Posts

Controversial Conversations

Friends-

Yesterday was #GivingTuesday and we’re thankful—for all of you who made donations. So, to show our appreciation, we’re making today Tanenbaum #GratitudeWednesday. Because, notwithstanding all that plague us, including religious bigotry and hate, there’s much to be grateful for, including a pair of Tanenbaum friends who exemplify how to move beyond hatred to love.

As part of #GratitudeWednesday, we’re sharing some clips and photos of Arno Michaelis, a former White Supremacist, and his Sikh partner for peace, Pardeep Singh Kaleka, taken during one of our recent events, Controversial Conversations. And we thank you, because we can only hold these learning conversations with your support.

For the first time ever, we live-streamed the discussion on Facebook and Instagram! And we learned a lot about white supremacy, Sikh beliefs in our humanity, and how Pardeep began healing after his father was killed (by another white supremacist).

And again, my thanks,

Joyce S. Dubensky
Tanenbaum CEO

The Right Way to Talk about Extremism & Religion

Dear Friends:

There is no other way to say it. Extremism is rising as our country grows more polarized. Church shootings. Synagogue desecration. Muslim and Sikh youth harassed. Equally troubling are the countless other injustices that fail to make the headlines. It can feel unsurmountable, but there is hope.

Over two years ago, we launched Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism campaign to get us talking and listening to one another—and especially to those whose beliefs and ideologies differ from our own. Because that is where the hope lies. In each of us.

This means taking responsibility for what we know—and what we don’t. And it means finding out the real facts.

That’s why our Combating Extremism resources are designed to counter misinformation and/or our lack of information about some of today’s most pressing and complex religion-related issues. So that our conversations are based on accurate, objective facts.

To help you share—and discuss—what you learn from these resources in positive ways, Tanenbaum created a “How To” guide for this installment of Combating Extremism:

Guidelines for Conducting Open Conversations; and
Guidelines for Conducting Open Conversations – A Summary

Based on Tanenbaum’s 25 years of work, we know that conversations are critical to bridging divides, which can help prevent individuals from feeling marginalized—a risk factor believed to increase some people’s susceptibility to extremist ideology.

Join us in our efforts to stop hate and Combat Extremism. Let’s get talking!

With an open heart—and open ears,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

P.S. Whether you convene a formal conversation, engage in an off-the-cuff discussion with family, friends, or colleagues, or simply review and/or pass along Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism resources on social media or in person, we encourage you to send an email to combatingextremism@tanenbaum.org and let us know. Please include stories that highlight how your ideas or behavior (or those of other participants) shifted, if available, as a result.

P.P.S. When you support Tanenbaum, you help us in the battle for a world where people across beliefs live side by side, free from extremism, persecution and hate.

Myanmar: When Nationalism Gets Violent – Combating Extremism

Dear Friends:

Often, it is easy to feel disconnected from world events. But what we are seeing in Myanmar, fervent nationalism—at the expense of religious respect for diversity—is tragically, and dangerously, a current global phenomenon.

Since we sent you our most recent Combating Extremism campaign resources about the Rohingya Crisis only a few weeks ago, the U.N. Secretary-General has called for Myanmar to grant the Rohingya, now a stateless people, legal status. He has also called for an end to the violence against the Rohingya, and for the more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return home—though many of their homes were burned to the ground.

The crisis is still so severe that two U.S. Congressmen have publicly called for the U.S. to take action to help end the ethnic cleansing. And there are also reports that U.S. senators are looking to pass legislation that sanctions the Myanmarese military and their business interests.

To fully understand this crisis—and other crises in which religion and nationality are linked—it is important to understand the history of a people. That is why for this month’s installment of Combating Extremism, we dig even deeper into the Rohingya Crisis and Rohingya identity.

With vigilance,
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Rohingya: On the Brink of Genocide – Combating Extremism

Photo Credit: Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

Dear Friends:

The photos are heart-wrenching. In one, a woman embraces the lifeless body of a toddler. In another, a teary-eyed young boy holds out his hand, desperate for food. These are the faces of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority community in Myanmar—now facing ethnic cleansing. Maybe you’ve seen their faces in the news:

Persecuted by Buddhist extremists for decades, the Rohingya are also part of one of the largest refugee communities in the United States.

That is why, for this month’s installment of Combating Extremism, we invite you to learn more about the Rohingya and to start a conversation in your community about extremism and this crisis:

The Rohingya Crisis is a stark reminder that extremism touches people from all religions. By combating extremism anywhere, we combat extremism everywhere.

In solidarity,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

P.S.: If you want to support the Rohingya, here is a list of organizations taking action.

P.P.S.: And if you want to support Tanenbaum’s work in bringing clarity to these complex issues, please donate here.

5 Reflections on London and Virginia

Flowers left in memory for the victims of the attack at Finsbury Park Mosque. June 2017 | Getty Images

Dear friends,

Once again, on a Monday morning, we awoke to news that made us stop in our tracks— terrorism and the slaughter of a 17-year-old girl on Father’s Day because she was Muslim. Again, we mourn and extend our condolences to the families, friends and communities who are suffering these losses most directly.

Below are my 5 Reflections on London and Virginia:

  1. I am heartsick. But I also realize that the volume of the horrors has a numbing effect on too many of us.
  2. As numbness to the deaths sets in, fear is escalating at the randomness with which terrorism and hate crimes are becoming a daily norm.
  3. Terrorism is not limited to any one group or ethnicity. Just look at the perpetrators of these two crimes and you’ll see what I mean.
  4. Terrorism targets all of us— including Muslims.
  5. And the question… How is it that London and Virginia grab at our heartstrings— but we barely notice atrocities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, India, etc.?

With great sorrow,

Joyce S. Dubensky
Tanenbaum CEO

Violence continues against Egypt’s Coptic Christians

Egyptian Coptic Christians march on May 26, 2017, following a funeral for victims of Friday’s terror attack. | NBC News

Dear Friends,

This week, as Tanenbaum celebrated 25 years of combating religious hate, I felt compelled to begin our anniversary Gala with a moment of silence for the victims, their families and the people of Manchester. It is days later and the assault on Coptic Christians in Egypt has continued; this time a bus filled with men, women and children, traveling to a monastery in Minya province, were ambushed by gunmen in uniform.

The attacks in Manchester and Egypt were both claimed by ISIS – and Egypt has responded to this latest terror attack with airstrikes on training camps in Libya. Egypt’s Coptic community has suffered ongoing violence and terrorism since 2011, including the Palm Sunday church bombing in April.

Today, we stand with the Coptic Community in Egypt, with Christians worldwide, and with our global community, from all traditions and none.

We have a responsibility to bear witness and to do everything we can to stop hatred that fuels violence and terrorism. At times we may feel powerless, yet we have real impact as we practice respect and speak up for what is right in our own communities. This is a time to let our hearts be informed by real facts. Because if we don’t, we risk losing our own humanity to profound sadness and fear.

Joyce S. Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

P.S. There are things you can do today. Learn more about the ancient Coptic Community in Egypt; Check out what is happening in the Middle East with Christian persecution; and support those working with refugees and to fight for justice.

Combating Extremism – A Dangerous Symbiosis

Dear Friends,

Last month, we shared information about a specific extremist ideology—white supremacy. But no extremist movement exists in a vacuum. With this month’s Combating Extremism materials, we take a look at extremism from another angle: how extremists on opposing sides invigorate each other.

Listen to reformed white supremacist Arno Michaelis in this month’s video resource: “Without that enemy, I don’t think we would have grown anywhere near as strong as we did or as fast as we did.”

After watching, let us know: Do you think Arno’s right? Or instead of the two sides fanning each other’s flames, are there ways for extremists to embrace respect and dignity for all?

I’d love to hear what you think…
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

P.S. 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.

P.P.S. Also, check out Arno’s story and how he left his white supremacist life in this additional video interview.

Against the Ban? 5 Things You Can Do Now

Dear Friends,

For 25 years, Tanenbaum has worked for a world where differences are respected. And that means we ask the hard questions…

  • Is your America the country that turns away human beings—fleeing a death sentence in their home countries?
  • Is your America the country that says only persecuted Christians deserve protection?
  • Is your America the country that says every person who follows Islam is a suspected terrorist?
  • Is your America the country that protects freedom of religion—but only for some people?

If you answered no… here are 5 actions you can take…

1. INSIST ON THE FACTS

2. HELP TEACHERS TEACH THE FACTS

3. SHARE AND LISTEN WITH THOSE WHO DIFFER

  • Identify your own biases. What prevents you from hearing your neighbor who differs from you?
  • Respectfully share an article that moves you with someone who disagrees with you. Let them know you wanted to share it— because it was important to you. And openly listen when they respond.

4. BE AN ALLY FOR JUSTICE AND INCLUSION

  • Stand up for Persecuted Christians – and also for Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Druse, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Yazidis, Bahai’i and people of all religions.
  • Say out loud that good people can have different views.
  • Call or email politicians who oppose the ban to thank them.
  • Use Social Media and be a voice for justice and inclusion (share good ideas—including this email!)

5. BE HEARD—ADD YOUR VOICE

  • Oppose the “Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals” – and urge President Trump to rescind it!

From my vantage point, these five actions help to combat extremism—because extremism is not only random, unexpected acts of violence. It’s also the hatred, exclusion and venom that breeds violence.

Stand with us for the country we love and our right to be different, respected and safe. We can do that…if each of us works together.

Yours,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

A neo-Nazi’s Transformation: Combating Extremism

Dear Friends,

For this year’s final installment of our Combating Extremism campaign, we introduce a reformed neo-Nazi named Arno. Once an avid hater, Arno now dedicates his life to spreading compassion.

If the venom of this past year made you skeptical that simple acts of kindness can transform lives, Arno’s story is worth a look. After all, if a right-wing extremist can find a way forward—we all can.

  • Arno: A Story of Transformation: In this short video, former white supremacist Arno Michaelis shares why he became a neo-Nazi, how he became exhausted by hatred, and how unexpected kindness changed the course of his life.
  • Why Scrutinizing Information Matters: Here, Arno reflects on the value of challenging ourselves to scrutinize information in order to dispel lies, hate, prejudice and division.
  • Questions for Consideration – A Resource for High School Students and Educators on the Videos

Arno’s transformation reminds us that change is possible. And that’s what Tanenbaum is all about. Throughout the coming year, I invite you to join us in challenging the status quo, moving beyond mere tolerance, and defusing radical hate with radical love.

Please watch and share these videos. And please, make a donation today—so we can continue to battle hate and extremism tomorrow.

With firm resolve,

Joyce Dubensky
CEO

PS. Please donate now.

PSS. Download all our monthly resources and sign up to receive our free Combating Extremism materials next month.  They’re great for educators, religious and and community leaders, and parents. Try them, and let us know what you think!

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