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My Diaspora Journey

2017 Diaspora Dialogues

For as long as I can remember, I have always cared about fairness. Even as a kid, I had a pretty clear idea of what it meant to act fairly. In time, that internal driver found expression as a passion for justice, which I defined as treating all people with respect—no matter who they are or what they believe. Precisely what that would come to mean, however, was not always clear and certainly not static.

As society’s understanding of identity expanded over decades, my own view of what it meant to practice justice likewise evolved. Now, far into my justice journey, I have discovered yet another identity that resonates with me. One that offers me a new, powerful vehicle for working toward global justice. In a phrase, I am talking about diaspora identities.

To explain what I mean, it is worth reflecting on how I got here. In part, it started with anti-Semitism. I am Jewish and was about seven years old when I first felt the paralyzing pain of hearing the kids on the block call my little brother “Jew bastard” and “Christ killer.” I asked them to stop, to apologize, but they kept repeating their taunts. I’ve always remembered that moment, and it became my lens for understanding others.

I felt pained by the lack of basic respect and equality societally allowed to African-Americans. But when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called on us to judge his children by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, my sense of justice crystalized. That was what justice should look like—for every child.

In the years that ensued, I learned more about the ways different identities are targeted. I realized how the bias inflicted on African-Americans also attaches to other people of color, though not always in the same ways. That women do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, not only because of sexual harassment, but also because, institutionally, women are not paid equally for the same work. I came to recognize that people have many identities including those that result in injustice and marginalization—their sexual orientations, gender identities, disabilities, age, economic and social backgrounds, etc. And always, there is religion, a core identity that far too often is used to divide and fuel conflict, and that becomes a target for prejudice, hatred and violence.

Now, I have another new identity, one that holds promise for more global connections, constructive collaborations and justice.

Last week, I attended an unusual international conference convened by Common Purpose. Called the Diaspora Dialogues, they identified diaspora leaders from across diverse communities and brought them together in Armenia. The goal was to consider whether and how the power of distinct diaspora leaders of all ages could be harnessed for global good.

When I was invited to go, I hesitated. For one thing, while I am Jewish and therefore a member of the Jewish diaspora, I am not a leader in that community. In addition, my work at Tanenbaum is based on combating prejudice directed at people from every faith and none, and we do this work from a secular and nonsectarian perspective. However, as I thought more about it, I realized that being part of the Jewish diaspora was, in fact, part of who I am. In different places around the world, I have been stopped by total strangers, looking at me and saying “Jewish!” In each instance, they were identifying a fellow from their tribe. I also had an unexpected reaction when I first visited Israel. It was the only time in my life that the majority of people around me were somehow brethren. In that, there was a sense of belonging and safety that I have not experienced anywhere else on earth.

Given this awareness and as a person with leadership responsibilities as Tanenbaum’s CEO, I agreed to attend. Approximately 60 people from a range of diaspora identities convened. Most were people who were born in one country, and now lived in another nation. Some had ties to several countries. Most of the participants could identify as a member of a diaspora (Nigerian, Pakistani, etc.) based on the reality that they did not live in their birth/home country. A few of us were diaspora because of our religious identity, as Jews.

Like me, many were thinking deeply about this diaspora identity for the first time, although others had already embraced it, including in their daily work. Even though the ways we came to be among a diaspora differed, we all had a lot in common, perhaps because of how we were selected. We were’s all strivers and wanted to do something to better our communities or the world. We could identify shared experiences around not belonging, as we owned our diaspora identities and experiences.

Therein, lie the possibilities. Right now, across the globe we are dangerously divided by our different identities and our different beliefs. This manifests in political divisions and global conflicts. Working across diverse diaspora identities suggests new possibilities of identifying common ground and creating novel opportunities for problem-solving and collaboration. This vision was embedded in Common Purpose’s program with us and its long-term thinking. As one of the people who explored the possibilities with them, I was moved to see the power and potential in this effort.
Together, diaspora leaders and diaspora community members have an opportunity to tackle big and small problems—and to create greater justice for all. Count me in!

*This post originally appeared on HuffPo on October 19, 2017

Religion & End of Life Care – Health Care Insights

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the fourth installment of Tanenbaum’s Health Care Insights series!

This month’s issue features what might be one of the most challenging subjects for health care providers: upholding religious beliefs while delivering end of life care.

  • The Scenario: A Jewish family objects to a DNR order for a patient who is brain stem dead, based on a religious belief that death only occurs when a patient’s heart and breathing have stopped.
  • Click here to learn about the family’s objection and its religious context, and how the hospital can respectfully manage this objection by working with the family and their religious leader.

For additional case studies from our medical school curriculum, click here. To learn more about the intersections of religion and health care, check out Tanenbaum’s full Medical Manual, which can be purchased here. (Contact us for discounted bulk and institutional purchase rates for the eBook version.)

In friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

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
CEO

We Are All Human Beings

Despite the rockets and the airstrikes wreaking havoc in Israel and Gaza, Peacemaker in Action Yehezkel Landau’s organization Open House held its annual Summer Peace Camp. Seventy Arab and Jewish children gathered at the peace education center in Ramle, Israel did what all children should do during the summer – they had fun together.

While the latest war in Gaza further complicates hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, a twelve-year-old camper relays her belief that there can one day be peace – by reminding us of what we too often forget in times of conflict:

“We are all human beings.”

To read more about this lesson in perseverance, click here for Open House’s July 2014 newsletter, Summer Peace Camp in the Midst of War.

Summer Peace Camp in the mixed Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salaam.

Summer Peace Camp in the mixed Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salaam.

July 15: A day of prayer and reflection to stop the violence and bloodshed

Before turning to the subject of this blog – the escalation of violence involving Israelis and Palestinians – I am painfully reminded that destructive and hate fueled violence is occurring in far too many places across our globe. So even as I focus on that flashpoint of the Middle East, I believe that we must simultaneously remember that every person experiencing war and violence is one of us. A human who is suffering. And a person who comes from a family and a community.

That said, I want to share something we recently learned, in case it resonates with you. There is a small Muslim/Jewish movement from Israel/Palestine that is calling on people to dedicate the Jewish fast day of 17 Tamuz (July 15), which coincides this year with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, as a day of prayer and reflection, focusing on stopping the horrible violence and bloodshed that is currently taking place in that land.

Our former colleague and friend, Rabbi Jonah Geffen, who shared this information with us said, “I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to gather our Muslim/Jewish/Christian sisters and brothers in prayer and reflection. Not politics. Simply focusing on peace through a joint day without food.”

We agree, but believe that this is a moment that people of all beliefs and none can share. A day of fasting, a day of committing ourselves to real solutions and an end to violence.

Sincerely,

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

P.S. If you are interested in taking part in the day, here is the the invitation that Rabbi Geffen found on Facebook:

ימי הצום בלוח העברי והמוסלמי מתאחדיםהזדמנות לעצור הכולבביתבעבודהבקהילה
להתכנס אל מול הדםהנקם והאימה למקום אחרלחשבון נפשללקיחת אחריותלתיקון
למפגש עם העצמי ועם האחרלשתוק ביחד ולדבר,
לבחור מחדש בחיים
מדובר ביוזמה משותפת של יהודים וערבים שתתקיים ב– 15 ביולייום שלישי הבאלשביתת רעב משותפת בת יום,כנגד האלימותבשעות אחהצ יתקיימו אירועים משותפים ברחבי הארץשל יהודים וערביםחילונים ודתיים,פלסטינים וישראליםשל דיבורלימוד ותפילהובסופם עם צאת הכוכבים יתקיים “איפטאר“- שבירת צום משותפת.
מוזמנים:
לשתףלצוםלקחת זמן לחשבון נפש וליזום אירוע ‘לבחור בחיים‘ באזור מגוריכם
שנזכה לתקן!

ايام الصيام حسب التواريخ الاسلامية والعبرية تلتقي.
فرصة لايقاف كل شيئفي البيتفي العملفي المجتمعللاتحاد معا ضد سفك الدماءضد الانتقام وضد الخوف والانتقال لمحاسبةالنفسلتحمل المسؤوليةلللتغيير والاصلاحللاجتماع مع النفس ومع الغيرللتكلم معا وللصمت معالاختيار الحياة من جديد.
الموضوع هو مشروع لقاء مشترك للعرب واليهود بتاريخ ١٥/٧ يوم الثلاثاء المقبللاضراب مشترك عن الطعام ليوم واحد ضد العنف.وفي ساعات ما بعد الظهيرة ستقام لقاءات مشتركه في انحاء البلادعرب ويهودعلمانيون ومتدينونفلسطينيين واسرائيليينللحوار,للتعلم وللصلاهوفي النهايه مع ساعات المغرب يكون افطار جماعي لكسر الصيام.
مدعوون بشكل شخصي.
الرجاء النشر.
صيام وحساب للنفس ومشروع مشترك “نختار الحياة” في مناطق سكنكم.

Days of fasting in the Jewish and Muslim calendar come together.
An opportunity to pause. At home. At work. In the community.
To come together in the face of blood, revenge and fear,
to a place of looking inwards, taking responsibility, and making a difference.
To meeting myself and the other, to be still and to talk to one another.
Another chance to choose life.
A joint Arab and Jewish initiative that will take place on July 15th, next Tuesday, of a mutual hunger strike against violence. All over the country joint events will take place in the afternoon, of Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, Israelis and Palestinians, to talk, learn and pray. At the end of the events, when the stars come out, an Iftar will take place, a mutual breaking of the fast.
We invite you to share, to fast, to look inwards and to initiate a “Choosing Life” event where you live.
May we make a difference!

 

A Personal Statement from Tanenbaum’s CEO

Across the world, I join with the men and women who are horrified and profoundly saddened by the murder of three young men – Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar. Across much of Western media, we have seen their smiling faces reflecting the energy of young lives full of hope. We have heard their names. In many cases, we have listened as mothers, aunts, relatives begged and prayed that the boys would return alive. But they did not. Instead, they were murdered, left alone under dirt and rocks.

It is time that all people across the world – of all religions and political persuasions – condemn these killings especially because they appear to have been based on the boys’ Jewish identities and perhaps also their national one.

We need to remember Naftali, Eyal and Gilad. But if we want to stop such senseless slaughters, we need to do more.

We also need to remember the faceless others, who are also dying because of their religions and identities. In the last year, how many Syrian children lost their lives because they were on “the wrong side?” or from “the wrong Islamic tradition?”  How many Muslim children have died recently in Myanmar? How many Coptic Christian children are being killed in Egypt?

Together, we need to condemn the senseless bloodshed around the globe.

With sadness,

Joyce S. Dubensky

 

Addendum:

With great sorrow I learned about the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gilad Shaer. My heart remains heavy through this holiday weekend in the US as news has reached us that Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teen, was also kidnapped then burned to death near his Jerusalem home and that violence and fear has gripped the land.

No mother should endure the torment of not knowing whether her child will be targeted or killed because of his or her religion or national identity.

At Tanenbaum, we fear endless cycles of violence. We fear a society desensitized to bloodshed and the fate of our children.

Each of us is responsible. And it is our responsibility to imagine what peace could bring and then find ways to support it. One way is to recognize and respect our diversity and to promote both nonviolence and inclusion.

With sadness,

Joyce S. Dubensky

Palin baptism-terrorism controversy: Top 5 news stories

Sarah Palin calls waterboarding ‘baptism’ of terroristsHungarians march against anti-Semitism after far-right poll gainsBrunei adopts sharia law, others in Southeast Asia consider itSikhs stand up to bullying as they try to build understandingUnited Church of Christ Sues North Carolina to Allow Gay Marriage

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

Photo Credit: Shemp Howard, Jr. at en.wikipedia

Sarah Palin calls waterboarding ‘baptism’ of terrorists

Republican politician Sarah Palin has caused controversy by comparing the use of torture to baptism. In a speech before the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis last weekend, Palin criticised the Obama administration’s ‘soft’ approach to terrorism.

“Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we’d baptise terrorists,” she said.

This remark has caused waves across political and religious spheres, with critics lambasting Palin for her offhand attitude towards the use of torture and what many see as a disregard for a key Christian sacrament.

Hungarians march against anti-Semitism after far-right poll gains

Tens of thousands of Hungarians joined a protest march on Sunday against anti-Semitism, three weeks after the far-right Jobbik party won nearly a quarter of votes cast in a national election.

The marchers, many holding European Union and Israeli flags, attended the inauguration of a Holocaust monument on a bank of the Danube where Jews were executed during the war. They then marched in silence through the city to an old railway station from which trains departed 70 years ago for Nazi death camps.

More people are taking part because they fear anti-Semitism is again on the rise, said Miklos Deutsch, 64, a restaurant manager, after a shofar, a traditional Jewish instrument made from a ram’s horn, gave the signal for the march to start.

Brunei adopts sharia law, others in Southeast Asia consider it

The sultanate of Brunei this week becomes the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law, the latest example of a deepening religious conservatism that has also taken root in parts of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.

From Wednesday, residents of the country dominated by Malay Muslims face conviction by Islamic courts and fines or jail terms for offences like pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers, and propagating other religions. A second phase comes into effect 12 months later covering offences for theft and alcohol consumption by Muslims, punishable by whipping and amputations.

The death penalty, including by stoning, will be introduced in the final phase a year later for offences including adultery, sodomy and insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad.

Sikhs stand up to bullying as they try to build understanding

Throughout elementary, middle and high school, Prabhdeep Suri has been the only Sikh in his class, and it’s been obvious.“He came home crying three days out of five,” his mother, Harpreet Suri, remembered. “They were taking his patka off almost every day.”

Bullying is a hot topic, and affects children and teenagers who appear or act differently. But unlike others who can hide their religion at school – by wearing a baseball cap instead of a yarmulke, or never mentioning their family celebrates Ramadan – Sikhs literally wear their religion on their sleeves.

United Church of Christ Sues North Carolina to Allow Gay Marriage

It’s the first time for a national Christian denomination to sue in favor of same-sex marriage, citing restricted freedom of religion. Currently ministers who marry couples without a marriage license can face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 120 days in jail

Man murders 3 people at Jewish-affiliated facilities: Top 5 News Stories

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

Men pray on the street before the start of the American Muslim Day Parade in 2010 in New York. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Alleged Kansas Jewish center gunman charged with murderDemands That Jews Register in Eastern Ukraine Are Denounced, and DeniedCrosses Spark a Constitutional Fight • NYPD Shuts Down Controversial Unit That Spied On Muslims • Muslims in New York City Unite on Push to Add Holidays to School Calendar

Alleged Kansas Jewish center gunman charged with murder

The man accused of killing three people at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Kansas made no secret of his racist views, writing letters to newspapers and inviting people to white-supremacist meetings at his home, say those who knew him.

Cross is accused of shooting to death a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center near Kansas City, Kansas, on Sunday and then a woman at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.

Demands That Jews Register in Eastern Ukraine Are Denounced, and Denied

Worshipers at the Bet Menakhem-Mendl synagogue in this eastern Ukrainian city confronted a horrifying scene as they left a Passover service this week: masked men on a sidewalk handing out leaflets demanding that Jews register and pay a fine or leave the area, witnesses said.

That the leaflets appeared in a highly uncertain political context did little to calm nerves or to dampen high-level international condemnation, including from Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Thursday in Geneva that “just in the last couple of days, notices were sent to Jews in one city indicating that they had to identify themselves as Jews.”

The leaflets were supposedly signed by Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the newly declared and unrecognized state that claims to represent ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But that group and other pro-Russian groups quickly denied they had anything to do with them.

Crosses Spark a Constitutional Fight

The Mount Soledad statue is one of at least four war-memorial crosses under legal fire by civil-liberty groups who want them off government land. The cross is a globally recognized symbol of Christian faith. But many veterans and others who have lost loved ones to battles or tragedy value the memorial crosses as monuments of remembrance, invested with historical weight.

NYPD Shuts Down Controversial Unit That Spied On Muslims

The New York Police Department said Tuesday it would disband a special unit charged with detecting possible terrorist threats by carrying out secret surveillance of Muslim groups.

The squad that conducted the surveillance, known as the Demographics Unit, was formed in 2003. It brought the NYPD under fire from community groups and activists who accused the force of abusing civil rights and profiling.

Muslims in New York City Unite on Push to Add Holidays to School Calendar

It was a gathering remarkable in its diversity from among New York City’s Muslims, a growing group whose members often find it difficult to work together politically because of differences in national origin, language, sect and class. But a single issue has managed to unify them: the push to close the city’s public schools for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the most sacred Muslim holidays.

Anti-Semitic slur by fire chief: Top 5 news stories

Anti-Semitic Slur by a Westchester Fire Chief Stirs ControversyTennessee Bigots Harassed This Young Muslim Journalist • Mississippi Governor Signs Controversial Religious Freedom BillAnti-Semitic incidents continue to decline in USU.S. doesn’t rank high in religious diversity

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Anti-Semitic Slur by a Westchester Fire Chief Stirs Controversy

The Westchester County town of Greenburgh, a sprawling municipality that has a significant Jewish population, is embroiled in a controversy over anti-Semitic slurs by a local fire chief against the town supervisor, who is Jewish.

Anthony LoGiudice, the chief of the Fairview Fire District, is accused of using the slur against the supervisor, Paul J. Feiner, in conversations with other firefighters. The three fire districts in Greenburgh are independent of town government, and Mr. Feiner said the chief, among other things, was not pleased with Mr. Feiner’s proposal to consolidate two of the districts.

Tennessee Bigots Harassed This Young Muslim Journalist

Muslim college student and aspiring journalist Noor Tagouri received an unexpectedly ugly reception when she arrived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to cover a mosque hearing for her Journalism 361 class at the University of Maryland.

After attending the hearing, which discussed at proposed mosque cemetery, Tagouri was subjected to ignorant remarks and hateful comments from community members who were there in order to voice their opposition, including former GOP congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik, who ran in 2010.

Mississippi Governor Signs Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Thursday that would allow residents to sue over laws they believe impinge on their free exercise of religious beliefs.

Supporters say the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which will become law July 1, will guarantee freedom of religion without government interference, but opponents believe the law will permit discrimination against gays and lesbians. A similar bill that would have allowed Arizona residents to deny service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds was vetoed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer last month.

Anti-Semitic incidents continue to decline in US

Continuing a decade-long drop, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. declined by 19 percent, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s most recent annual audit.

The ADL noted one “dark spot” in its survey: a significant increase in anti-Semitic assaults — 31 incidents, up from 17 in 2012. The audit offers the example of a 12-year-old Jewish girl in Brooklyn who had a bottle thrown at her by a group of girls, including one who called her a “dirty Jew.”

U.S. doesn’t rank high in religious diversity

The United States has often been described as a religiously diverse country, an image celebrated in forums ranging from scholarly work to a popular bumper sticker and even a recent Coca-Cola commercial during the Super Bowl. But, from a global perspective, the United States really is not all that religiously diverse, according to a new Pew Research Center study. In fact, 95% of the U.S. population is either Christian or religiously unaffiliated, while all other religions combined account for just 5% of Americans. As a result, the U.S. ranks 68th out of 232 countries and territories on our Religious Diversity Index.

Tips for Passover, Vaisakhi, & Easter

Vaisakhi festival photo by Flickr user Anguskirk

As you may be aware, the holiest times for millions of Americans are approaching. Passover begins at sundown on April 14 and ends at sundown on April 22. Easter is celebrated on a variety of days, depending on the tradition, but many will celebrate the holiday on April 20. And Vaisakhi, a festival celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists, will be celebrated on April 14.

So, from April 14 to April 22, many American Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists may choose to participate in religious practices that have an impact on their daily lives.

With these holidays upon us, colleagues, patients and students will be observing in ways that are apparent and unnoticeable. In either case, it’s helpful to know the basics about the holidays so that you can be prepared.

Whether you’re an educator, manager, or health care provider, the spring holidays could be relevant to your work and what you do every day.

As Tanenbaum’s holiday gift to you, we have created Tanenbaum Tips for PassoverEaster, and Vaisakhi.

To those who celebrate, happy holidays!