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Houston – America at Our Best

Children rescued in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Credit: Harris County Sheriff’s Office/Twitter

Dear Friends,

As I watched the flooding in Houston and saw elderly nursing home patients sitting waist-deep in water, I felt the same, overwhelming sadness that people across the nation were feeling. But amid that sadness, I was also lifted up by the example of volunteers and rescue teams who readily risked their lives to save others.
This is what America should be. It is who we are at our best.
And it is what our different faiths call on us to do. That’s why I wanted to share some wisdom from across the world’s faiths and beliefsIt reminds us of our shared and highest ideals.

And it reminds us that, when we help one another, we create the nation for which we are searching.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum


SHARED VISIONS | GOOD DEEDS

Baha’i
By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 383
Buddhism
Whoever, by a good deed, covers the evil done, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from clouds.  Dhammapada 173
Christianity
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  Galatians 6:9
Hinduism
The wise see knowledge and action as one; they see truly.  Bhagavad Gita 5.4, 5
Islam
(And) lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings.  Qur’an, 98.7 (Pickthall)
Judaism
I call heaven and earth to witness: whether Jew or Gentile, whether man or woman, whether servant or freeman, they are all equal in this: that the Holy Spirit rests upon them in accordance with their deeds!  Midrash, Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 10
Native American Wisdom
It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace.  Shenandoah
Sikhism
Without good deeds heaven is not attained.  Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Taoism
Anything evil refrain ye from doing; all good deeds do!  Yin Chih Wên, The Tract of the Quiet Way

6 Tips for Starting a Successful Faith-based ERG

By: Liz Joslin, Workplace Program Associate, Tanenbaum
Published in Diversity Best Practices | August 16, 2016

Faith-based ERGs, once unheard of, are becoming more and more popular among companies on the cutting edge of diversity and inclusion. At Tanenbaum, we have advised many clients at all stages of the process—from deciding if the time is right to establish a faith-based ERG, to inclusive communications, to planning a launch event. Use these five tips as a starting point to creating a successful faith-based ERG at your company.

1. Decide which model is best for your company:
There are three main models for faith-based ERGs: faith-specific, interfaith, and interfaith network. Faith-specific ERGs are created around one particular tradition (ex: American Express has Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups). Interfaith groups are not specific to any one tradition, but are created to recognize a wide array of affiliations (ex: Tanenbaum Corporate Member Merck’s Interfaith Organization). Finally, in an interfaith network model, multiple faith-specific groups are under the umbrella of an interfaith body (ex: Ford Motor Company’s longstanding Interfaith Network). Consider your current ERG structure, what kind of group has been requested, and resources available when deciding which model is the best fit for your company.

2. Solidify the business case:
The rules that apply for ERGs generally apply for faith-based ERGs as well, including having a solid business case. Talk to interested employees to find out how they think the group will benefit the company. Perhaps the group can serve as an internal focus group on religious accommodations the company is considering (such as Quiet Rooms for prayer, meditation, and reflection), or aid the marketing department in reaching different religious communities. There are many ways a faith-based ERG can positively impact the bottom line.

3. Make sure it is inclusive:
No matter what model you choose, your faith-based ERG must be open to employees of all faiths and none. “The nones” (people who are atheist, agnostic, spiritual or not affiliated with a particular religious tradition) are a part of the religious diversity landscape at your company, and must be considered in the creation of a faith-based ERG. Faith-specific ERGs (i.e. a Christian ERG) should also be open to employees from other faiths who are interested in learning more about their colleagues’ beliefs or in participating in an event the ERG is sponsoring, such as a volunteer event at a local soup kitchen.

Another aspect of inclusion worth addressing is the relationship between LGBT inclusion and religion. If you have an existing LGBT ERG, consider asking that group to provide support and guidance in the establishment of the faith-based ERG. This will serve two purposes: the faith-based group will have a mentor group, and the general employee population will see that the two groups are united and working towards the same ultimate goal (inclusion) and are not in opposition.

4. Create a communications strategy:
It may not be immediately clear to employees why the company is putting resources into a faith-based group. Some may feel immediately alienated, or even threatened by the prospect. Your communications strategy will be crucial in conveying the business case, the purpose, and the inclusive nature of the group, while also emphasizing that participating in the group is optional.

5. Seek out strong leaders:
Finding capable employees to take on leadership roles and bringing on an executive sponsor is a crucial part of the creation of any ERG. Finding leaders who are fully aligned with the group’s business case and the company’s values will help to alleviate concerns that employees and senior leaders might have about preferential treatment within the group. An executive sponsor who can be a champion for the group and speak to the inclusive nature of the ERG can also make a positive impact in how the group is viewed within the company.

6. Generate interest through a launch event:
A launch event is a great way to attract members to a new group. The event can be an extension of your communications strategy and showcase the diversity within the group, as well as highlighting the ways in which the group plans to have a positive impact on the business. Having a senior leader (the executive sponsor or another interested party) at the event to give an endorsement can also demonstrate that the company is fully behind the group.

Tanenbaum Urges Tennessee Senate to Reject Efforts to Make the Bible Tennessee’s Official State Book

The Tennessee Senate is set to vote on a bill that would make the Holy Bible Tennessee’s official book.

Speaking on behalf of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, its CEO Joyce Dubensky condemned the bill. “While the Bible is an inspiring book for many, for Tennessee to make it their state book would symbolically exclude citizens of diverse faiths and none at all, including Christians who find the bill to be sacrilegious.”

Supporters of the bill argue that the intention is to highlight the Bible’s historical significance – however many people see the bill as a violation of the separation between church and state.

Dubensky added, “An official state book is a symbol of the state and, presumably, the people within it. As such, it should inspire a cohesive identity and sense of community. Making the Bible Tennessee’s official state book would do the opposite.”

One approach that Tanenbaum proposes is to identify an official state book that is non-sectarian, inspirational and speaks to the highest ethics of all traditions. “This way,” Dubensky noted, “citizens will not feel as if their government is promoting only one group, one viewpoint within a religion or, worse, infringing on their own personal religious or non-religious beliefs.”

 


 

Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that systematically dismantles religious prejudice by tackling religious bullying of students, harassment in workplaces and disparate health treatment for people based on their beliefs. 

 

Combat Extremism: Get the Facts on Islam Diversity

Have you seen the recent #Notinmyname social media campaign? It’s an initiative led by young British Muslims to show defiance and solidarity against ISIS and the terrorist group’s actions. Their goal? To see how a “simple message” can show the world how ISIS misrepresents Islam.

Projects like this remind us of the great diversity among followers of Islam (and indeed all religions).
No one group is the voice for all Muslims.

Today, Tanenbaum therefore shares another practical resource for you to use at home, in the classroom, with your congregation or in your community.

Read, download, and share! Challenge others to ask questions, research the answers, and counter those who stereotype an entire religion. Know the facts and stand up against Islamophobia!

Together, we can become more informed citizens as we work to prevent violent extremism. Peace begins with us.

Join us in Minneapolis!

SThomas_general-session

Dear Friends,

Every year, some of the best thinking around Diversity & Inclusion takes place at the Forum on Workplace Inclusion in Minneapolis. We are proud to once again be among the presenters at this important event.

This year, Tanenbaum will be presenting “The Battle for Inclusion: Exploring Veteran Status and Religion in the Workplace.”
Mark Fowler and Liz Joslin will be joined by:

• Kimberly Mitchell: Director, Easter Seals Dixon Center
• Lisa Rosser: CEO and Founder, The Value of a Veteran
• Michael Burns: Director, Head of ICG Diversity, Citi

If you haven’t already registered for the Forum, click here to do so.If you have, we look forward to seeing you there!

In friendship,

Mark Fowler,
Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Combat Extremism with January Resources from Tanenbaum

Dear Friends,

I wouldn’t be surprised if your in-boxes – like mine – are still flooded with talk of ISIS, terror, and refugees facing a worsening humanitarian crisis. With this, we see rising fear and exploding acts of hatred and Islamophobia. This is a time for action. We can derail the anti-Muslim violence and hate that’s showing up in schools, at home and in our neighborhoods.

This January, Tanenbaum shares another practical resource for use in daily life, in a classroom or with your congregation.

Read, download, and share! Challenge students and children to ask questions, research the answers, and take action by starting a discussion within your community or family about Islamophobia. Take this to your house of worship and learn more about your neighbors.

Together, let’s work to prevent violent extremism. Peace begins with us.

With great hope for 2016,

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

P.S. Your signature makes a difference! Sign and share our Peacemaker’s Statement Against Extremism.

DONATE here to support our work against extremism and our 2016 intervention in Syria.

Promoting Religious Literacy and Respect for Differences: A Teacher’s Recommendations

An Interview with Chris Murray by Tanenbaum’s Kim Keiserman, Education Program Associate

In today’s multicultural, interconnected world, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of teaching about religious and cultural diversity.  But many teachers express reluctance to address these topics in the classroom, fearing that they may stumble into controversy.

Chris Murray is an educator who is committed to expanding his students’ knowledge of religion and religious diversity.  As a social studies teacher at Walter Johnson High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, he has taught World History for 11 years and an elective course in World Religions for six years.  This year, Chris began planning a week-long, 45-hour course to train other teachers to address religion as part of their curriculum.  The course will be offered to 30 educators in June 2016.

I spoke with Chris in November to find out what motivates him to teach about religion, how he approaches this complex and important subject, and what advice he has for other educators.

KK: How did you become interested in teaching World Religions?   

Chris Murray

Chris Murray, Educator

CM: I first became interested in teaching the course because of my personal interest in religion and its role in history.  I was able touch upon religion in my World History class, but I wanted to spend more time on it–and learn more about it myself.  Once I started teaching the course, I was taken aback by my students’ lack of religious literacy—although they actually scored a bit higher than the national average on the Pew U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz.  I realized that most students had never had a conversation about religion with someone from a faith other than their own.  I wanted to change that.

KK: Briefly describe the content of the course.  What religions do you cover?

CM: When I first started the course, I took a geographical approach.  I started with South Asia and covered Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.  Then I moved on to East Asia and covered Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism.  I ended the course with religions that originated in the Middle East—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i.  Over time, though, I focused less on history and more on the role religion plays in the 21st century.  I try to increase students’ religious literacy by bringing in polls [about current-day religious attitudes] from the Pew Research Center and arranging Skype calls with experts like Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center.

KK: What are your major objectives?

CM: I want students to not only gain a basic understanding of the major world religions, but also to be able to identify misconceptions about them and understand why these misconceptions persist.

KK: What resources do you recommend for other educators?

CM: Tanenbaum’s Seven Principles for Inclusive Education provide a framework for my teaching.  I don’t try to portray myself as an expert; instead I reach out to well-respected scholars within the major world religions.  I try to tap into the great expertise that is available out there.  When I am teaching about Hinduism, for instance, I use resources from the Hindu American Foundation.  When teaching about Sikhism, I go to the Kaur Foundation and the Sikh Campaign.  For Islam I have found good resources at the ACMCU Workshops and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Regardless of the subject area, I think it’s important for teachers to be honest about what they don’t know and willing to seek out great resources.  Right now, I am focused on getting conversations going through Face to Faith [an international video conferencing program that allows students to engage in cross-cultural, interfaith dialogue.]

KK: How do you handle incidents of violence in the name of religion such as the recent attacks carried out by ISIS in Paris?

CM: I want my students to feel safe bringing up questions about religion and extremism.  I want them to be able to express their own misconceptions without being labeled.  With regard to terrorist attacks such as those committed by ISIS, my approach is to help students differentiate between Islam and violent extremism.  My goal is to help them dissect these events and break them down into understandable pieces.  In any discussion of religious extremism, I think it’s important to expose students to the work of religious scholars rather than the rhetoric of politicians.

KK:  How would you handle parental complaints if you ever encountered them? 

CM: I would feel comfortable knowing that I am teaching about religion from an academic perspective, which is not only constitutional, but encouraged by state standards.  I would be able to stand my ground because I have the support of my administration and district.

KK: What would you say to parents in Tennessee, Georgia and elsewhere who have expressed concerns about their children learning about Islam?

CM: I would try to show that I understand the basis of their fears.  I would respond by demonstrating the intention of the course: Building students’ knowledge and understanding of the people in their own communities.  I have taught World Religions to 1,000 or so students, and I have never had one come to me and say that he or she has changed his or her faith due to learning about other faiths.

KK: What is the most important thing for other educators to know about this work? 

CM: First, it’s constitutional [to teach about religion.]  Second, you don’t have to be an expert, as long as you take advantage of the great resources that are out there.  Third, it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you’re continually reflecting and open to change.  For example, as I have learned more about Hinduism, I realize that some of my early teaching on the subject was inaccurate.  My teaching of Hinduism has evolved over time.  Finally, I would emphasize the importance of the subject matter.  We live in a world in which people are affected by religion.  Being knowledgeable about religion is not about personal spiritual growth; it’s about being a good global citizen.


 

We hope this will be the first in a series of interviews with educators who are committed to promoting religious literacy and respect for differences.  Are you a teacher who is working to incorporate lessons about religion and religious diversity into your curriculum?  Contact us at education@tanenbaum.org to share your experiences, insights and favorite resources.  We will pass them along to other educators!

A different kind of “Ted Talk”

We are excited to share a new video of renowned workplace thought leader, Ted Childs, Principal of Ted Childs, LLC, sharing his thoughts on the necessity of Tanenbaum’s Workplace Program and proactively addressing religious diversity in the workplace.

According to Childs, religion is a critical business issue:
“The risk for companies who ignore the global issue of religion is loss of talent, loss of marketplace access.”Childs explains the business imperative of proactively addressing religious diversity and shares his own experiences of meeting the challenges of managing a diverse workforce.

The Season of Inclusion – Navigate the December Dilemma!

Dear Friends,

What does your office look like during this time of year? Are there Christmas trees and menorahs in the lobby, or are decorations strictly snowflake-themed? Are departments planning Christmas parties or perhaps a holiday potluck?

Whatever is taking place at your office, the December Dilemma is in full swing. Hanukkah starts on December 6th and Christmas is coming up too (many will celebrate on December 24th and 25th, and some will celebrate January 6th [Armenian Orthodox] and 7th [Eastern Orthodox]).

Whether your company acknowledges specific holidays or takes a more general approach to the season, awareness about the holidays taking place during this busy time of year is key.
Use Tanenbaum’s tip sheets on Christmas, Hanukkah, and the December Dilemma to navigate decorations, time off and scheduling, and holiday greetings. Let’s celebrate the season of inclusion!
In friendship,
Mark Fowler,
Managing Director of Programs

Combat Extremism – October Resources from Tanenbaum

Dear Friends,

At Tanenbaum, we are committed to combating extremism because of the horror it inflicts on people. And because it fuels suspicion and fear of others, stereotypes, and hate.

There are many paths to defeat extremism, including actions you can take today. This month, Tanenbaum shares more excellent and practical resources you can use in your daily life:

  • QUESTIONS for Students and Educators: A question sheet that may be used alongside Opposition to Places of Worship and Religious Practices in the U.S. by educators and creative parents alike!
Read, download, and share! Use them to begin a discussion at the dinner table during a conversation without cell phones, in your house of worship, or at your local community center. Challenge your children and students to read them and ask questions – and then research answers. Learn the facts! Speak up! And please share your ideas with us for ways to use these resources to counter hate and terror.
With great hope for peace,
Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

P.S. Remember to sign the Peacemaker’s Change.org petition against extremism – commit to taking action!