CEO, Ethan Allen
Farooq Kathwari has been the chairman and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. since 1988. He serves several nonprofit organizations, including the Board of Overseers of the International Rescue Committee; the advisory board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is chairman emeritus for Refugees International; an advisory member of the New York Stock Exchange; former chairman of the National Retail Federation; former chairman of the American Home Furnishings Alliance; a Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University; co-chairman of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council; and a member of the International Advisory Council of the United States Institute of peace.
He served as a member of the President’s advisory commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from 2012 to 2014. Mr. Kathwari joined the bipartisan, congressionally mandated United States Institute of Peace task force on Extremism in Fragile States, co-chaired by Governor Tom Kean and Representative Lee Hamilton, who formerly lead the 9/11 commission. He is a founder of the Kashmir Study Group.
Among his recognitions, Mr. Kathwari is a recipient of the 2018 Ellis Island Medal of Honor and has been inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame. He has been recognized as an outstanding American by Choice by the U.S. government. He has also received the Yale School of Management’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute Lifetime of Leadership award; the National Human Relations award from the American Jewish Committee; the National Retail Federation Gold Medal; and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. He has been recognized by Worth magazine as one of the 50 best CEOs in the United States.
Mr. Kathwari Is the author of Trailblazer: from the Mountains of Kashmir to the Summit of Global Business and Beyond, a memoir published in September 2019. The book focuses on Mr. Kathwari’s journey from Kashmir to America, his association with Ethan Allen, and his involvement with conflict resolution and humanitarian causes. For more information, visit farooqkathwari.com.
Religious Bias Panel
Dr. Georgette F. Bennett
Founder, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding
Founder, Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees
A widely published author, TED speaker, popular lecturer, broadcast journalist, and public affairs/marketing specialist, Dr. Georgette Bennett is an innovative and entrepreneurial leader.
Founder and President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, Dr. Bennett is a sociologist by training who has spent the last 30 years advancing interreligious relations. She founded Tanenbaum in 1992. Under her leadership, it has become the go-to organization for practical, cutting-edge programs that combat religion-based hatred and misunderstanding in schools, workplaces, areas of armed conflict and healthcare settings.
She initiated Tanenbaum’s signature programs in all these areas. Its education programs were designated an International Best Practice and the Peacemakers in Action program has advanced the field of religion and conflict resolution. Tanenbaum’s healthcare programs have pioneered the religious dimension of patient-centered care. The Tanenbaum Center literally wrote the Medical Manual on Religio-Cultural Competency, which has been distributed to more than 100,000 healthcare providers in the U.S. and is also available electronically.
In 2013, Dr. Bennett founded the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, which has since worked to raise awareness and mobilize more than $400 million of humanitarian aid benefitting over three million Syrian war victims. Today, there are over 100 constituent organizations in the Alliance.
Dr. Bennett is also a founding Board member of Global Covenant Partners, an international group of top interfaith leaders who are working to delegitimize the use of religion as a justification for violent extremism. In addition, Dr. Bennett served in the U.S. State Department Religion and Foreign Policy initiative’s working group on conflict mitigation, which was tasked with developing recommendations for the U.S. Secretary of State on countering religion-based violence
In 2021, Bennett was included in Forbes 50 Over 50 Women of Impact list, and cited, along with Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice, as women who helped shape the course of modern American foreign policy and human rights. She is a 2019 recipient of the prestigious AARP Purpose Prize. Earlier that year, she was honored by the New York University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with the Alumni Achievement Award and was awarded the Global Impact Award in from a joint initiative of the Society for International Development (SID) Israel, Walla! News, OLAM, and additional partners.
Professor, Farleigh Dickinson University
Jacob Ari Labendz
Director, Gross Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Dr. Jacob Ari Labendz directs the Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Ramapo College of NJ. He researches and writes about Jewish life in communist Czechoslovakia. Jacob also contributes actively to discussions of contemporary antisemitism, nationalism, and Jewish diaspora. In addition to his articles, book chapters, and reviews, Jacob has published two edited volumes: Jewish Property after 1945 (Routledge, 2017) and, with Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, Jewish Veganism and Vegetarianism (SUNY, 2019). Jacob earned his PhD from Washington University in St. Louis under the direction of Dr. Hillel Kieval. He has held research and teaching positions at Youngstown State University, Penn State, Charles University in Prague, and the Center for Research on Antisemitism in Berlin.
Simran Jeet Singh
Executive Director, Religion & Society Program, Aspen Institute
Simran is Executive Director for the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program and author of The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life. He is an Atlantic Racial Equity Fellow with Columbia University and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a Soros Equality Fellow with the Open Society Foundations, and Senior Adviser for Equity and Inclusion, a part of Accenture.
Simran is a regular contributor for the Harvard Business Review, TIME, and CNN, and he writes a monthly column for Religion News Service. In 2020, TIME Magazine recognized him among sixteen people fighting for a more equal America.
Simran is an engaging guest speaker who delivers keynotes and facilitates workshops for various audiences. His message has been described as “critical and essential” and he’s noted for his “unwavering and empathetic approach to anti-racist work.” Simran lives in New York City with his family.
Founder, HWH Mediation
Holly Weiss is an effective, patient and persistent mediator and arbitrator. Her mediation practice is focused on helping parties settle employment and employee benefits disputes, including workplace discrimination and harassment claims, contract disputes, compensation disputes and wage and hour claims. Ms. Weiss is a member of numerous rosters and panels, including the mediation panels of the District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the Supreme Court of the State of New York (Commercial Division), the National Rosters of Arbitrators and Mediators of the American Arbitration Association, FINRA’s Roster of Arbitrators, and the CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutrals. Before pivoting to ADR, Ms. Weiss spent nearly three decades practicing employment and employee benefits law at the highest level at two top tier law firms in New York City. Ms. Weiss is also an Adjunct Professor at Cardozo Law School. Ms. Weiss is the founder of Stand Up! Girls, a non-profit focused on empowering girls through stand-up comedy, and is a longstanding board member of Tanenbaum.
Professor, New York University School of Law
Samuel Estreicher is Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Director of its Center for Labor and Employment Law and Co-director of its Institute of Judicial Administration. He has published two dozen books including casebooks in labor law and employment discrimination and employment law, and legislation and the regulatory state; written treatises in employment law and in labor law; produced texts on global issues in labor law, global issues in employment law, global issues in employment discrimination law, and global issues in employee benefits law; edited conference volumes on sexual harassment, employment ADR processes, and cross-global human resources. His most recent work is Beyond Elite Law: Access to Civil Justice in America (Cambridge Univ. Press 2016) (with Joy Radice). Estreicher has also authored over 150 articles in professional and academic journals.
He received his AB from Columbia College, his MS (Industrial Relations) from Cornell University, and his JD from Columbia Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review. After clerking for Harold Leventhal of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, practicing for a year with a union-side law firm, and then clerking for Lewis F. Powell Jr. of the US Supreme Court, Estreicher joined the NYU faculty in 1978. He is the former secretary of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the American Bar Association, a former chair of the Committee on Labor and Employment Law of the Association of the Bar for the City of New York, and chief reporter of the new Restatement of Employment Law, sponsored by the American Law Institute. In 2010, the Labor and Employment Relations Association awarded Estreicher its “Susan C. Eaton Outstanding Academic-Practitioner Award.” Estreicher has delivered named lectureships at UCLA, Chicago-Kent, Case Western and Cleveland State law schools, testified twice before Secretary of Labor Reich’s and Secretary of Commerce Brown’s Commission on the Future of US Worker-Management Relations, and has run over 100 workshops for federal and state judges, US Department of Labor lawyers, NLRB lawyers, EEOC lawyers, court law clerks, employment mediators and practitioners generally. Among his many teaching offerings, he has started NYU Law’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.
Estreicher recently was appointed to a four-year term by UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon as a distinguished external jurist on the UN Internal Justice Council handling staff-management disputes at the international organization.
Professor Estreicher has been of counsel to a number of major law firms in their labor and employment and appellate practice groups. His practice focuses on the wide range of issues affecting the employment relationship, including designing ADR systems, training supervisors for performance-based management and employee involvement initiatives, advising clients in OFCCP, EEO, and labor relations compliance, and representing clients in individual, global HR management, and class EEO and Wage and Hour litigation.
Estreicher is also a member of the arbitration/mediation panels of the American Arbitration Association and Center for Public Resources, and is a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He has been recognized in Human Resources Executive, Superlawyers, and Best Lawyers in America publications.
Associate, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
Erika Simonson is a litigation associate at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in the firm’s New York City office. In 2020, Erika was selected as the Schulte Roth & Zabel Brooks Burdette Pro Bono Fellow, and in this role represented clients in housing court through the Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project. Erika is also a leader of SRZ’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group.
Erika focuses her law practice on complex commercial litigation and shareholder activism litigation. Erika also maintains a robust pro bono practice, including representing the last living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 against the City of Tulsa, drafting a report on the advancement of voting rights that was submitted into the Congressional record, and representing individuals in immigration matters. Erika drafted an amicus brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in support of the respondents in the case 303 Creative LLC, et al. v. Aubrey Elenis, et al.
Erika received her J.D., with honors, from Syracuse University College of Law, and her B.A., with honors, from Texas Christian University.
Erika is a member of the Syracuse University Law Alumni Association Board of Directors and a member of and law student mentor for the LGBTQ+ Bar Association of Greater New York.
Keith E. Sonderling
Keith E. Sonderling was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, with a bipartisan vote, to be a Commissioner on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2020. Until January of 2021, he served as the Commission’s Vice-Chair. His term expires July of 2024.
The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, benefits, and prevent harassment and retaliation.
Prior to his confirmation to the EEOC, Commissioner Sonderling served as the Acting and Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor. Before joining the Department of Labor in 2017, Commissioner Sonderling practiced Labor and Employment law in Florida. Commissioner Sonderling also serves as a Professional Lecturer in the Law at George Washington University Law School, teaching employment discrimination.
Since joining the EEOC, one of Commissioner Sonderling’s highest priorities is ensuring that artificial intelligence and workplace technologies are designed and deployed consistent with long-standing civil rights laws. Commissioner Sonderling has published numerous articles on the benefits and potential harms of using artificial intelligence-based technology in the workplace and speaks globally on these emerging issues.
Senior Researcher, Pew Research Center
Janell Fetterolf is a senior researcher at Pew Research Center, specializing in international survey research.
Fetterolf is a contributing author on numerous reports, including studies about America’s image abroad, democracy, and views of gender equality. She also works on developing questionnaires, assessing data quality, and analyzing survey results.
Fetterolf has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Rutgers University and a B.A. from Northwestern University.
Senior Vice President, Citi
Maria Abdullah has over 14 years of professional experience. She currently serves on the Global Diversity and Talent Management team as Citi’s Global Inclusion Networks Manager and Global Strategic Advisor for Citi’s Veterans Network, Citi Salutes. She spent most of her career working in the corporate sector at the world’s leading financial data and global media company, Bloomberg LP. In which she served in numerous different roles including leadership, technical operations, account management and financial data analytics. Maria also worked as a Solution Delivery Lead at Mindhop, Inc. a transportation data solutions consulting firm where she led efforts for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Traffic Engineering Data Hub for the John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Airport Redevelopment programs. Maria has also worked in the public sector with the Yonkers City Council as an Aide and Special Advisor to the City Council President and has worked on several political campaigns in New York. She also has extensive experience working with domestic and international non-profits.
Maria obtained her Bachelors of Science in Business and Technology Management from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and is also a graduate of the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. She is also a loving mother of three, an avid writer, a Brown Belt in Shotokan Karate, speaks three languages and has a profound passion for philanthropy, public service and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. She is a proud member of Rotary International and serves on the DEI Committee for District 7230 and was also the Covid-19 response committee chair, International service committee member, and board member of the Board of Directors for the Yonkers Rotary club. Maria is also an advisor and former mentor for American Corporate Partners helping veterans transition into the private sector and civilian life. She also serves on the advisory board of the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality focusing on women’s empowerment and is a Co-Leader for the Westchester I Chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, working on building social bridges to bring world peace. Maria has also previously been honored by the New York State Assembly and Pamela’s Big Heart Foundation.
Asset Management Partner, PwC
As a partner in PwC’s Alternative Investment Funds Practice, Dov assists clients by providing specialized audit and business advisory services to many sponsors of domestic investment partnerships and offshore investment companies. Dov has over 25 years of experience helping clients strengthen their control environment, organize their infrastructure and provide enhanced guidance around valuation policies and procedures in order to enable them to maximize opportunities with current and future investors. Dov’s clients encompass a wide variety of asset classes including hedge funds in a range of strategies, private equity and fund of funds.
Dov has extensive experience working with higher education and not for profit institutions advising them on accounting and financial issues including developing and/or enhancing their operational due diligence procedures and improving the quality of their documented policies and investing activities.
Dov serves as the partner champion for the Jewish chapter of the PwC interfaith belief inclusion network.
Dov is a Certified Public Accountant. Dov earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Yeshiva University in 1997. Dov is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as well the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Dov lives with his wife and 4 children in Teaneck, New Jersey. Dov is a past President of the Board of Trustees of his children’s day school, Yeshivat Noam. Dov currently serves as the president of Yeshivat Shalshelet, a day school for children with language based learning disabilities.
Managing Director, KPMG
Sofya Kulik is a Managing Director in the Audit practice at KPMG LLP and is located out of the New York City office.
Sofya focuses primarily on the audit of consumer and industrial markets companies.
For the last year and a half, Sofya has been co-leading the New York chapter of KPMG’s pilot Interfaith Business Resource Group (BRG), as she feels very passionate about educating colleagues importance of discussing religious diversity in the workplace and making space to ensure all of our people can bring their whole selves to work.
Vice President and Head of US Respiratory Salesforce, GSK
Mrs. Deborah Rutherford is VP and head of the US Respiratory Salesforce of GSK US. She has led large scale teams greater than 3,000 employees, has successfully commercialized brand assets regardless of lifecycle, and delivered consistent market share leading execution with go-to market strategies. In 2022 she chaired the Government Relations PAC board for GSK, the Enterprise Sales Vice Presidents Team, and was Global Executive Sponsor for the Multi- Faith Employee Resource Group. She continues to support GSK through her board work as a member of the US Contributions and Community Outreach which focuses on STEM outreach and expansion.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, a MBA in Marketing from the University of Pittsburgh, and number of Certifications from University of Pennsylvania, Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and IMD Worldwide. She enjoys giving back to others, especially those seeking business and career mentoring, while ensuring she always has time for her husband and 3 kids.
Rev. Mark E. Fowler
Rev. Mark Fowler guides Tanenbaum to the fulfillment of its mission to promote justice and build respect for religious difference by transforming individuals and institutions to reduce prejudice, hatred, and violence. As CEO, Rev. Fowler is responsible for all of Tanenbaum’s departments, the design and implementation of all Tanenbaum trainings, and the expansion of Tanenbaum programs nationally and internationally.
Rev. Fowler represents Tanenbaum on the United Nations Multifaith Advisory Council for the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development, the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the Inclusion Allies Coalition, and Interfaith United NYC.
As architect of Tanenbaum’s Corporate Membership Program, Rev. Fowler has conducted trainings at GSK, Merck, Turner Broadcasting, PwC, The Walt Disney Company, CVS Health, Aetna, Bloomberg, Sodexo, Google, Moody’s, Bank of America, Walmart, and Target, among others. He has also managed the design of Tanenbaum’s Religious Diversity Leadership Summit and the Religious Diversity Symposium, which have brought together senior leaders, DEI practitioners and advocates to strategize on creating religiously inclusive workplaces.
Rev. Fowler led the evaluation of Tanenbaum’s Education program and managed the process and creation of its second editions of the Religions in My Neighborhood and World Olympics curricula.
Rev. Fowler is a sought-after keynote speaker and facilitator in all of Tanenbaum’s core program areas, and has addressed organizations globally on issues of equality in race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. Recently, Rev. Fowler delivered the keynote at the 2020 Diversity Best Practices EmERGe conference, was featured in a fireside chat with Robert Cook, CEO and President at FINRA’s 2020 Virtual Diversity Summit and continued in his role as Navigator at the 2020 unveiling of OUTNext’s latest curriculum “Out of the Closet and into the C-Suite.”
Over the course of Rev. Fowler’s tenure at Tanenbaum, he has presented at the National Council on the Social Studies, National Association of Multicultural Education, Teaching Tolerance, the YMCA of Greater New York, Partnership for Afterschool Education, Asia Society, National School Board Association, the United Nations, the Newseum, the Power of Women Institute, the Return on Inclusion Summit, the OutNEXT Summit, and the Forum on Workplace Inclusion regarding prejudice reduction, conflict resolution, bias and bullying.
Rev. Fowler earned a B.A. in English and Education at Duke University and was trained as a Mediation and Conflict Resolution Specialist with the NYC Department of Education. Rev. Fowler also is a graduate of the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, is an ordained Interfaith/Interspiritual minister, and is a Dean of second-year students at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary.
Director of Learning & Inclusion, PFLAG
Jean-Marie Navetta is the Director of Learning & Inclusion for PFLAG National, leading its Straight for Equality project which aims to invite, educate, and engage new allies in the effort to achieve full inclusion for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+).
She has been the lead architect of the project since its 2007 inception. She was the primary author of the guide to being a straight ally (now in its fourth edition), Straight for Equality in Healthcare (2010), be not afraid – help is on the way: straight for equality in faith communities (now in its second edition), and the guide to being a trans ally (now in its fourth edition). Under her leadership, over 75,000 people have been trained, many in Straight for Equality in the Workplace events across the globe in more than 270 major corporations.
Jean-Marie is also the host of PFLAG’s first-ever weekly web series, Something to Talk About, an interactive discussion about current LGBTQ+ issues and culture, currently in its third year of production. In 2011, she was the staff lead in developing and launching PFLAG Academy Online, a monthly web-based learning program for PFLAG chapters to build their skills and understand more about LGBTQ issues, build skills, and expand inclusion. And in 2012, she was named a finalist for the Outie Award in the Trailblazer category by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates for her contributions to LGBTQ inclusion and education.
Following the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, Jean-Marie became one of the lead organizers of the first ReconstruyeQ effort, a coalition effort of human rights organizations that sent volunteers to the island to assist Puerto Rico-based Waves Ahead in rebuilding the homes of LGBTQ+ people and their allies. In 2021, Jean-Marie appointed as a member of the Board of Directors for Waves Ahead, serving as the organization’s treasurer.
Jean-Marie is the former Director of Communications for PFLAG where she increased the organization’s visibility in outlets including The New York Times and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She was also Media Relations Manager for the American Association of University Women, where her work focused on issues such as discrimination in education, pay equity, and Title IX. Prior to that, Jean-Marie specialized in graphic design and visual communications, working for a number of nonprofit groups and corporations.
But Jean-Marie is, most importantly, living proof that Philosophy majors can get real jobs.
Learn more about PFLAG by visiting pflag.org and Straight for Equality by visiting straightforequality.org today.
Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera
Consultant, BQN Consulting
Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, MAL, is a 30+ year veteran of the LGBTQ and labor movements. Lisbeth has extensive experience organizing and training at the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, racial/ethnic identity, and culture related explicitly to communities of color in the United States. Lisbeth has crisscrossed the globe and the country, training workers and community leaders in organizing, leadership development, and community building strategies from a grassroots perspective.
Among her many endeavors, Lisbeth has been the Director of Faith Outreach & Training at the Human Rights Campaign, The Spanish language Director for the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development, where she worked with people of faith across denominations to ensure we can be who we are, love whom we love, and practice our faith free of judgment.
Currently, she is a candidate for a Doctorate in Ministry (DMin) in Theology and Social Transformation. She holds a master’s in Social Transformation and a bachelor’s degree in biology and sociology. Justice and equity make her passions flare, and her days move forward. Today Lisbeth lives in Hyattsville, MD, alongside her wife, Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz, and their chosen family, both human and furry.