responses to Religious Violence

Reflecting on the 2014 WomenPeacemakers Conference, Defying Extremism: Gendered Responses to Religious Violence, hosted by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice

(November 19-21, 2014)

The Defying Extremism: Gendered Responses to Religious Violence Conference was a whirlwind. The three full days consisted of narratives, tools, ideas, questions, and some collaborative problem solving.

Situated overlooking San Diego’s sparkling waters, both the bay and the ocean, the Kroc School bustled with conference activities. The picturesque landscape would prove a stark contrast to the gritty realities of the conference content. However, the serious nature of the conference did not leave a gloomy shadow over the days or personal interactions of conference participants, including 49 speakers from over 27 countries.

Instead, the conference topic and subsequent testimonials, panels, and working sessions, all genuinely invigorated the participants. Testimonials, like that of Margaret Arach Orech, Vicky Ibrahim, Arno Michaelis, Maxensia Nakibuuka, and Mubin Shaikh set the scene each day for why we all gathered: to pick up broken pieces and re-build a society or life that was riddled with hate manifested through violent religious extremism. They did not only move forward from traumatic experiences, but had the incredible courage to look back in attempts to fix what is broken in society and garner lessons to share with others. Each testimonial shone as a beacon of hope for the day, as well as genuine and thoughtful reminders that participants had some serious work and thinking to do and share on how to effectively combat religious extremism.

Panels allowed various organizations and individuals to share valuable insights into issues such as “building effective policies,” “gender initiatives,” “analysis of realities behind the headlines,” and talking with extremists. Resounding messages included the integral need for gendered responses: the involvement of women’s voices at all levels of defying extremism, including at the policy level, organizational level, national, regional, and local levels, grassroots levels, etc. One panelist spoke of a humbling reminder: women are often the first targets of extremist violence, and should be, seemingly obviously, included in discussions and policies that counteract extremist violence. Additionally, women often see the first signs of extremist behavior, at home or stirring in society. Women are on the frontlines and have unique access and insight that should be heeded in order to defy extremism.

Another resounding message included social media. Over and over again, participants heard examples of religious extremists, particularly ISIS and Boko Haram, using social media to recruit for the respective “causes.” Potential recruits are lured in by multiple factors, one of which is money, which feeds into the next message, the need for economic opportunities and sources of income for people in conflict situations. Youth and the unemployed populations may join ISIS or Boko Haram for a source of income.

Defying violent religious extremism is multifaceted and multilayered and requires equally complex and individual responses. Overall, there is a need to understand the different dynamics involved in extremism and not place blame solely on one group or factor.

The panels were rich in content and context and sought to provide innovative ways of addressing violent religious extremism and how to robustly incorporate women’s voices into the common narrative of defying extremism. Workshops provided a unique opportunity to deeply discuss pointed issues and topics. Since participants came from diverse perspectives, a purposeful decision made by the Institute for Peace and Justice conference coordinators, workshop presentations and discussions for problem solving, or further nuance, brought varied approaches that allowed respectful debate and further probing of topics like LGBT and Gender Inequality: Developing Gay-Straight Alliances to Counter Extremism, Development of the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, and Fostering Synergies for Advancing Women’s Rights in Post-Conflict Islamic States.

Equally important were the conversations at breakfast, between conference sessions, and after the day. On the last morning of the conference, I shared breakfast with Maxensia from Uganda, Angeline from Jamaica, Margaret from Uganda, and a few other women. They work in different issues, different areas, and at varying levels of society. But, their shared outlook on always having hope truly humbled me. These three women working at different levels are peacemakers and embody all that I learn about in the classroom, including all of the horrifying realities, but they assured all of us at the table that if they wake up in the morning, there is always hope.

And, perhaps that was a takeaway from the conference: building networks of not just like-minded people doing similar work, but networks of diverse voices facing extremism, all of whom vigorously believe in and truly embody HOPE. And, amid all of the work that needs to be done to defy religious extremism, courageous men and women come together to thoughtfully and intensely work to find answers.

-Janie Dumbleton, Master’s Candidate in Peace and Justice Studies at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc School for Peace Studies

Who’s watching the spiral of hate?

Who’s watching the spiral of hate?

For those of us who care about acknowledging the humanity in each person- these are dark days.

The Middle East is in flames. Religious practices across Asia and Southeast Asia are being snuffed out – from Christians and Falun Gong practitioners in China to Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist majority Myanmar. Christians are desperately fleeing their homes in northern Iraq. We object to this senseless hatred wherever it is found. And now, we see virulent anti-Semitism in Europe that horrifies us.

If you’re watching, you can see the anti-Semitic anger cutting across Europe as protestors respond to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. While we would always support the right to peacefully protest and express one’s views on the tragedy that is the Middle East, we still have to ask – Why are so many of the current protests devolving into hate, violence and, specifically, targeting hatred toward Jewish people?

At Tanenbaum, we condemn the violence that we see all around us – in the Middle East, in Africa and Asia. And that includes the violence that is threatening European communities, leaving many Jews fearing for their future. Frighteningly, what we are seeing in France and Germany is the tip of an iceberg. Data shows that anti-Semitism is a worldwide illness that has risen over the last 25 years.

As we watch the news unfold, we must pay attention to the violence being perpetrated in the name of religion and as a form of hatred for individuals of particular traditions. In addition to headlines that make us all so sorrowful, we must also make it a point to witness the harm that is not reaching the headlines. And that includes attacks toward Jews just walking on the street to synagogues being set aflame.

As we watch the spiral of hate seemingly spin out of control, we at Tanenbaum recommit ourselves to promoting and practicing respect – for all people. It’s time to end the spiral of violence.  And we all have to be part of the solution.

In Friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky

Tanenbaum names 2014 Inaugural Corporate Leaders for Inclusion

Tanenbaum honors corporations for breaking new ground in workplace diversity by making their workplaces more accommodating for employees of all — and no — religious beliefs.

This week at our Annual Awards Gala, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding announced its inaugural Corporate Leaders for Inclusion. CLI commends six corporations for breaking new ground in workplace diversity and inclusion.

“Nearly one in three Americans say that religious discrimination is a real problem in their workplaces,” said Joyce S. Dubensky, Tanenbaum CEO. “When employees report religious discrimination to a manager, one third say that their company did nothing. This is why it is so important to honor the companies that proactively combat workplace religious discrimination. At Tanenbaum, we want to recognize that this can mean breaking new ground to build a global workplace. And we applaud those who are taking the lead.”

The 2014 honorees are Bloomberg, Citi, DTCC, EmblemHealth, Korn Ferry and Walmart.

The invitation-only honor recognizes leaders among their peers: companies at the cutting edge of making their workplaces more accommodating for employees of all —or no — religious beliefs.

“All corporate leaders should be inclusive,” Dubensky added. “Each of our honorees have demonstrated that they have — among other things — made daily life more inclusive for religious and non-believing employees. They’re building a track record and getting proactive about ending religious discrimination in their workplaces. I, for one, am grateful.”

In recognition of these outstanding companies, Tanenbaum named the 2014 Class of Corporate Leaders for Inclusion in the New York Times on June 4, 2014, page A5 (see advertisement).




Spreading the Word About Interfaith Harmony Week

Yesterday, the United States Mission to the United Nations rededicated a mosaic rendering of Norman Rockwell’s depiction of the Golden Rule. This rededication could not have occurred during a more appropriate week: this week is the annual World Interfaith Harmony Week. Four years ago, the UN General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution to recognize the importance of interreligious respect by proclaiming the first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week.

During this week, clergy from all religions and from all regions are asked to address and reflect on the power of interfaith harmony.  As members of the human community, we are all called on to contribute to a global movement that puts interfaith respect into practice and turns a vision for peace into reality. One example of that contribution is New York City Mayor De Blasio announcing a plan to close schools for Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and for the Lunar New Year.

At Tanenbaum, our focus is on usable tools.  We therefore offer speaking points for clergy and other speakers who are ready to stand up and address the importance of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Drawing on the UN Resolution itself, the Golden Rule and Tanenbaum’s Shared Visions project, the speaking points provide a jumping-off point for important conversations about humanity’s interconnectivity.

Tanenbaum also offers Fact sheets, questions and guidelines for educators who want to bring World Interfaith Harmony Week into the classroom. These resources deal with issues of religion and religious diversity in an engaging and integrated way. Download Tanenbaum’s:

We hope you’ll take a moment to read these speaking points, download our education tools, and forward our resources to anyone who might find them useful.  You can also visit the official World Interfaith Harmony Week website and access a calendar of events going on around the world – there’s probably something happening near you!

2013 Tanenbaum Award Ceremony Journal

Click on the journal cover to learn about the honorees and more from the 2013 Tanenbaum Award Ceremony. 

World Peace Wednesdays Begin December 5

Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Video StillStarting Wednesday, December 5, Tanenbaum is launching World Peace Wednesdays, a social media campaign to encourage people around the world to share ideas about how we can achieve world peace.

Follow us on Twitter for hourly tweets featuring quotes, questions, links and more. Like us on Facebook  to keep posted about our weekly World Peace Wednesdays blog that will include videos of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action. Subscribe to Tanenbaum's YouTube channel to be the first to see our World Peace Wednesdays video.

Imagine a more peaceful world that respects difference. We are committed to making that vision a reality—and we would like your help.

Please tell your friends, share with your family and get your social media fans & followers to help us raise awareness and bring the world one step closer to world peace. Click here for a sneak peek of our first World Peace Wednesdays video.


A Tribute to Our Own Visionary

At this year's Award Ceremony, we honored one of our own – our President and Founder, Dr. Georgette F. Bennett – with the first-ever Tanenbaum Visionary Award.

A close friend put together this tribute video for the occasion – three minutes of pure Georgette. We thought you might like to take a look!