A Sikh Captain America in Central Park: Top 5 news stories

Captain America in a turban • Poll: American Jews identifying as more cultural, less religious • Is Christian-owned Hobby Lobby boycotting Hanukkah? • The Religious Dorm at the Public University When Holidays Collide, You Get The 'Menurkey'

Last week's top news, from our perspective:

Captain America in a turban

An American Sikh man put on a Captain America costume and explored New York City. The piece he wrote about the experience is fun, funny, enlightening, hopeful, and more.

Poll: American Jews identifying as more cultural, less religious

The percentage of Jews who identify as Jewish solely by culture or ancestry rather than religion has jumped from 7 percent to 22 percent since 2000, according to the poll, the first comprehensive survey of American Jews in more than a decade.

Is Christian-owned Hobby Lobby boycotting Hanukkah?

The national craft store owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green seemingly refuses to carry merchandise related to Hanukkah because of Green’s “Christian values,” and some Jews are taking offense.

The Religious Dorm at the Public University

Kosher dorms, Christian fraternity houses and specialized housing based on values have become part of modern college life. But the dorm on Troy's campus of 7,000 students is among a new wave of religious-themed housing that constitutional scholars and others say is pushing the boundaries of how much a public university can back religion.

When Holidays Collide, You Get The 'Menurkey'

In a rare convergence of the calendar, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that typically commences close to Christmas, fall on the same date in 2013: Nov. 28. And Thanksgivukkah has become a bold platform for expression, with creations ranging from sweet-potato latkes to the "Menurkey."

The reason for the fuss: It is a holiday mashup that has happened only once before—in 1888—according to those who track the Jewish calendar. And it is one that isn't set to happen again for potentially another 70,000-plus years.

Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls: Top 5 News Stories

Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls

As religious diversity in the workplace increases, the opportunities for conflicts over religions also rises. In fact, one-third of American workers report that they have seen or experienced religious bias in the workplace. From Atheists to Evangelicals, discrimination based on beliefs or non-beliefs is a significant issue for employers and employees alike.

March on Washington showcased religious roots of Civil Rights …    

Modern advocates for civil rights often forget that the Civil Rights movement was largely grounded in religious roots. Religious leaders used their pulpits and their religions as sources for justice and racial equality. "It was natural for blacks to turn to the church in the civil rights movement as it was always this solid rock amid oppression," Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University said. "You could summon up a great deal of courage through religion. It could empower people to confront all kinds of obstacles, including violence."

Labor Day and the unions' forgotten religious roots    

Labor Day orignated as the brain-child of the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor. The first labor unions joined forces with religious insitutions to defend the poor and provide legitimacy to the movement. But as religiosity is on the decline, the future of Labor Day hangs in the balance.

Atheist group can sue IRS over enforcement of pulpit politicking

A federal judged granted the atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation permission to proceed with its lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. The group is suing the IRS for not enforcing its ban on the political activity of tax-exempt religious organizations. The FFRF wants the IRS to strengthen the ban.

Haynes column: School surrenders to religious intolerance    

A school put up a bullitein board about the five pillars of Islam as part of a curriculum that educates students about different faiths within their historical context. A picture of the board uploaded to facebook sparked community outrage as the misleading tag accused the board of promoting Islam while Christian prayers were strictly forbidden. Though this was not the purpose of the bullitein board, and other bullitein boards featuring different religions are placed around the school, the administration decided to take down the board on Islam. 

Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Earlier this year, we conducted a non-scientific survey to learn if you had experienced or witnessed religious bias in your workplace.

Although most of you who responded have never experienced any kind of religious discrimination in the workplace, 21% of you said that you had experienced unequal treatment. If we include those of you who witnessed bias, the number jumps to 29%. So, approximately 1-in-3 of you have experienced or witnessed religious bias at work.  

The diverse stories you shared suggested that no religion in particular seemed to be discriminated against more than the others. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists felt equally bullied at certain times in their work environments—especially during religious holidays.

Here are some story highlights, opinions and responses to “Have you ever personally experienced religious harassment/bullying/bias in the workplace?”

  • I worked for a very Orthodox Jewish employer and they allowed all Orthodox Jewish employees, but not others, to take off every holiday. They never offered an explanation why.
  • I am Roman Catholic and on Ash Wednesday, comments were made about my ashes on my forehead. How silly and pointless it was. I have been made fun of for going to confession.
  • I am deeply religious. I often feel that people make fun of religion or act like religious people are all fanatics and crazy. They never say I'm crazy, but I am the only one who seems to defend religion in our conversations.
  • Nothing in my employer’s holiday policy allows for alternative days off, just standard Christian holidays. My employer also does not make an effort to schedule meetings around important non-Christian religious holidays.
  • Where I work, many people are atheists and are not even comfortable discussing religion openly.
  • I work in an academic environment and I have experienced bullying from fundamentalist atheists, not from people of faith.

Although our survey was not scientific, the results certainly indicate that there is a need for employers to be more accommodating of religious needs in the workplace.

If you are working for a company that could use help adopting an accommodation mindset, we have several resources that might be of help to the company and their human resource professionals:

We thank everyone who participated in the survey. Although we only printed a small sample of the comments, we read and appreciated all the responses and look forward to hearing from you in our next survey. 

If you have a suggestion for a survey topic or question, we’d love to hear it! Please comment below or send the questions our way!

World Peace Wednesdays: Peacemakers in Action issue Statement about Syria

"We are global recipients of Tanenbaum's Peacemakers in Action Award and peacebuilders from armed conflicts across the world. Spanning different religions, beliefs and conflicts, we have experienced war and reconciliation. We now stand
in unison as the Peacemakers in Action Network to tell the world – We witness the on-going civil war in Syria and are deeply saddened by the incalculable toll it has exacted on the Syrian people. It is time for the world’s faith communities to speak out in one voice. It is time for the world’s faith communities to act. It is time to lessen the suffering of this war’s greatest victims – the women and children of Syria." Click here to read the full statement.

World Peace Wednesdays: Peacemakers in South Africa

The African National Congress fought injustice in South Africa for over 100 years. Last month, Tanenbaum sent members of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, a much younger, but similar organization fighting injustice in one of the world's most violent nations, Honduras, to South Africa. There, the Hondurans worked with and learned from the ANC and other key South African organizations.

The outcomes were stunning – and are ongoing. The Tanenbaum-sponsored intervention was the first interaction between the FNRP and ANC, and is designed to substantially bolster prospects for a participatory democracy in Honduras. For more info on the intervention in South Africa, check out this article

World Peace Wednesdays: Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge

Roll your mouse over the image and click on the links to learn more about Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, one of Tanenbaum's Peacemakers in Action.

World Peace Wednesdays: Reverend Canon Andrew P.B. White

Roll your mouse over the image and click on the links to learn more about Revrend Canon Andrew P.B. White, one of Tanenbaum's Peacemakers in Action.

World Peace Wednesdays: Imam Muhammad Ashafa

Roll your mouse over the image and click on the links to learn more about Imam Muhammad Ashafa, one of Tanenbaum's Peacemakers in Action.

New Pope expresses his views: News Roundup

In the news this week, the new pope discusses his views from tango, to art, to gay marriage, Obama pushes expedited timetable on immigration reform in meeting with faith leaders, and other stories. 

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio surprised the world on Wednesday when he ended a run of nearly 1,300 years of European popes and greeted St. Peter's Square for the first time as Pope Francis.

This article provides a selection of the 76-year-old Jesuit's opinions on topics ranging from unmarried mothers,gay marriageglobalization and his own interests and life experience. Yahoo! News

President Barack Obama emphasized the need to get immigration reform accomplished this year in a meeting with a diverse group of faith leaders at the White House on Friday.

Religious leaders that attended the meeting said the president spent more than an hour with them, and after making a few remarks at the top of the meeting he let each group discuss their priorities and problems with comprehensive immigration reform. During the discussion, these faith leaders said, Obama made it clear that he wanted to see a bill on immigration reform in the next 60 days.

“I really sensed that this is a high priority for him,” Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a Christian social justice group, told CNN. “We are all looking at something being introduced this month and then the bill passing in May or June. We are all hoping that kind of time frame could work.” CNN

There is an advertising war being fought here — not over soda or car brands but over the true meaning of the word “jihad.” Backing a continuing effort that has featured billboards on the sides of Chicago buses, the local chapter of a national Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has been promoting a nonviolent meaning of the word — “to struggle” — that applies to everyday life.

Supporters say jihad is a spiritual concept that has been misused by extremists and inaccurately linked to terrorism, and they are determined to reclaim that definition with the ad campaign, called My Jihad.

“My jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule,” says a woman in a head scarf lifting weights in an ad that started running on buses in December. “What’s yours?” The New York Times

The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930s, new research has found.

Sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University analyzed results from the General Social Survey and found that the number of people who do not consider themselves part of an organized religion has jumped dramatically in recent years.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the number of "nones" — those who said they were religiously unaffiliated — hovered around 5 percent, Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. That number had risen to only 8 percent by 1990. The Huffington Post

World Peace Wednesdays: In Memory of Rabbi Froman


After decades of working for peace between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East, Tanenbuam Peacemaker in Action Rabbi Menachem Froman died Monday, March 4 from advanced colon cancer.

Over the past two years, Rabbi Froman had been battling cancer but continued a brisk schedule of teaching, public speaking and meetings with political, religious and civil society leaders.

The Rabbi from Tekoa, a settlement in the West Bank, was controversial, but was respected by a range of powerbrokers in the region, exemplified by relationships with figures as diverse as Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Rabbi Froman believed that Jews and Arabs can live side by side in peace, and modeled that belief in practice. In a late interview Rabbi Froman summed up religious tensions in the region this way, “In the final analysis, the question is whether you abnegate yourself before God or you represent him. And I abnegate myself before God.”

Rabbi Froman’s singular vision for peace and his unorthodox means of pursuing it will be missed. You can read more about Rabbi Froman’s life and work here.

Click here to read Rabbi Froman’s obituary in The Times of Israel.  

Pictured: Menachem Froman and Ibrahim Abulhawa at Froman’s daughter’s wedding.