Press Release Give Bigotry No Sanction: Symposium Exploring Religious Freedom and Democracy NYU 1/31
On January 31, New York University will partner with international educational nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves to host a symposium on religious freedom and democracy. NYU President John Sexton, Facing History Board of Scholars Chair and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, and Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the U.S. Department of State Farah Pandith, and Facing History and Ourselves Director of Content, Research and Development Adam Strom, will engage audience members in discussion.
This symposium and reception serve as the official launch of Facing History’s three-year project, Give Bigotry No Sanction: The George Washington Letter Project - Exploring Religious Freedom and Democracy, centered around President George Washington’s "Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island," in 1790.
The event will use Washington's classic message about democracy and freedom of religion to inspire a conversation about how we live those values today. It will bring together leading thinkers who understand the power of education and the importance of studying history, to model the kind of civil discussions about freedom of belief that are critical to an open society. For over three decades Facing History has drawn on the world’s most pressing social issues to engage students, educators, and community members in conversations that explore the relationship between history and their lives today.
“After a decade scarred by violence rooted in intolerance, we need civil, informed discussion that helps us re-engage with our strengths. At the heart of this conversation is our commitment to our history as a pluralistic democracy that draws its power from diversity of belief and identity,” said John Sexton, president of New York University. “I am pleased to join Facing History and Ourselves in convening this important conversation that will bring together leading thinkers, practitioners, educators, students, and community leaders for a dialogue that has rarely been needed more than it is now.”
George Washington’s letter gives readers a glimpse of a foundational moment in United States history when the country was negotiating how a democracy accommodates religious differences among its people. The ways a democratic society responds to difference is at the heart of Facing History’s work.
“We've all felt the urgency of speaking up in recent debates about citizenship and faith, and have also felt the difficulty of negotiating these conversations in our schools, workplaces, and with our families. Facing History’s commitment to this project is especially timely, given the need to teach our students to confront issues of religious intolerance around the world,” said Margot Stern Strom, executive director of Facing History and Ourselves.
The symposium aims to create a high level of awareness of the letter as an educational resource, and encourage teachers and students worldwide to reflect on its significance in history and its meaning today. Strom added that the Facing History and Ourselves New York Advisory Board, under the leadership of Julie Leff, will welcome teachers to a workshop before they join the reception and symposium with the community.
Ambassador John Loeb, founder of The George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom said, “We live in a diverse world and it is more important than ever to teach people and remind them again and again about the importance of respect, and how treating people equally is a value that began with George Washington himself.” The Institute is sponsoring Facing History’s multi-year initiative and co-sponsoring the January 31 symposium.
All registered guests are invited to attend a free reception immediately before the symposium from 6:00-6:45 p.m. The reception will feature conversation, wine, and hors d'oeuvres with our panelists and sponsors. The symposium will be held from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at NYU’s Kimmel Center for University Life, 60 Washington Square South (at LaGuardia Place), Eisner & Lubin Auditorium (4th Floor). It is free and open to the public. An RSVP is required: call 212.992.7392, visit facinghistory.org/registerNYU, or email email@example.com. Subways: A, B, C, D, E, F (West 4th Street). Seating based on availability.
Reporters interested in attending must RSVP to Tim Farrell, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6797 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide and mass violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. Over the years Facing History has provided in-depth seminars for more than 29,000 educators. We estimate that our active teacher network reaches nearly two million students each year. Last year our website received more than 740,000 visits from people in 211 countries and territories, with more than 2.5 million page views.
To learn more about Give Bigotry No Sanction: The George Washington Letter Project – Exploring Religious Freedom and Democracy, visit the new website and blog at facinghistory.org/nobigotry.
Adam Strom, Director of Content, Research and Development, Facing History and Ourselves, has written and taught extensively about religion, migration, and identity and is the principal author and editor of numerous Facing History publications including the study guide to accompany the award-winning civil rights era documentary, Eyes On the Prize; Totally Unofficial: Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention; Stitching Truth: Women’s Protest Art in Pinochet’s Chile;Stories of Identity: Religion, Migration, and Belonging in a Changing World; and What Do We Do with a Difference: France and the Debate over Headscarves in Schools.
Mr. Strom also facilitates staff development programs, both online and face to face, for educators around the world. He has primary responsibility for Facing History and Ourselves International Scholars Board and for the Harvard Law School/Facing History Project which develops educational materials and sponsors major international conferences.
Farah Anwar Pandith, first ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. Department of State. Former Director for Middle East Regional Initiatives for the National Security Council. Chief of Staff for the Bureau for Asia and the Near East for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). From 1997 to 2003 Special Representative Pandith was Vice President of International Business for ML Strategies in Boston, Massachusetts.
John Sexton, President of New York Universitysince 2001, Benjamin Butler Professor of Law, and Dean Emeritus of NYU Law School. Past Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Chair of the Federal Reserve Systems Council of Chairs.
In addition to his duties as president, Sexton is an active teacher whose recent courses include a freshman seminar on the Supreme Court’s church and state cases, and a year-long course on the American Constitution, religion, and government for visiting students in NYU’s Abu Dhabi program. From 1966 - 1975, he was a Professor of Religion at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, where he was Department Chair from 1970-1975.
Martha Minow, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Harvard Law School, Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law.Professor Minow has taught at Harvard Law School since 1981, where her courses have included civil procedure, constitutional law, family law, international criminal justice, jurisprudence, law and education, nonprofit organizations, and the public law workshop.
An expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities, she also writes and teaches about privatization, military justice, and ethnic and religious conflict.
For several decades she has been a member of the board for Facing History and Ourselves and currently serves as chair of the Board of Scholars.
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About This Project
Welcome to Give Bigotry No Sanction: The George Washington Letter Project: Exploring Religious Freedom and Democracy