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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

Once again, say NO to Terrorism!

Dear Friends,

Yesterday morning, it happened again. We awoke to the horror, pain and anguish of another act of terrorism, this time the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The numbers are startling. At least 49 people dead and 53 injured from an attack that occurred at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando during Pride month. So many people, so many families, so many communities destroyed in only a few moments.

Just before the shooting, the assailant, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, reportedly called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Though Mateen had twice been a person of interest to the FBI, no one saw this slaughter coming. And so, it happened once again on American soil.

Sunday’s massacre at Pulse is clearly an act of terrorism, fueled by unimaginable hatred. At Tanenbaum, we stand in solidarity with the people of Orlando but, also, with the people of the LGBTQ community who are being targeted by violence, once again. Indeed, for this community, the violence is both terrorism and a hate crime.

We know that, in times like these, it’s easy to fall back on stereotypes. Across the news, we hear national voices using them. We hear the voices of division, warning us that if one Muslim is a terrorist, we must fear all. But that is wrong. And we know better. As Americans, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we do not conflate Islam and followers of that tradition with Mateen’s horrific actions. And that we do not forget that haters in other shapes and sizes exist, and that they are also dangerous.

We are at a critical moment in our history. The choice is ours. We must not allow terrorism and hatred to destroy our communities. This is a complex and difficult moment. There are many contributing factors to the growing hatred, division and random violence we fear and experience.

But one thing is certain. Our nation is great because of our shared humanity and great diversity. The massacre at Pulse is an attack against all of us. And that means it is the responsibility of each of us to defy the terrorists. We must refuse to let fear turn to unjust distrust and hatred of our neighbors. The time to stand together is now. And in one voice say, No to hate!

In sorrow, but with a firm resolve,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

RSVP: Tanenbaum Peacemakers at the United Nations

Tanenbaum_2016_evite

Join us this July 13th for a unique opportunity to hear from six Peacemakers in Action on the critical issues facing us today.
Click here to download the invitation and be sure to RSVP today! Space is limited.

President Obama’s Condemnation of Islamophobia is Admirable – and Overdue

Yesterday President Obama addressed thousands of American-Muslims at the Islamic Society of Baltimore during his first visit to a mosque in the United to condemn anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“We applaud President Obama for his important demonstration of solidarity with the Muslim community – yet we also believe his speech is long overdue,” said Tanenbaum | Center for Interreligious Understanding CEO Joyce Dubensky. “In this climate of increasing religious bias and discrimination, he has taken an important step forward in demonstrating how respect can be put into practice, as modeled by our First Amendment.”

Tanenbaum said that as citizens, we should encourage our political leaders to unify divisions within Americans, including religious differences. Regarding the upcoming political election, Dubensky stated, “Regardless of political affiliation, it’s the responsibility of our next president to take an early stance against the stereotypes, hate and alienation that result when people think that terrorism and Islam are synonymous.”

Tanenbaum offers a range of educational curricula and other materials including its Combating Extremism resources, which help teachers and individuals address extremism constructively in classrooms and communities.

An Attack Close to Home

Dear Friends,

On Monday, our friend Michal Froman was attacked by a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. Thankfully, the pregnant Michal survived the stabbing, avoiding life-threatening injuries to herself and her unborn child.

The recent violent attacks in Israel/Palestine have been extremely troubling, further indicating that the ongoing struggle for Middle East peace remains woefully out-of-reach due to self-serving politics. But yesterday’s attack hit close to home for me, Tanenbaum and our Network of Peacemakers from around the world.

Ms. Froman is the daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, one of the first recipients of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action award. Rabbi Froman spent his life promoting reconciliation between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza. He envisioned a “humane state,” one in which all people — Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian — treat each other with respect and dignity. Rabbi Froman’s work brought many people together, including political leaders, and he perceived the conflict as a tragedy of “two peoples loving the same land.” By seeking the common ground of having a shared faith in God, his work often transcended politics and motivated his own work on a deeply spiritual level. Rabbi Froman dedicated most of his life to promoting reconciliation between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza.

So it was no surprise to hear the reports of Michal Froman recognizing her attacker’s humanity when describing the 15-year-old to police and the media. Her father-in-law surely would be proud and so are we.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO