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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

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

Behavior vs. Belief: A Heated Debate

Bernie Sanders | Credit Win McNamee/Getty

Senator Bernie Sanders recently faced criticism for his questioning of Russell Vought during Vought’s confirmation hearing for Deputy Director for the Office of Budget Management. Sanders brought up a blog post in which Vought wrote that Muslims who “have rejected Jesus Christ” stand “condemned”. Sanders called this language “hateful” and said he would vote against Vought’s confirmation. Many leaders from a variety of Christian denominations have responded that Vought’s belief is a core tenant of Christianity, and one shared by many Americans.

Those who thought Sanders’ comments toward Vought were inappropriate, or even unconstitutional, argue that he was imposing a religious test on Vought. Some Muslim advocates have defended Sanders, saying that in the current political climate it’s important to ensure that nominees will treat all Americans fairly. This difference of opinion perhaps stems, not only from the different political or religious ideologies of those who are responding to the encounter, but also in whether they viewed Vought’s beliefs or his behavior as under attack.

One of Tanenbaum’s core principles is that when religious issues emerge in the workplace, employers should  focus on behavior and not belief. Employees are free to believe what they want to believe, and it is not appropriate (or, in many cases, legal) to argue with someone about their deeply held convictions. That said, it is appropriate to have standards for behavior in the workplace, and to require employees to meet those standards. For example, an employee may believe that homosexuality is an abomination, and is entitled to that belief. If, however, the employee starts harassing LGBT colleagues or posting defamatory statements on the company’s intranet page, such behavior would threaten to create a hostile work environment and the company would then be within its rights to discipline that employee.

Similarly, Vought has both a moral and constitutional right to his religious beliefs, including his belief that non-Christians will go to hell. If Sanders was criticizing Vought simply for holding that or any other religious belief, it would be inappropriate. However, Sanders’ office has since stated that he was concerned, not with Vought’s beliefs themselves, but whether the expression of those beliefs would prevent Vought from “carry[ing] out the duties of his office in a way that treats all Americans equally.” That criticism is far more valid because it focuses on what Vought’s behavior would be like if confirmed.

In the future, politicians who are concerned about nominees’ statements on religion should be careful to frame their concerns around the nominee’s behavior, not their beliefs.

By: Eliza Blanchard
Assistant Director, Workplace & Health Care Programs

From Competence to Confidence: Tanenbaum’s 2017 Religious Diversity Leadership Summit

Tanenbaum’s second Religious Diversity Leadership Summit took place on May 23rd at Bloomberg, LP. Over 100 people from more than 35 companies attended the event. In its second year, this event grew 65% in attendance and was twice as long. The Summit was made possible by our generous sponsors: Bloomberg, DTCC, and the Walt Disney Company.

According to our post-event survey, some of the most important takeaways from the event included:

  • “…this summit helped me uncover the fact that religion is often neglected and never discussed yet it’s KEY in bringing our whole selves to work, therefore we should be talking about its impact way more.”
  • “I…was on the fence about interfaith ERG’s, but now I’m sold. I plan to use the notes to start discussion with our team.”
  • “Hearing from leaders who have been successful in implementing religious diversity programs as well as representation from the regulatory agency was a fantastic opportunity.”

We can’t wait to further grow the Summit in 2018!

We’ve Made Our Pledge – 150 CEOs Take Action!

Dear Friends,

Amid the drumbeat of political news, something powerful happened yesterday that I find exciting. Globally, we took a giant step toward justice and respect when the newly formed CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion announced that 150 corporate executives from major companies pledged to work toward more diverse, inclusive and just workplaces. The three initial goals are:

  1. To continue to make workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion;
  2. To implement and expand unconscious bias education; and
  3. To share best—and unsuccessful—practices

I am honored to represent Tanenbaum as a signatory on the CEO Action pledge and one of the few organizations of our ilk on the list. As the only secular, non-sectarian not-for-profit with more than two decades of experience helping multi-national companies create inclusive environments for employees of all faiths and none, Tanenbaum is uniquely positioned to offer better practices on this topic—including ones we’ve implemented in our own office. Click here to read about our Holiday Swapping policy, and here for other better practices from the global companies represented.

Religious diversity is part of the larger Diversity & Inclusion conversation, and I trust that Tanenbaum’s involvement in the pledge will inspire more companies to proactively address religious diversity in the workplace. The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion is poised to inspire lasting change in workplaces large and small. And how wonderful is that?

Let’s keep moving the needle toward equity, justice, and respect,

Joyce S. Dubensky
Tanenbaum CEO

Safe but Scared in Kabul – Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani, Afghanistan

Yesterday morning’s deadly truck bombing in Kabul was a horrific tragedy. At Tanenbaum, it’s also personal.

The explosion, which killed more than 80 people and wounded hundreds more, shook Kabul as our Peacemaker Jamila Afghani was on her way to work. When we reached her later in the day, Jamila was at home with her family and all were safe. Safe, but very scared. They live close enough to the bomb blast that all her windows were smashed, and the walls cracked open.

At Tanenbaum, we work with Peacemakers from around the world like Jamila, who pursue peace in the places where violence and conflict are the norm. Jamila focuses on improving the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, despite the violence and constant threats. She is a woman of faith and fearless vision. But on a day like today, her only words were that the bombing was “extremely terrifying” and that it struck “fear in my heart.”

As we continue to mourn the attacks in Manchester, Cairo, and Portland, we must remember those killed and injured in Kabul.

Terrorism has no bounds. It strikes with ferocity. By remembering all the victims, survivors and their families whether in Manchester or Kabul, we align with those who oppose hatred and terror. By acknowledging the random impact of terror on people from all backgrounds, nationalities and religions, we lay claim to our humanity.

Today, we are reminded that greater security and protection for civilians in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan is critically needed. As the international community takes action to stop the terror, let it remember the people of Kabul and the long Afghan war. Let us devote more resources to peacebuilding and diplomacy—and to advancing the work of religious Peacemakers like Jamila.

 


To read more about Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani, please visit her profile page here.

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.

Thank You! 25 Years of Making Peace Possible

Dear Friends,

On May 23rd, we celebrated an important moment in Tanenbaum’s history, our 25th Anniversary Gala: Peace Made Possible. In an evening highlighted by moments of profound reflection and celebration, we fortified our commitment to justice – and to never, ever forget.

The evening began with a moment of silence to remember victims of another random act of terror, in Manchester. Then founder and president Dr. Georgette F. Bennett was recognized as an Inspiration Circle honoree and she introduced 11 other friends and supporters who’ve helped Tanenbaum grow from a one-woman initiative to a vibrant, internationally-in-demand organization. The applause couldn’t even be held back as His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America was honored, along with Angelica Berrie, Ted Childs, Ilan Kauftal, Howard Milstein, Amelia and Adebayo Ogunlesi, Dr. Leonard S. Polonsky CBE, Dr. Ariella Riva Ritvo-Slifka, Judy Thompson, Scottie Twine and Maz Zouhairi.

Our Corporate Bridge Builder Award went to the Libra Group and was accepted by its Chairman and CEO, George Logothetis. Libra Group is a diverse international business with a commitment to giving back embedded in its culture. It’s latest philanthropic venture is the HOME Project which is dedicated to providing shelter and support for refugees, especially unaccompanied children in Greece. Everyone listened intently as Logothetis spoke about the HOME Project’s impact so far and how crucial it is to ensure people’s beliefs and sources of hope are respected and “oxygenated with dignity.”

Former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon received the 2017 Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding. By video, he described the rise of terrorism as one of the world’s greatest threats, and spoke to the urgent need for humanity to remain committed to peace. Our 2017 Adam Solomon Award for Excellence was awarded to Lycée Français de New York, a bilingual school that teaches respect, because today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Later in the evening, Michael Bornstein, author of Survivors Club, powerfully introduced 2017 Media Bridge Builder Awardee Soledad O’Brien. He quietly shared recollections as a Holocaust survivor and later how he was “ruthlessly bullied” as a student in post-WWII Germany for being Jewish. As Soledad O’Brien concluded in her speech, Peace is made possible when we don’t stop working at it. We celebrate tonight, and tomorrow we’ll get back to work.”

And now, we’ll do just that.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

P.S. Our gala raffle winner for 2017 is Sam Matino of Concordia, Inc.! Thanks again to all who participated, see you next year!


DINNER CHAIRS

  • Nadine AugustaGlobal Head of Diversity and Inclusion & Corporate Social Responsibility, DTCC
  • C. Justin Foa, President and CEO, Foa & Son Corporation International Insurance Brokers, Tanenbaum Board Chair

HONORING

Ban Ki-moonFormer Secretary-General, United Nations
2017 RABBI MARC H. TANENBAUM AWARD FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF INTERRELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING

Libra Group, Accepted by George Logothetis, Chairman and CEO
2017 CORPORATE BRIDGE BUILDER AWARD

Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group, Host of Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien
2017 MEDIA BRIDGE BUILDER AWARD

Lycée Français de New York
2017 ADAM SOLOMON AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE

Inspiration Circle
Longtime Friends & Supporters

  • Dr. Georgette F. Bennett
  • Angelica Berrie
  • Ted Childs
  • His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America
  • Ilan Kauftal
  • Howard Milstein
  • Amelia and Adebayo Ogunlesi
  • Dr. Leonard S. Polonsky CBE
  • Dr. Ariella Riva Ritvo-Slifka
  • Judy Thompson
  • Scottie Twine
  • Maz Zouhairi

Police and Youth in El Salvador: Insight from Tanenbaum Peacemaker José “Chencho” Alas

Following is a guest article written by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, José “Chencho” Alas.


Historically, El Salvador has been a very violent country.

“Our work with community police and young people is ecological. To avoid the use of plastic bags, we made banana-leaf baskets, which was a real success. We gave each participant a moringa seed; we asked each to give it a name, proclaiming it a younger brother or sister and pledging to care for it and transplant it in an optimal place in their yard.”  – José Chencho Alas, Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action

In 1932, we had the massacre of 30,000 indigenous people at the hands of the army and the National Guard, ordered by General Maximiliano Martínez, who later became the country’s president. That began a 50-year military dictatorship characterized by successive massacres. In the 1980s, a war burst out that lasted 12 years with a death toll of 80,000. The Peace Accords were signed in January 1992 and immediately the United States began to repatriate Salvadoran gang members who were filling California prisons. This began the war in our streets, particularly among the young.

For the next 20 years the Salvadoran oligarchy was in power, which closed its eyes and allowed the growth of gangs for political reasons. Every time we had elections, they promised the people that if they voted for them, they would stop the violence. In 2009, representatives of the left, of the FMLN, won the elections, but by then the evil had been done. The gangs controlled territories of the country, imposed taxes on the population and killed and killed, not only civilians but also police officers, 58 last year.

It wasn’t until March 2016 and after demonstrations of political power by the famous gang MS-13 and by Barrio 18, that the different active forces of the country decided to put an end to crime by creating a plan called Secure El Salvador. Government, civil society, many churches and NGOs participate in this plan. The result is clear. Crime has dropped from 23 percent to 8.2 percent, but whether this can be sustained remains an open question. The plan is based on social prevention measures, youth education, creation of micro-enterprises and violent prosecution of crime.

It’s in this environment that we have begun to work, facilitating peace workshops for community police, youth and community leaders. We have chosen the department of Cabañas, El Salvador, one of the smallest departments, formed by nine municipalities. Its capital is the city of Sensuntepeque and it has a population of about 150 thousand people.

The concept of community policing is relatively new; little by little it’s spreading in Latin American countries. It takes as its starting point local communities’ needs and interests, both in the prevention of crime as well as in its prosecution and the well-rounded growth of its inhabitants. The mutual work is based on the trust generated by an environment of communication and support, not only in regards to denouncing and fighting crime and its perpetrators but also in the creation of projects of common benefit. The basic purpose is to achieve community coexistence in security, harmony and peace. The function performed by police officers is as peacemakers, a value that allows them to raise their own self-esteem.

Our workshops have three objectives:

1) to give to the participants a methodological tool that generates trust, positive relationships;
2) train in techniques of organization of groups and networks; and
3) work on projects that facilitate police interaction with communities and their respective organizations.

In regards to the methodological instrument, we are teaching the management of appreciative research (AI). The first phase of AI, the discovery of the existing positives at the individual level, in a community, organization or institution, is fundamental. It allows us to discover what’s already there; this becomes the basis for creating a powerful vision that, put into practice in projects, destines us to human growth and material well-being.

The creation of a vision and its projects cannot be achieved if we are not organized. Our objective is to facilitate workshops in each of the municipalities and then form a departmental network of community police, youth and community leaders.

In our first workshop on May 2, we had the participation of 17 middle-school students and leaders from various communities and 12 members of the community police. The project we chose was tree planting, a lovely experience that united us. We started with a nursery of moringa, a tree considered a marvel for its curative properties of 300 diseases, according to some university studies and popular lore. The cultivation of this tree, native to India, has extended to several tropical and semi-tropical regions of the planet. In India, people began to use its seeds and leaves more than 3,000 years ago.

We have the unconditional support of the departmental police commissioner and junior officers, as well as the support of the secondary education centers. We consider our work as something new, in the sense that we do not start by enumerating problems but by discovering and evaluating the positive that already exist in us and the others. Growing in the positive we resolve our problems. The police-youth-community leaders relationship is fundamental for peace.

Written by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, José “Chencho” Alas.

Tanenbaum – and I – Have Lost a Friend…Harvey Krueger

Harvey M. Krueger | Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace

There are many tributes today, honoring and remembering Harvey Krueger, who passed on April 23, 2017. He is remembered as a brilliant business leader, a compassionate and active philanthropist in the Jewish community, a lover of Israel and justice, a deeply devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and family man. And always, as the husband of Connie.

All these things are true. But, today, I am remembering Harvey because he was my friend. I first met Harvey during a major contract negotiation, where I was struck by what a force he was—and how he got what he wanted. It was later that we again met through my work at Tanenbaum. At first, I knew him only as a member of Tanenbaum’s Leadership Council. Soon, we were in friendship, discussing everything from equity and fairness in the Middle East, to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, tribalism, to Tanenbaum’s peace building work and global workplace strategies, to our philosophies on marriage and life. He was always caring, always incredibly smart, and always made me think.

When I last saw Harvey, not as a representative of Tanenbaum but as his friend, it was for lunch in his home. It was after Connie was gone, and he was not doing well. When the time came for me to leave, he said he wanted to do something for me. I told him there was nothing to do, that I had just come to visit. But he insisted, got his wallet and handed me what would be his last gift for Tanenbaum.

That gift was not a large monetary gift. But it is was one of the most meaningful gifts I have received. It was a gift of the heart and a statement to our friendship. It was a privilege to call Harvey friend and, an honor, when he called me friend in return.

I miss him.

Joyce Dubensky