Tanenbaum names 2014 Inaugural Corporate Leaders for Inclusion

Tanenbaum honors corporations for breaking new ground in workplace diversity by making their workplaces more accommodating for employees of all — and no — religious beliefs.

This week at our Annual Awards Gala, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding announced its inaugural Corporate Leaders for Inclusion. CLI commends six corporations for breaking new ground in workplace diversity and inclusion.

“Nearly one in three Americans say that religious discrimination is a real problem in their workplaces,” said Joyce S. Dubensky, Tanenbaum CEO. “When employees report religious discrimination to a manager, one third say that their company did nothing. This is why it is so important to honor the companies that proactively combat workplace religious discrimination. At Tanenbaum, we want to recognize that this can mean breaking new ground to build a global workplace. And we applaud those who are taking the lead.”

The 2014 honorees are Bloomberg, Citi, DTCC, EmblemHealth, Korn Ferry and Walmart.

The invitation-only honor recognizes leaders among their peers: companies at the cutting edge of making their workplaces more accommodating for employees of all —or no — religious beliefs.

“All corporate leaders should be inclusive,” Dubensky added. “Each of our honorees have demonstrated that they have — among other things — made daily life more inclusive for religious and non-believing employees. They’re building a track record and getting proactive about ending religious discrimination in their workplaces. I, for one, am grateful.”

In recognition of these outstanding companies, Tanenbaum named the 2014 Class of Corporate Leaders for Inclusion in the New York Times on June 4, 2014, page A5 (see advertisement).




Top five news stories you need to know.

Here are the top stories about religion that you need to know from May 17-May 23, 2014:

The Headwrap Expo: Shifting the Conversation • Orthodox Jewish woman says that school fired her for observing Sabbath • Vaccination exemption issues raising discrimination concerns • U.S. agency urges Myanmar to scrap proposed religion laws • Religious freedom linked to economic growth and innovation

The Headwrap Expo: Shifting the Conversation
On June 8  in Dearborn, Michigan, the 2014 Headwrap Expo celebrated interfaith dialog, fashion, and culture. Billed as “the art of headwrapping and scarf styling,” the Headwrap Expo was presented by the organization Beautifully Wrapped. The organization’s founder, Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, explained how the Expo is a celebration of “fusion — looking at how different cultural aspects, different things that people wear in different parts of the world are adopted across into other cultures.” Naeem explained how the Expo has broad cultural appeal and moves beyond fashion to address issues of unity. 

“It’s an intercultural, multi-faith event that brings together all these different groups…We have the Sikh Indians, we have Muslims, we have Christians, we have Jews, we have African Americans, African immigrants, everybody coming together. Once we’re there, we share, we talk about love, we have workshops, we have fashion stylings, fashion shows throughout the day. It’s a whole affair.”

Orthodox Jewish woman says that school fired her for observing Sabbath
Ellen Gastwirth, 41, was hired in 2005 as Director of Education at Temple Judea, a reformed  Jewish synagogue on Long Island. Gastwirth first encountered resistance to her Orthodox observance of the Sabbath when Rabbi Todd Chizner was hired the following year. Her requests for holiday time off were met with animosity. For example, in 2008, Rabbi Chizner questioned her observance by asking “What do you people do on that day that would prevent you from being here?” Harassment from the board of directors and the Rabbi led to the termination of her employment and a new Brooklyn Federal Court lawsuit.

Vaccination Exemption Issues Raising Discrimination Concerns
Two recent court cases address discrimination issues as they relate to objections to vaccination due to religious beliefs.

In Philips v. City of New York, parents argued that their children are unfairly discriminated against. While their children’s school district allows vaccination refusals based on religious beliefs, documentation is required that supports and explains the religious objection. Students that receive accommodation must stay home when another student at the school acquires an illness that is vaccine-protected. A federal judge rejected the parent’s claims, ruling that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause does not provide exemption from vaccination requirements.

In Valent v. Board of Review, Department of Labor, New Jersey Appeals Court ruled that a hospital employee who was fired for refusing vaccination is entitled to unemployment benefits. The hospital offers vaccine exemptions to employees for religious beliefs, however, they denied an exemption to the plaintiff because the employee did not object to vaccination due to religious reasons. The court ruled that this discrimination lacked justification and violates the First Amendment.

U.S. Agency Urges Myanmar to Scrap Proposed Religion Laws
In Myanmar, laws have been drafted that intend to protect Buddhists, the country’s majority, by regulating marriages and conversations between people of different faiths.

The U.S. State Department stated that the draft laws should be withdrawn and have “no place in the 21st century”. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom believes that these laws encourage violence against Muslims, Christians, and other religious minority groups. Additionally, the Commission stated that if these draft laws are passed, Washington “should factor these negative developments into its evolving relationship with Burma (Myanmar).”

Religious Freedom Linked to Economic Growth and Innovation
The Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion recently published a study that reviewed GDP growth in 2011 across 173 countries. GDP growth was compared to additional data including religious restrictions and the levels of economic and business related freedoms for each country.

Authored by researchers at Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, the study concludes that countries that allow greater freedom of religion are more likely to have economic growth and innovation.

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation commented on the report findings by stating, “As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, religious freedom may be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth.” Additionally the foundation explained that hostility and restrictions based on religion can create “climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development, and disrupt huge sectors of economies”

Syrian regime systematically making people ‘disappear’: Top 5 News Stories

Syrian regime systematically making people ‘disappear,’ UN panel charges

GENEVA—A UN panel reported Thursday it believes the Syrian government is committing a crime against humanity by making people systematically vanish, and that rebels have also recently begun making their opponents disappear.

The expert panel said it found “a consistent country-wide pattern” of Syrian security, armed forces and pro-government militia seizing people in mass arrests or house searches and at checkpoints and hospitals, then making them disappear — and denying that they even exist. Most of the victims have been young men.

New York Archdiocese Wins Ruling on Contraception

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York was granted a federal injunction on Monday that blocks an Obama administration requirement to provide contraceptive care to employees at its nonprofit affiliates.

The ruling found that the regulation violated the religious freedom of the four nonprofit groups — two high schools and two health care systems — that are affiliated with the archdiocese but employ people of any faith. Under the Affordable Care Act, the nonprofit groups were required to provide the contraceptive coverage, authorize a third party to voluntarily pay for and provide the coverage, or pay steep fines.

The ruling, by Brian M. Cogan of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, found that forcing the groups to authorize a third party to provide contraceptive care still violated their religious beliefs even if they were not financially support contraception. Churches are already exempt from the mandate to provide contraceptive care.

The Panic Over Whether Religion Is “Even Legal”

There’s a new ripple of panic this week about religious freedom. In the National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez, reacting to the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, asks: “Is religion even legal?” Lopez worries that the lawsuit, which seeks to hold the USCCB liable for providing substandard medical care at Catholic hospitals owing to directives prohibiting abortion services, is “essentially against the concept of Catholic health care.”

In season of giving, atheist groups’ charity rebuffed

As the holiday season peaks, atheist and humanist groups around the country have seen their charitable impulses rebuffed by both Christian and secular organizations. Recent incidents of “thanks, but no thanks,” include:

  • A group of Kansas City, Mo., nonbelievers was told their help was not needed after they volunteered to help a local Christian group distribute Thanksgiving meals.
  • A $3,000 donation to a Morton Grove, Ill., park, collected by a local atheist group, was returned. Park officials said they did not wish to “become embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.”
  • A group of Spartanburg, S.C., atheists  was denied the opportunity to help at a Christian-run soup kitchen. The soup kitchen’s executive director told local press she would resign before accepting the atheists’ help and asked, “Why are they targeting us?”

For devout Muslim cabbies in New York City, parking tickets are the price of prayers

Roughly half of the city’s 40,000-odd cabbies are Muslims who hail from countries all over the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere — and a great number of the drivers are observant, praying five times a day.

When you spend your days driving a taxicab, it’s impossible to say where, at any given moment, you might wind up. Followers of Islam can perform their five daily prayers in any relatively clean space, even bowed down on the side of the road. But the process isn’t so simple. You first need to ritually wash with water and then to prostrate yourself facing east, toward Mecca.

I found Kamal praying alone at the BP gas station on the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets. He’d taken a prayer mat from the cardboard box kept there for drivers, laid it down in front of the pumps and was kneeling in the cold.

Fighting Religious Discrimination One App at a Time

<p>This season, in the face of religious discrimination, one group created a mobile app that enables air travelers to act as an external watchdog on potentially discriminatory practices at airport checkpoints. Created by the Sikh Coalition, the app enables people of all faiths and races to file complaints against the TSA for racial and religious profiling.</p>

<p>Although the TSA released a statement that it &ldquo;has zero tolerance for racial profiling and employs multiple checks and balances to ensure unlawful profiling does not occur,&rdquo; studies show that Sikhs, Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim are pulled aside for secondary screenings at a higher rate than people not perceived to be Muslim. The FlyRights app hopes to call attention to the institutionalized reinforcing of negative stereotypes.</p>

<p>We have the power to end religious discrimination by speaking up, raising awareness, and taking action. This app is just one example of how ingenuity combined with community action takes us one step closer to creating a world free of discrimination and prejudice.</p>

<p>This Thanksgiving, remember that the human family extends beyond your table.</p>

<p>Here&#39;s where you can get the app: <a href=””></a></p>

<p>Read the full story here: <a href=””></a></p>

The New York Times publishes Tanenbaum’s letter condemning anti-Semitism

On Friday, The New York Times published “Swastikas, Slurs and Torment in Town’s Schools,” a story about anti-Semitic incidents in an upstate New York school district. Jewish students there report verbal abuse and swastikas on “walls, desks, lockers, textbooks, computer screens, a playground slide – even on a student’s face.”

This is exactly the prejudice–the every day hate–that Tanenbaum is committed to stopping.

That’s why I submitted a letter to the editor that was published this morning in the print and online version of The New York Times.

I invite you to read the story – and my response. Let me know if you see any such prejudice in your life. Let me know if you’ve worked to stop it – or if Tanenbaum can be of help in any way. And please let your friends know about this problem and about how we are standing up against it!








Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

Opening Hearts and Minds to Peace

On Thursday, October 24, Conrad Tao performed A Piece for Peace, at Weill Concert Hall at Carnegie Hall, opening the audience’s hearts and minds to peace.

Conrad debuted compositions by Gordon Getty (pictured, above, with Conrad) and performed pieces by Meredith Monk and Ravel. The audience gave the Conrad a standing ovation.

At a reception before Conrad’s performance, Brian Neff, a tenor and social entrepreneur, treated attendees to a special surprise performance.

Though Brian and Conrad created an inspirational and festive atmosphere, the danger that our Peacemakers in Action face every day was not far from our minds.

Dr. Ephraim Isaac, our Peacemaker from Ethiopia attended the event to show his support for his fellow Peacemaker Ricardo Esquiva Ballestas. As Joyce Dubensky, CEO of Tanenbaum, eloquently stated when she introduced Conrad, Ricardo’s life is in danger because he ardently works to bring peace and security to Columbia’s most vulnerable populations.

Through their music and performances, Brian and Conrad showed that they stand for peace and against persecution. We encourage both those who attended and anyone who supports peace to sign the petition calling for an end to Ricardo’s persecution.

Read the call to action here:

Justine O’Sullivan, Communications Assistant

School Cancels Halloween for Religious Reasons: Top 5 news stories


Did TGI Friday's staff trick Muslim woman into eating bacon? Hobby Lobby apologizes, says it will carry Jewish holiday itemsTurkey Lifts Longtime Ban on Head Scarves in State Offices School Cancels Halloween For Religious Reasons BBC journalist faced discrimination 'because he was Coptic Christian'    

Last week's top news, from our perspective:

Did TGI Friday's staff trick Muslim woman into eating bacon?
Is it a corporation's job to stop religious hate crimes in the workplace? Read this story about a popular restaurant chain and what it's employees are capable of alledgely doing. Being proactive is the answer.


Hobby Lobby apologizes, says it will carry Jewish holiday items
After potential customers took offense to Hobby Lobby not carrying merchandise related to Hanukkah, conservative billionaire owner Steve Green announced that hew will start carryign some Jewish holiday items.


Turkey Lifts Longtime Ban on Head Scarves in State Offices
From the article: "The head scarf ban is one of the most emotionally charged issues in Turkey. It has long divided the country, pitting a rising group of religiously observant Turks who govern the country against a once-powerful secular elite that has struggled to regain control over the Turkish state."


School Cancels Halloween For Religious Reasons
Halloween has been cancelled in at least one school in the United States and in several in Canada. The fall celebrations was cancelled at Inglewood Elementary School in Montgomery County, Pa. "in order to comply with a Supreme Court edict that public schools not promote any religion."


BBC journalist faced discrimination 'because he was Coptic Christian' 
Despite appearing as an analyst on Islamic movements and Arabic politics on television and radio, including BBC channels–and winning an internal award for his work–a journalist claims that he was passed up for a promotion because he is a Coptic Christian.


Last week, Tanenbaum received troubling information that Peacemaker in Action, Ricardo Esquivia, is facing severe political persecution in Colombia. Recently, a key associate of Ricardo’s was arrested on false charges and several others received written death threats. There is also evidence that the military is building a case against Ricardo, accusing him of being a guerrilla allied with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Though there are many details that still need to be confirmed, we believe the threats against Ricardo and the members of his peace movement are real and that their lives and safety are at risk.

Ricardo received Tanenbaum’s Peacemaker in Action award in 2005 for his work as a driver of peace and community development in Colombia. For over 40 years, Ricardo has helped conflict-affected communities peacefully reconcile differences and build a better future. Despite his work for peace (or because of it), Ricardo has been repeatedly threatened, baselessly, with detention or legal action. It is time to end this harassment of a proven servant of the Colombian people.

This is a situation where the Peacemakers in Action Network and YOU can have a huge impact. The Peacemakers prepared a Statement of Solidarity to show their support and encourage the public to act. By calling on the leaders identified within the Statement, YOU can help ensure the safety and freedom of Ricardo and the members of his peace movement.

The Peacemakers in Action Network stands as a voice for peace and justice. Today, they call on YOU to ensure the Colombian authorities to heed our collective demands and end political persecution of Ricardo Esquivia and his associates in Montes de Maria – immediately!


What you can do:


Follow the steps outlined in the Peacemakers in Action Network Statement of Solidarity


Sign this petition

Syria explained: how it became a religious war, Top 5 News Stories

Syria explained: how it became a religious war

Though the Syrian conflict began as an internal uprising, it quickly escalated into a civil war that attracts external fighters from around the world. Understanding the sectarian divides and religious tensions throughout Syria's population explains how the conflict became a religious war.

Health-care professionals encouraged to 'be missionaries'

John Brehany, the executive director of the Catholic Medical Association, urged medical and healthcare professionals to promote pro-life and life-affirming policies to their patients. At his seminar "The Culture of Life in Medical Practice", Brehany spoke about strategies to advance these ethics in medicine. 

Scientists call for religious help to save our wildlife

Three distinguished scientists from Sweden and Australia call on religious leaders to use their positions as a platform to promote stewardship through conservation. By painting conservation as a moral responsibility, these scientists hope that the unification of religion and science could solve the problem of biodiversity loss. 

Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God?

Though all three religions trace their roots back to Abraham, all three religions share similarities and points of disagreement. Each religion, however, clams to be the "One True Faith".

61% of Israelis: Separate State, religion

Hiddush association's Religion and State Index recently released survey findings which reveal that a majority of adult Israelis desire a greater separation of religion and state. From expanding which conversions Israel recognizes to government funding for religious schools, the survey shows that disagreements regarding the role of religion in state politics continue to be the focus of public discourse. 



2013 International Day of Peace: How can you participate?

Did you know that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has dedicated International Day of Peace on Sept 21, 2013 to peace education? Whether you're a teacher or not, you can play a part in the global campaign to promote peace education.

By sharing this simple activity with your children, colleagues and friends, you'll change their understanding of respect in practical ways that you'll see at home, at work and in the neighborhood.

Click here to download the activity.

If you are a teacher, help your students participate in this global campaign by using this simple lesson plan to challenge them to respect difference and foster their skills in conflict resolution.


Click here to download the lesson plan.

For further ideas on how to address increasing diversity in your classroom, investigate our upcoming workshops:

Questions?  Email or call 212.967.7707.