Preparing Our Children to be Leaders in the Best Sense of the Word

At this year’s annual gala, Tanenbaum recognized Jordana Jacobs, a teacher at The Hudson School in Hoboken, NJ with the Adam Solomon Award, which was created in recognition of Mr. Solomon’s commitment to excellence and to Tanenbaum before his untimely death.

Jordana has used several of Tanenbaum’s resources in her classroom, including the Park51 curriculum and the Seven Principles for Inclusive Education. Her speech at the gala highlights the critical role educators play in teaching their students to appreciate diversity and replace hatred and prejudice with understanding and respect.

Jordana's speech is reprinted below.  While the written version doesn't include the full passion with which Jordana delivered it, it still rings true in concert with Tanenbaum's work.

Tanenbaum Adam Solomon Award
Presented to Jordana Jacobs
Thank you. It is a tremendous honor to be award by people who do such necessary and beautiful work.
Teachers do more than build knowledge and skills. We foster dispositions. And personally… I need at least seven hours of sleep to model a good disposition.
When I was looking for resources for my class on the web and found Tanenbaum, I met a likeminded friend. A friend bearing gifts, such as the Seven Principles for Inclusive Education. These principles are a guide for encouraging students to honor one another and to hold diversity sacred. If the kids can internalize that and master the whole subject/verb consistency thing—we’re all set.
Unfortunately, the culture of respect we wish to establish in the classroom is not always modeled in our world. I rarely have to search far for a teachable moment—the poor treatment of marginalized people remains ubiquitous. In 2010, alarmed by intolerance surrounding a controversy over an Islamic Cultural Center that was slated for Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from Ground Zero, I developed a unit about it for my seventh grade ethics class. Amid the polemic reporting and angry noise, I found Tanenbaum’s resources on the web, a cool place in the heat. The site gave me more than a fact sheet—it had a page devoted to conflict resolution. Just as splendidly, the emphasis was on how all the parties involved—pro and con– felt about the resolution process as well as the outcome. There is more to winning than winning.
While reading allegories from multiple faiths in my ninth grade English class, one girl confessed that she feared that she was cheating on her religion. She mistook her religion for a team. A team’s goal is to win. What, I asked, is a religion’s goal? Was avoiding learning about others truly the key to religious fidelity?
Educators can push back against the postures of antagonism our children see and, often, mimic. We can work towards replacing this with curiosity and understanding, even love.
How?  We can start with bringing different points of view into our classrooms—we can choose literature and develop projects using the lens of inclusive education. In doing so, we are not just preparing our children to compete in the 21st Century marketplace – we are preparing them to stand as the guardians of marginalized peoples and to model dispositions of understanding and curiosity. We can prepare our children to be leaders in the best sense of the word.

September 12: Standing for Our Future

The truth is, I was really scared about the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  I was afraid that it would not only be a time to remember and mourn, but also a time of vitriol and hate – especially targeting Muslims. 

My friends have told me about what it is like to be Muslim in the US today. Each of them is a successful professional with a family and good job, and warm, friendly social life.  But the mothers worry about when their children will realize that Osama bin Laden said he was a Muslim (really, an extremist).  They worry how they will learn about 9/11, and what their friends will say to them.  One friend parked next to an elderly white couple at a fancy mall. They looked at him funny, so he turned back after entering the mall, just to check.  Next thing he knew, his car was keyed, and the elderly couple was gone.

So, I was scared about 9/11 this year.  But Tanenbaum is founding member of Prepare New York, the group of wonderful organizations that pooled their efforts to make sure that division would not occur. 
One of the things we did was Ribbons of Hope. There are12 panels to represent September 12th – the new day, after 9/11.  A new day for new beginnings.  We had ribbons of different sizes, colors and widths, and people wrote messages and tied them to the panels. The panels were in the shape of the World Trade Center, but the symbolism of hope overtook that reminder, as colors flew from them. 
Over three days, and through the month before, we  got ribbons from people across the globe.  We think there will be 20,000 on when the final shipments come in.  Every panel is full of ribbons with personal messages of remembrance and hope.  They’re pretty, yes, but even moreso, the words are powerful.  So many in different languages talking about peace.  So many languages – one woman told me she wrote her message in Japanese and in English.  Another wrote in Russian, another is Spanish, French, Korean, Norwegian…   
I was there for a lot of the day on Sunday.  The people who came were somber.  Many passersby stopped and joined us by writing a message.  One man, with his adult children, so moved me that I thought I would burst.  I asked him if he would join us in a message from his heart, a message of hope.  “I suspect you could convince me,” he said.  And that was when I realized he was wearing a worn tee shirt with a photograph of a woman with curly hair.  1949 to September 11, 2001, it said.  And her name.  I looked at him, and told him how sorry I was.  He took the ribbon and the pen.
And I walked away, and cried.  Again.  The only difference was this time, I also had hope.  Because I felt like he was with me, standing for our future. 


Internationalizing Peacemakers’ Work

Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action continue to build the case that religiously-motivated individuals play a necessary role in resolving conflicts around the world, and are increasingly called on to bring their expertise to the world’s emerging conflicts. Take for example, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, a Christian/Muslim team of Peacemakers recognized by Tanenbaum in 2000 for their conflict prevention, mitigation, and mediation work between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. Since that time, the two have become sought-after mediators, trainers, and speakers around the world, and have taken their interfaith conflict resolution work to the Sudan and Kenya.

As inflammatory rhetoric and clashes between Christians and Muslims in Egypt escalate, the work of these two Peacemakers and their Interfaith Mediation Centre are seen as a potential palliative. Recognizing this, The Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation (CIDT) has called on the Pastor and the Imam to lead workshops on conflict analysis, conflict mapping, and early response systems in Egypt.

Tanenbaum is glad to see that others in the world are beginning to recognize the ability of religiously-motivated individuals to stem conflict and violence. We wish Imam Ashafa and Pastor James the best of luck in this new and important endeavor.

Join Prepare New York Tomorrow on Twitter!

Think you need to be in the tri-state area to participate in one of Prepare New York's CoffeeHour Conversations? Thank again!

Join us tomorrow at 2PM for a Twitter CoffeeHour Conversation! Moderated by the Prepare New York team, the topic will be, "Are Muslims Welcome in America?"

To participate, first follow Prepare New York on Twitter, and then tune in to Twiter tomorrow afternoon to join in the conversation. Use the hashtag "#PrepareNY" so that others following the conversation can see your comments.

We'll be there, and hope you will too!

Fourth Peacemakers In Action Working Retreat: This August at Drew University

We are pleased to announce that Tanenbaum will host its fourth Peacemakers in Action Working Retreat from August 6-12, 2011. Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers will convene over five days at Drew University’s serene campus in New Jersey to participate in collaborative trainings, community-building and outreach. The Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict at the University, where Peacemaker Yehezkel Landau is a Senior Fellow, will assist in preparations for the event.

Past retreats have been held in 2004 (Amaan), 2005 (New York), and 2007 (Sarajevo). Tanenbaum’s Working Retreats have been established to convene Peacemakers and facilitate the exchange of information between them in a series of formal and informal settings. This creates a forum where they can discuss and assess themes, techniques and effective strategies in religious peacemaking. The Working Retreats further enable us to draw attention to the field of religious peacemaking and increase recognition of the significance of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action award.
The Peacemakers not only use the Working Retreats as skills-building opportunities but they also become reinvigorated by spending time together. Peacemaker Canon Andrew White, who is working in Iraq, stated:
“We thank God, literally, for the role that Tanenbaum has played in bringing together various Peacemakers in Action. We suddenly find we have so much in common. And our peacemaking activities are never easy. They always involve pain and suffering and brokenness, but we never lose our hope. One of the reasons we never lose our hope is because we are not alone in this. And we come together to seek the future for a broken world, that one day it may be healed.”
Participants observed the power of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers as a group of individuals to create change during the third Working Retreat in Sarajevo. As a result, the retreat concluded with a unanimous commitment to develop and implement a solid international network of peacemakers that is mobilized and reliable. This vision is now formally known as the Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Network.
Since that time a group of three Peacemaker representatives have worked with Tanenbaum staff to realize this vision by developing a structure and recommending parameters together. During our upcoming retreat the Peacemakers to reach consensus on the structure and functions of The Network thereby finalizing a plan to implement and officially launch the Peacemakers in Action Network.
We further hope to raise awareness about the Peacemakers and their work among general audiences in New York and New Jersey, as well as to leaders in the field of religion and conflict resolution and peacebuilding. For example, Drew University’s Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict will organize an event for students, teachers and the general public, featuring the Peacemakers.

This is a unique opportunity for Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers to spend time with their peers, make connections and to grow in fellowship with the Tanenbaum community. We are excited to once again be able to work with the Peacemakers to further the field of religious peacemaking.

Celebrating Golden Rule Day

A message on the occasion of the celebration of the Golden Rule Day on April 5th, 2011 from Ambassador Mussie Hailu, Board Chairman of the Interfaith Peace-building Initiative and Regional Director of United Religions Initiative for Africa…

Dear Fellow Citizens of the World,
On the occasion of the celebration of the Golden Rule Day on April 5th it is indeed my great honor and pleasure to send you greetings of peace and best wishes on behalf of Interfaith Peace-building Initiative (IPI) and United Religions Initiative (URI) Africa Region
The GOLDEN RULE which says “TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED” is the most prevalent and universal moral principle which is accepted and embraced throughout the world and for thousands of years it has been affirmed in many religions, traditions, indigenous cultures and secular philosophies as a fundamental principle of life and the foundation on which a global ethic is founded. Its message is simple, universal and powerful.
The GOLDEN RULE is also the best tool to educate people about respect, compassion and mutual esteem in order to achieve peaceful coexistence and solidarity among members of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions and it plays a major role to build right human relationship, and to promote the culture of dialogue so that understanding and trust may develop among individuals and peoples as these are the conditions of authentic peace
With this core and strong believe Interfaith Peace-building Initiative of Ethiopia in 2007 proclaim April 5th as Golden Rule Day and call upon all Heads of States, United Nations, The African Union, The European Union, the League of Arab States, Religious Leaders, Mayors, Higher Learning Institution, Schools, the business community, Interfaith Organizations and Civil Societies to join IPI in proclaiming the Golden Rule Day and to live according to its teaching to make this world a better place for this generation and generation yet to come. In response to this call Religions Leaders, Mayors and different organizations in over 90 countries joined us in proclaiming the Golden Rule Day and many organizations are joining us on a daily base. Currently we are working the Golden Rule Day to be celebrated throughout the world and the General Assemble of the United Nations to pass a resolution on the Golden Rule Day.
Since 2007 every year IPI is also honoring individuals and organizations as Goodwill Ambassadors of the Golden Rule and Present the Golden Rule Medal.
We strongly believe that the Golden Rule will help to build World Interfaith Harmony, Alliance of Civilizations and  more trust, understanding, harmony and respect among followers of different religions and will create the opportunity for them to come together to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust among peoples of different religions.
Therefore on the occasion of the Golden Rule Day we ask different organizations to proclaim the Golden Rule Day and to promote its teaching as one practical action to create a better world for all
On this Golden Rule Day I want to extend my appreciation, acknowledgment and thanks to all individuals and many organizations in the world who are working hard to promote the Golden Rule, Compassion, Interfaith harmony and a culture of peace
Interfaith Peace-building Initiative a URI member organization in Ethiopia is a Peace organization based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which is working to promote the teaching of the Golden Rule, a culture of peace, interfaith harmony, and constructive dialogue among different religions and cultures. URI is a global interfaith peace organization with Special Consultative status with Economic and Social council of the United Nations. Its purpose is to promote enduring daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.
May Peace and the Golden Rule Prevail on Earth


Musings from the Multicultural Forum

From our EVP and CEO, Joyce Dubensky:

I had the opportunity yesterday morning to open one of the largest conferences dealing with workplaces and how they respond to the diversity of their employees and customers.  The Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity draws 100s of people (over 700) from all across the country.  People who are leaders in the D&I (diversity and inclusion) movement.  People who know that a good business is good for its employees as well as its customers and the bottom line.  

There had to be 400 or more people who were in the ballroom when I got up to speak.  Frankly, I was excited.  Because this was an opportunity to talk about a dimension of the D&I movement that doesn’t get the attention it needs – – religious diversity (including those who are believers and non-believers) in the workplace.  It was powerful to talk about the more hidden ways that people get marginalized – for example, when company cafeterias don’t routinely offer halal, kosher and vegetarian meals so that anyone in the company – no matter their belief – can use it.
After I spoke, we had a great panel.  As we talked (and laughed), we covered better practices and the challenges of addressing religion. Walter Hurdle from Merck was terrific and talked about Merck’s Interfaith Global Constituency Group, and its Interfaith ERG, and how they include everyone. Frank McCloskey, a member of Tanenbaum’s Advisory Council, spoke about his experiences at Georgia Power, where he once had to talk with a manager whose faith did not permit celebrating birthdays even though this was part of the team-building responsibilities of his job. Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum’s very own Director of Programs, was the third panelist.  I asked all of them to talk about their own companies and Mark talked about Tanenbaum.  I’ll reveal nothing more, except to say, he made the point that small organizations and not just global companies can have progressive practices of inclusion around religion (like bringing a kosher cake for all birthday celebrations – because one of our staff keeps kosher!)


Save The Date(s)! Religious Diversity in the Workplace

Spring has sprung for Tanenbaum’s Religious Diversity in the Workplace program – and we’re on the move! We’ll be in Jacksonville, FL, Minneapolis, MN, Las Vegas, NV and of course – our home base in New York.  

Just last week, Tanenbaum kicked off a series of workshop trainings for managers at Blue Cross Blue Shield – Florida, in Jacksonville, FL. We look forward to returning several times through July to continue our trainings on the topic of successfully managing religious diversity at work.
Next week, we’ll be headed to Minneapolis, MN to present at the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity, which is quickly becoming a “can’t miss” conference for HR, Diversity and Talent Acquisition professionals.  Tanenbaum kicks off the forum with a keynote plenary panel, entitled “Taking the Road Less Traveled: Religious Diversity as a Route to Integration.” The session will critically examine whether a company is truly “integrated” in their approach to diversity and inclusion from the perspective of policies, HR and managerial training, as well as employees’ experiences. In addition, we will be delivering a 90 minute workshop  entitled “Danger! Managing Religious Diversity at Work.” The session will address how religious ignorance and bias can show up in the workplace, and provide attendees with the opportunity to practice concrete managerial skills.  
Representatives of our Religious Diversity in the Workplace program will then head back home to New York state, with presentations at the Ivy Plus Diversity Conference hosted by Columbia University on March 31st, and in Ithaca, NY on June 9th for the 2011 Tompkins County Diversity Consortium.
Tanenbaum’s Religious Diversity in the Workplace program is also proud to announce that we have been selected to present at the 2011 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas, NV which will take place June 26-29. The panel presentation is designed to explore and acknowledge Muslim experiences in the workplace and how to successfully address religious diversity from the perspective of policy and accommodation.
For better or worse, religious identity is showing up more everyday in workplaces – and we welcome these opportunities to reach diverse audiences, share our better practices, and of course to learn from the HR and Diversity practitioners, managers, and employees that we work with along the way.


Times Square Rally Demonstrating Interfaith Solidarity

From our friends at the Interfaith Center of New York, Intersections, Auburn Seminary and others: A rally in solidarity against the King hearings.

Times Square Rally Demonstrating Interfaith Solidarity
Community Leaders, Local Officials, and Religious Leaders Protest the Targeting of American Muslims and Arabs in Upcoming Congressional Hearings
New York – On Sunday March 6, 2011, a broad coalition of over 75 interfaith, nonprofit, governmental, and civil liberties groups will rally in support of equitable civil rights for all Americans. 
This coalition has been formed in response to upcoming Congressional hearings led by Peter King (R-LI) which slight the civil rights of Muslim and Arab Americans.  Mr. King and his chosen expert witness Zuhdi Jazzer share a history of repeating incorrect and distorted views of the Muslim and Arab communities of the United States, engendering divisions and perpetuating stereotypes.  As invested Americans, Coalition members acknowledge the important work of the Congressional Committee on Homeland Security. However, they are concerned that the hearings will send the wrong message and alienate American Muslims instead of partnering with them, potentially putting their lives at risk by inciting fear and enmity against them.  Organizers of this rally believe one can be a loyal Muslim as well as a loyal American without conflict, and a great number of our fellow Americans support this view,
On 1 February 2011, various groups joined together to send a letter to House Majority and Minority Leaders John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, protesting the bias evident in King’s hearings.  Hundreds of civil liberties groups have signed letters opposing the hearings as they are currently planned, including a petition circulated by Faith in Public Life.
Many leading religious leaders are alarmed at the demonization of an entire community. Rabbi Burt Visotsky has said the proposed hearings “are of deep concern” and that he would not “like it any more than if Congress were to investigate the Jewish community for dual loyalty with Israel; it’s inappropriate.  Terrorism is real, and some terrorists are Muslim and some are not.  When he (King) makes it sound like terrorism is a tenet of Islam, that is wrong.”  Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) has suggested that the hearings should be “broadened in such a way that other ethnic communities and faith communities can attest to the tremendous contribution and solidarity that American Muslims have for our country.”
In the spirit of such statements, the rally is centered around the slogan “Today, I Am a Muslim, Too” where Muslim and non-Muslim alike will join in solidarity and compassion.  Rally-goers will stand together against bigotry caused by anxiety, misinformation, and ignorance, to show Congress a united American community which seeks to strengthen – not dilute – our bonds of friendship and trust.  
Scheduled to speak at the rally thus far are: Russell Simmons, Rabbi Marc Schneier (FFEU), Imam Shamsi Ali (Islamic Cultural Center), Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (Cordoba Initiative), Rev. Bob Chase (Intersections), Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein (Central Synagogue), Katherine Henderson (Auburn Theological Seminary), Rev. Chloe Breyer (Interfaith Center of New York), Bawa Jain (The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, United Nations), Rev. Amandus J. Derr (St. Peter's Church), and many other religious, community, and political leaders.  There will also be a performance by Junoon’s UN goodwill ambassador, Salman Ahmad.


Celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week

On October 15, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring the first week of February each year to be World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The resolution “encourages all States to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world's churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one's neighbour or on love of the good and love of one's neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions” (Read the full text here).

The resolution was sponsored by His Majesty King Abdullah II and HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, long-time advocates for interreligious peace. Both were involved with “A Common Word”, an open letter composed by a group of Muslim scholars from all over the world and all schools of Muslim thought. The document draws from both the Bible and the Qur’an to define the common ground between Islam and Christianity and provide a sound theological resource for those who work in interfaith dialogue.

World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) represents a maturation of that project. It is a broad call to people from all religious backgrounds, or no religious affiliation at all, to engage with one another in respectful ways in order to promote harmonious coexistence. It provides an opportunity for groups working toward similar goals to collaborate and take collective action, and, as an annual event, will continue to build momentum each year.

Its first year kicks off this week, February 1-7, and it has already prompted and outpouring of support from religious leaders, NGOs, scholars, and regular people seeking a world free from religious strife. Their voices have come from all corners of the globe, and from all faiths. You can read their letters of support, including one from Tanenbaum, on the WIHW website. You can submit your own letter as well.

The website also lists events running during the Week, ranging from lectures and film screenings to breakfasts and prayer meetings. Events are happening all over the world and all across the United States. Check the listings to find one near you, or register your own event if you’ve got something in the works.

Players on the world stage have also taken action. Leaders from the European People’s Party, including many heads of state, signed on to a “Declaration of Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue” in December, giving their support to World Interfaith Harmony Week and defining an atmosphere for interreligious respect in the European Union. In China, the leaders of five national religious associations, encompassing Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics, and other Christians, issued a “Joint Declaration on Promoting Religious Harmony”. The declaration pledges efforts to increase communication between members of China’s different religions in order to reduce prejudice and discrimination.

Tanenbaum, in keeping with our efforts to provide practical tools to advance interreligious understanding, has created a set of Clergy Speaking Points, available for download from our website. The Speaking Points serve as a guide for religious leaders to broach the topic of interfaith harmony as they speak to congregations in their mosques, churches, temples, and other places of worship this week. They grew out of the UN Resolution and Tanenbaum’s Shared Visions project, which uses holy texts from many religions to highlight the common values between them, including charity, forgiveness, peacemaking, and the Golden Rule.

Initiatives like World Interfaith Harmony Week are also important in supporting the activities of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action. These individuals have been living the spirit of WIFH throughout their many years of work in armed conflict zones, where religion is so often co-opted to fuel violence. WIHW serves to promote the work of those like Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, reconciling Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, and Najeeba Sirhan, bringing Arab and Jewish students together in Israel. Recognition and affirmation of their work on the international level provides them with credibility in their communities, encouraging participation in interfaith activities and discouraging would-be antagonists. We hope that WIHW and similar initiatives will bring our Peacemakers closer to achieving their goals and bringing peace to their communities.