Co-Sponsor Programming with CERRU
Center co-facilitates with the Director of CERRU sessions for
faculty on having difficult conversations in the classroom.
- The Center continues to work with the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding (CERRU)
co-designing and co-facilitating workshops for students on facilitating dialogues, negotiating differences, transforming conflicts, reducing prejudice, and dealing with difficult social issues.
The Center also works with CERRU on campus-wide events and dialogues on
topics such as the conflict over the Park 51 Islamic culture center, a
community wide dialogue on 9/11 ten years later, police surveillance of
minority groups, police use of excessive force, income inequality, the
Central Park Five, fostering understanding among faith groups, and
transforming racial/ethnic/sexual identity dynamics.
- The Center facilitated a dialogue session for administrators, faculty, and students to discuss how they can respond to the impact of current and expected tensions on campus and in the Queens community influenced by the events in the Middle East.
The Center offered Shared Traditions, Common Cords, and Food for Thought; a concert featuring Muslim and Jewish musicians; and Sesame Street in the Middle East: Paving the Road for Coexistence
With funding from the Doris Duke Foundation, The Center
developed an Islamic Culture Resource, Music, Poetry, and Literature of
the Muslim World.
Middle East Programming
In 2006, The Center was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to develop its Meeting of Minds Program. The program comprises two inter-related parts. The first is a series of semester long courses—The Middle East and America: Meeting of Minds or Clash of Civilizations. Courses range from a basic history of the Arab Israeli Conflict, to a more sophisticated survey of how the media influences Americans’ understanding of the Islamic World, to an advanced simulation in which students assume the roles of negotiators and try to tackle the root causes of the Arab Israeli conflict first hand. The students are required to meet one of the primary objectives of the Meeting of Minds Initiative, which is to “walk in the other side’s shoes.” Each student is asked to examine, or negotiate, the pains and claims of the side to which they are least sympathetic and least knowledgeable.
The second of the two inter-related parts of the program is a cultural component that utilizes the power of art and music to promote tolerance. The Center has produced such events as the dramatic picture and narrative exhibition This Land to me; Some Call It Palestine, Others Israel, the American premiere of the Oscar nominated film Paradise Now, the concert series Common Chords: the Ties that Bind, Art of the Possible, and an evening of cross cultural comedy called Funraising.
This Land to Me has become the centerpiece of a high school curriculum. High school teachers from all five boroughs attended training sessions in which they learned how to utilize the curriculum in their classrooms. The Common Cords cultural program was reproduced at Forester Hills High School and at the University of San Diego, both in the spring 2008 semester. Students at Forest Hills High School were further engaged by participating in the first ever Common Chords Composition Competition, in which they were asked to contribute original music and poetry on the themes of tolerance, diversity, and the ties that bind. The University of San Diego event was such a hit that it was reprised in March of 2009.
The Middle East curriculum and cultural programming received significant local and national press coverage, including articles in The New York Times, The Jewish Week, The Daily News (New York), The Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsday, The Knight News, and The Queens College Magazine. The project was featured on WNYC public radio’s section of Morning Edition and on Brian Lehrer’s morning talk show (WNYC). Television coverage included CUNY TV and a feature section on CBS Evening News.
The Center co-sponsored and its Director co-chaired a major international conference on the State of Israel on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary. Beyond bringing a prominent group of world-class scholars to the college, the Center helped bring students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds to participate in the conference.
In 1995, as a response to
the events in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and the shooting of Lubavitch youth on
the Brooklyn Bridge, the Center developed and facilitated community Trialogues
among Jewish American, Arab American, and African Americans. The
Trialogues brought together community leaders to discuss how to build a better
working relationship among the members of the three groups in each community.