Religious Diversity Leadership Summit: Raising the Bar

This year’s third annual Religious Diversity Leadership Summit was the largest one yet, with attendance near capacity and a waitlist in hand. Tanenbaum’s first full day Summit boasts 155 attendees and 23 speakers plus moderators from 64 companies, spanning 18 industries. The day included four concurrent breakout sessions addressing focused topics, another first for the Summit. Hosted by Bloomberg, the Summit was sponsored by Bloomberg, DTCC, and the Walt Disney Company.

Speakers shared personal stories to highlight pragmatic approaches to handling religious diversity in the workplace, showing attendees that this topic is not just about professional policies, it’s also about the people. Amin Kassam, keynote speaker and Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel at Bloomberg, eloquently spoke of his trepidation of coming out of two closets, as gay and as Muslim, during his professional life and highlighted some of his challenges. He courageously discussed the intersectionality of his religious and sexual identities in a way that was moving and inspiring.

Panelists and moderators in the programs that followed repeatedly came back to the importance of “bringing ones’ whole self to work” and the positive impact, as well as sometimes challenges, this can have for everyone. This was addressed in the context of varying positions of power in a company, the impact of generational norms, and the influence of different company cultures (corporate, non-profit, government, etc.).

In response to the Summit, attendees shared the following reactions and takeaways from the day:

  • “I have attended the previous conference[s]. They just keep getting better.”
  • “I appreciated ‘respectful curiosity. As a baby boomer, I was taught never to ask questions about why people are different. However, I always found [that] by asking respectful questions, you get to learn the culture and practices of others.”
  • As organizations, we celebrate what we value. [Also,] don’t be paralyzed by potential backlash. Instead, be prepared to ask people what they want/need when they raise concerns and say ‘What about me?’
  • “The Senior Leadership Panel described strong actions implemented at their company that describes the financial [return on investment] from diversity and inclusion. Using the Learning Lab assignment with Senior Management will generate dialogue and ultimately result in exercise to implement with staff.”

Pragmatic approaches were presented together with presenters’ stories, which provided an element of transparency that many attendees were pleasantly surprised to experience. From Mr. Kassam’s speech to the six different panels to Deputy CEO Mark Fowler’s Learning Lab, the Summit provided attendees with personal insight and practical knowledge of how to handle religion in the workplace. The overarching message of the day as one attendee so powerfully articulated was that diversity of religion is a fact, but inclusion of religion is a choice.”

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Tanenbaum Supports Religious Pluralism and Condemns the RAISE Act

Tanenbaum strongly condemns the proposed amendments to current U.S. immigration policy. As outlined in the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy Act (RAISE) and supported by the current Administration, the proposals are alarming. By seeking to cut legal immigration to the U.S. in half by 2027 and to cap the number of refugees at 50,000, the RAISE Act would actually institutionalize bias against people who practice one of the minority religions in the U.S. Tanenbaum therefore calls on Congress to reject the bill.

Tanenbaum’s CEO, Joyce Dubensky, notes, “The White House is telling us that this bill is not meant to target any particular group. But the truth is that this bill would thwart immigration, especially by people from minority religions in our country—like Muslims and Hindus, who have increasingly needed to come to this nation for safety, opportunity and better lives.” Dubensky believes this proposal should concern all of us.

“This is a critical moment in America’s history. Not only are we deeply polarized, but nationally, we are conflicted about whether to embrace our traditional values of welcoming the stranger. Many are more concerned with insulating themselves from current demographic shifts. Yet, these shifts are part of our global reality,” Dubensky said. “So the real question for all of us is, what does it mean to be an American? Do we welcome the stranger like our many religious and secular values urge? Or do we turn from the people who need us?”

Tanenbaum cautions our government’s leaders that passing the RAISE Act would backfire. Rather than protect our nation, it would amplify Islamophobia, legitimatize irrational fears of refugees and immigrants, and fuel hate crimes against people from religious minorities that are already reaching epidemic levels. We urge, instead, that our nation’s leaders prove that they value inclusivity by passing policies that honor and uphold religious freedom and diversity, which RAISE does not.

As Dubensky explains, “Simply stated, RAISE would raze our nation’s foundational values in the guise of sound immigration policy.”

From Competence to Confidence: 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!

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

Kicking Off Tanenbaum|25

Glasses were raised last week to kick off Tanenbaum’s 25th Anniversary, hosted by Holly Weiss, Partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP. It was a great evening where new and old friends gathered to recognize Tanenbaum’s achievements – while noting that the need for Tanenbaum is greater now than ever.

Everyone present recommitted to forging a future with less hatred, violence and extremism. All agreed—If not now, when?

Check out the gallery of images below, and be sure to reserve your place for our 25th Anniversary Gala on Tuesday, May 23, 2017!

From hate to harm: the alt-Right’s anti-Semitism in Montana

Jude StarOn Monday, three deadly terror attacks in Germany, Yemen and Jordan captured the world’s attention. It’s not that these acts are unusual. The number of articles about violent terrorism are too numerous to count. It’s that they all occurred on one horrific day.

And so did an effort to target Jews in the heartland of America.

On Monday, news outlets reported that alt-Right media presence Andrew Anglin (of the anti-Semitic online site “Daily Stormer”) was spewing rhetoric dangerously close to—if not directly from—the Nazi playbook.

In an article alleging that Jews had an agenda to go after the mother of the alt-right’s most visible alt-Right leader, Richard Spencer, Anglin accused the Whitefish, Montana Jewish community of plotting to destroy her business. Needless to say, Anglin’s story is a distortion. But he called for retaliation and asked his readers to make their objections known to members of the Jewish community, some of whom he showed with his article—wearing yellow stars.

Anglin actually encouraged his readers and other white nationalists to “troll,” or harass the town’s Jews and anti-discrimination activists online. Though his directions explicitly warned against violence, the reality is that it doesn’t work that way. Especially since his call to action included identifying information of neighborhood Jews and their allies. Not surprisingly, death threats have followed.

You can’t genuinely discourage violence, and at the same time call Jews, as Anglin did in his blog post, “a vicious, evil race of hate-filled psychopaths.” The road from hate to harm is all too short.

At Tanenbaum, we condemn the hatred, the anti-Semitism and the resulting threats that are now making one town in Montana unsafe for Jews. We also regret that, in so doing, we are giving Anglin public attention that can wrongfully be used as legitimizing him. Yet, we are compelled to be on the record. We condemn everything Anglin, Spencer and their audience stand for, do and say.

And so we ask…

If Anglin’s incitement isn’t a hate crime, what is?

And if it is, why aren’t we all standing in opposition to what he is doing?

If not now…when?

 

On December 27th, we will be publishing this month’s Combating Extremism materials explaining white nationalism and the alt-Right. Sign up for our weekly emails to be sure you receive them.

Thank You for a Great Night Off!

The room was full of old friends and some new, with lots of jabs at biases – racial, religious, sexual orientation, and the like. We had the opportunity to laugh at what society teaches us, and at how we cope with hatred in the world. The night gave us the opportunity to share a little more about Tanenbaum, to honor our oldest and dearest friend (and colleague) the Octogenarian Judy Banki, and to recognize our visiting Peacemaker, Reverend Jacky Manuputty from Indonesia.

We hope you’ll enjoy the gallery below from Tanenbaum Takes a Night Off! With Mike Rakosi Tanenbaum’s second annual comedy show at Comic Strip Live. Much like last year, Mike brought in some hilarious comedians, from our own backyard and Dylan Brody from LA, who lit up the stage with their wit.

From cursed tomato gardens to mockery of cultural and religious bias, Indidi, Sasha, DF and Dylan all put on a great show—and we thank them for their willingness to perform for Tanenbaum! Also, our special thanks to Mike Rakosi for hosting the evening and helping to plan the event.

Thanks to our sponsors, Dr.’s Georgette F. Bennett and Leonard S. Polonsky CBE, Stanton Public Relations and Marketing, and Michael Kessler and Marcia Riklis. And our partners, Whole Foods Market, dcc, and the Comic Strip Live. Without you, none of this would have been possible!

This is a night of fun, supporting a cause that is deadly serious. Make a note. And plan to join us next year! In the meantime, enjoy this album from the 2016 show!

Katie Candiotti
Development Associate